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US First Lady Honors International Women of Courage


First Lady Melania Trump and Under Secretary Tom Shannon Pose for a photo with the 2017 International Women of Courage Awardees.

United States first lady Melania Trump has recognized 13 women activists with the State Department’s Women of Courage Award.

Trump said the women being honored had shown strength in the face of great danger.

"These honorees on the stage with me have fought for their rights and for the rights of others. Each battle forces, such as governments, the courts, gender bias, terrorism, war and corruption, and were willing, in each moment, to face harsh penalties including imprisonment and death."

The award is called the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. The winners have shown support of peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and empowerment of women at personal risk.

More than 100 women from 60 countries have received the awards since it was established in 2007.

An international group of women receive recognition

The women being honored come from countries around the world.

This year’s winners include Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as “Mother Mushroom,” of Vietnam. The environmental activist and blogger has been in prison since October 2016.

The state department has called for Quynh’s immediate release since her detention.

State Department spokesperson Grace Choi told VOA, “We believe that international recognition for her courage and advocacy will help bring attention to her work to address corruption and promote human rights in Vietnam.”

Natalie Ponce de Leon was attacked with acid in Colombia three years ago. She used the attack to help pass a law in January of 2016 increasing punishments for people who use chemical agents in attacks.

Major Aichatou Ousmane Issaka was one of the first women to join the army in Niger in 1996. She was honored for causing people to think about the issue of gender in conflict areas.

Veronica Simogun of Papua New Guinea was in the U.S. for the first time. She was honored for her campaign to protect women from violence related to their gender.

Simogun told VOA, “I am fighting for equality, gender justice in my country.” She added, “Women’s voices need to be heard, and there should be equality for women and children.”

Other recipients include Bangladeshi activist Sharmin Akter who fights early and forced marriages. Two African rights activists are Malebogo Molefhe of Botswana and Rebecca Kabugho, a political and social activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The deputy director of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Jannat Al Ghezi, was among those honored.

So was Cindy Arlette Contreras Bautista who started and directs the group Not One Woman Less in Peru.

Sister Carolin Tahhan Fachakh is a member of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (F.M.A) group in Syria.

From Turkey, Saadet Ozkan received recognition for her education and gender activism.

And human rights activists Sandya Eknelygoda of Sri Lanka and Fadia Najib Thabet of Yemen also received the award.

The award ceremony was held Wednesday.

Now the women will travel to several American cities for individual International Visitor Leadership Programs. Afterwards, they will again gather in Los Angeles, California, to discuss cooperation in improving the lives of women and girls everywhere.

The event was one of the rare public appearances by the wife of U.S. President Donald Trump who has been in office for a little more than two months.

I’m Jill Robbins. And I'm Mario Ritter.

Nike Ching reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

gender –n. related to the state of being male or female

bias –adj. favoring one side over the other

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