Exchange Matters / April 27, 2018

Global Ties Celebrates Women of Courage

The International Women of Courage awardees pose with First Lady Melania Trump at the awards ceremony in Washington, DC. Credit: U.S. Department of State


By Anh (Mia) Vu, Communications Intern, Global Ties U.S.

In March, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the Global Ties Network celebrated Women’s History Month through the campaign, International Women of Courage (IWOC). As part of this initiative, 10 women from around the world were selected to visit and tour the U.S. to meet with their counterparts and experience American hospitality.

Established by the U.S. Department of State in 2007, the award honors women around the world who have shown courage and leadership in advocating for women’s empowerment, human rights, justice, and peace. This year, the awardees included a human rights lawyer working under a military government; a former slave turned anti-slavery activist; a nun sheltering internally displaced people; and a survivor of a brutal attack from speaking out against violence and empowers girls of self-worth and self-respect.

“Our stories are all unique. Women around the world share the same values and are strong. I am lucky to be chosen to come here and share mine,” said L’Malouma Said, an awardee from Mauritania, at a U.S. Institute of Peace talk in Washington, DC on March 22. Following their visit to Washington, the awardees traveled individually across the country to Austin, Cleveland, Dallas, Pensacola, Phoenix, Raleigh, Salt Lake City, and San Antonio before reconvening as a group in Los Angeles.

Dr. Feride Rushiti (second to left) from Kosovo explores the seas during the group’s visit to Pensacola, FL. Credit: Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council


Global Ties U.S. Community-Based Members (CBMs) hosted the recipients through an On-Demand International Visitor Leadership Program, including the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, San Antonio Council for International Visitors, International Focus, GlobalAustin, and many more.

“My program in Raleigh [NC] exceeded all my expectations,” said Aiman Umarova, a lawyer from Kazakhstan who represents political prisoners. “From the professionals who shared their work and cutting edge research in community solutions, to the members who hosted me with care, the community at large was a welcoming one.”

Julissa Villanueva, an awardee from Honduras, said being part of the program made her more committed to her cause in advocating for criminal accountability in her home country. “Being selected as a Woman of Courage is an incredible honor for me. I humbly accept this recognition of courage and leadership to represent my country.”

Julissa Villanueva (second from right) from Honduras said, “I am wearing my pathologist lab coat because it represents hard-working people in Honduras who are celebrating this award with me in promoting forensic sciences.” Credit: GlobalAustin


“All women are women of courage,” said Dr. Feride Rushiti,an awardee from Kosovo who leads a rehabilitation center for torture victims. “They just need to find a way to be persistent and consistent in their goals. They can’t be afraid to speak up.”

Heather Nauert, Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Department Spokesperson, said “Each awardee’s story is an inspiring reminder of how individuals can make a difference. Taken together, they provide a powerful message of courage and leadership.”

See more photos from our CBMs with the IWOC awardees