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U.S. Honors Women Of Courage


First lady Michelle Obama, left, and Secretary of State John Kerry, right, honor Russian human rights activist, journalist Elena Milashina.

The United States honored nine women from around the globe for exceptional courage in celebration of International Women’s Day.

The United States honored nine women from around the globe for exceptional courage in celebration of International Women’s Day. Not all of the recipients of the International Women of Courage awards were, however, able to be present for the ceremony in Washington, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:


“One of our awardees is in hiding. One is in prison. Another is locked under house arrest. And we present a fourth award posthumously for a brave woman whose life was brazenly stolen by brutal violence.”

That woman, Nirbhaya of India, was honored for fighting violence even in her dying hours after a brutal attack and gang rape:

“As she fought for her life, she decided to fight for justice too. She defied her doctors and the culture of silence, giving two detailed accounts of her attack that the police used to arrest her rapists.”

Nirbhaya’s bravery started a movement of millions against customs of denial and stigmas on victims that had protected rapists for years.

The eight other awardees were honored for refusing to be intimidated or silenced as well.

Four were recognized for telling the truth through their writings. One such woman, Tibetan poet and writer Tsering Woeser, is currently under house arrest for her ongoing efforts to document the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet. Ta Phong Tan of Vietnam is serving a 10-year prison sentence for allegedly conducting “propaganda against the state”. Razan Zeituneh, who has documented atrocities against civilians in Syria for the world to see, is in hiding.

Journalist Elena Milashina of Russia was present for her award, but has faced threats and physical and verbal assaults for her investigative reporting.

Dr. Josephine Odumakin of Nigeria and Julieta Castellanos of Honduras have both worked tirelessly to reform their own states through legal activism, organization and protests. Ms. Castellanos overcame personal tragedy when her son was allegedly murdered by members of the Honduran police, but she redoubled her efforts to combat impunity and advance human rights and citizen security.

First Sergeant Malalai Bahaduri of Afghanistan endures constant discrimination as the first female member of the Afghan National Interdiction Unit.

Fartuun Adan of Somalia was honored for working to start an organization to support victims of sexual violence in her country.

“International Women's Day reminds us,” said Secretary Kerry, that there is something that each of us can still do.”
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