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Women From Afghanistan, Kosovo, Kazakhstan Among 2018 Courage Award Honorees

Kazakh lawyer Aiman Omarova was among those honored with an International Women of Courage Award. (file photo)

Ten women from countries including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Kosovo were honored with the U.S. State Department's International Women of Courage Award (IWOC) for 2018.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan hosted the annual IWOC ceremony on March 23, while First Lady Melania Trump delivered remarks at the event.

"The women of courage we honor here today are heroes," the first lady said. "They are heroes in the countries they call home. They are heroes for the entire world."

The award is presented annually to women from around the world who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness, and willingness to sacrifice for others, especially in promoting women's rights.

U.S. first lady Melania Trump with this year's awardees at the International Women of Courage awards on March 23.
U.S. first lady Melania Trump with this year's awardees at the International Women of Courage awards on March 23.

The 2018 awardees include:

Roya Sadat of Afghanistan is a well-known rights defender who uses television and cinema to tell stories of Afghan women and girls despite enormous personal risks linked to cultural, bureaucratic, and financial obstacles.

"This Washington gathering is inspiring and educational, and it is through this kind of interaction that we learn ways of overcoming major challenges experienced by different people all over the globe," Sadat told RFE/RL shortly before the ceremony.

Aiman Omarova of Kazakhstan is a prominent lawyer who specializes in sexual abuse crimes committed against women and children, and works with political and rights detainees.

"Gender-based violence is a common problem to all countries and it's a problem for the international community...if we join our forces and work together to combat this common issue, then we will be more successful," Omarova told RFE/RL.

Feride Rushiti of Kosovo is the founder and executive director of the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, whose activism led to a landmark government ruling on awarding pensions to victims of Kosovo wartime sexual violence.

"This Women of Courage award is an honor for me but, at the same time, I believe it has honored and respected the more than 20,000 other women who were victims of sexual violence during [the 1998-99] war time in Kosovo," Rushiti told RFE/RL.

"This award has made them stronger, so they can challenge the prejudices that still exist in Kosovo…Above all, we believe these victims still need continuous support in rehabilitation and [in the search for] justice," she said.

The other seven are Aura Elena Farfan of Guatemala, Julissa Villlanueva of Honduras, Aliyah Khalaf Saleh of Iraq, Maria Elena Berini of Italy, L'Malouma Said of Mauritania, Godelive Mukasarasi of Rwanda, and Sirikan Charoensiri of Thailand.

CORRECTION: This article has been amended to reflect the fact that the 10 women in question are awardees, not finalists.