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2018 Annual International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony

MS NAUERT: Good afternoon, everyone. Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2018 International
Women of Courage Award recipients. You can applaud. (Laughter.) (Applause.) We would like to welcome them into the room. (Applause.) And they have come a long, long way to get
here to meet you in Washington. (Applause.) And next I’d like to welcome First Lady
of the United States, Melania Trump. Melania, Mrs. Trump, welcome. (Applause.) Thank you, everyone, and welcome
to the State Department. I am honored to welcome you to
the 12th Annual Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Awards, which have recognized more than 120
remarkable women from dozens of countries since the award’s inception. In addition to the privilege of being joined
by the First Lady, I would also like to extend a special welcome to the members of
the diplomatic corps in the audience, including Ambassador Callista Gingrich. Where is she? She’s here somewhere. Thank you, there she is. Ambassador Gingrich, welcome. (Applause.) She joins us from the Vatican today
and has been in Washington this week. It’s wonderful to have you
back here with us. We know that women’s voices are critical
to global security, prosperity, and peace, which is why the Department
of State annually presents the International Women of Courage Awards. 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. And you can read some of their profiles
in your pamphlets that you have with you. This year we have recognized 10 extraordinary
women who have demonstrated not only courage and leadership, but a deep resolve to fight
day in and day out for what they believe. The formidable leaders include
a former slave and anti-slavery activist, a human rights lawyer documenting
abuse under the junta rule, a nun sheltering internally displaced
people from violence, a writer, director, and producer who wrote scripts
under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and a courageous advocate for the families
of forcibly disappeared persons. We are so happy to have them here today. The United States is proud to honors these
leaders as part of our commitment to advancing the status of women
and girls around the world. I want to take a moment to thank my colleagues
in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues for the work that they do to ensure that
women’s equality and empowerment are integrated into our U.S. foreign policy. Our GWI folks, thank you so much
for bringing them all together. (Applause.) I’d also like to recognize the Bureau of
Educational and Cultural Affairs, whose people-to-people programs
are a critical element of our diplomacy, including the International Visitor
Leadership Program these women are about to embark on for the next two weeks,
I believe, as they share their stories with audiences around the United States. This commitment to women’s empowerment
is the reason that President Trump signed the Women, Peace, and Security Act
into law last October. The new law affirms the United States commitment to expanding women’s leadership on the issues of international peace and security, especially
efforts to prevent conflict and atrocities, promote peace and counterterrorism,
and also violent extremism. We know that when women are empowered,
communities are safer and countries are more stable. We see that around the world every day. Another way to ensure that women are empowered is by expanding economic access and opportunity. Reports show that if the world closed the
gender gap in workforce participation, global GDP would increase by $28 trillion
by the year 2025. That is precisely why President Trump
galvanized the creation of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative through a U.S. contribution of $50 million
at the G20 Leaders Summit last summer. Along with contributions from international
partners, the initiative has leveraged more than 340 million in support to help advance
women’s entrepreneurship around the globe. From day one, the Trump administration has
been committed to empowering women. Women’s empowerment is not only
a basic fulfillment of human rights, but a strategic investment
in our collective future. Women and girls must have the tools
they need to succeed and the pathways that they seek opened. That includes a safe environment that promotes
their health and also their education. Whether at home or abroad, expanding
opportunities for women and girls is a priority of this President for this administration. And today I’m honored to introduce someone
who plays a central role in this critical initiative. As a philanthropist and a humanitarian,
the First Lady has been a driving force behind the administration’s efforts to promote
the empowerment of women and children in our society. Mrs. Trump has been an Honorary Chairwoman
for the Boys’ Club of New York for five consecutive years and in 2005 was awarded
the title of Goodwill Ambassador for the American Red Cross. She helped launch the National Child Abuse
Prevention Month in April of 2008 and has been a champion for the American Heart Association. Her deep concern for issues
affecting children continues. As First Lady she is focused on the challenges
of what children are exposed to online through technology. And as a mom whose children are always
trying to sneak her electronic devices, I thank you for your work on that. (Laughter.) A lot of us can relate to that. Mrs. Trump works tirelessly to raise awareness
of the damaging effects of opioids and the harmful effects that drugs
can have on pregnant women, particularly on newborns who develop
neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. Mrs. Trump, the State Department has watched with a great deal of pride as you visited hospitals and women’s groups around the country
to draw attention to this. Thank you for that. Mrs. Trump is a powerful voice promoting
women’s equality and improving the lives of women and girls around the world. Now please join me in welcoming the First Lady
of the United States, Mrs. Melania Trump. (Applause.) MRS. TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you, Under Secretary Nauert,
our distinguished honorees, and guests. Thank you for the honor of allowing me
to join you again as we recognize the recipients of the International Women of Courage Award. This award is reserved for those women around
the world who have shown incredible courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice,
human rights, equality, and women’s empowerment. They do so at the great personal risk
to themselves and their families. Each of these women now join the distinguished
list of past honorees who have made the world a better place. As we recognize these incredible women,
let us think for a moment about what courage truly is. Courage is the quality most needed in this
world, yet it is often the hardest to find. Courage sets apart those who believe
in higher calling and those who act on it. It takes courage not only to see wrong,
but strive to right it. Courage is what sets apart the heroes
from the rest. It is equal parts bravery and nobility. The women of courage we honor
here today are heroes. They’re heroes in the countries
they call home. They’re heroes for the entire world. In recognizing them, we stand
for what is right. In telling their stories, we can teach
young women and girls all over the world what it means to have courage
and to be a hero. Their examples define courage. I see courage in a woman who survived
a brutal attack under lasting injuries, and who now speak against violence and teaches young girls the power
of self-worth and self-respect. I see courage in a woman who become the first
in her country to serve in the military and helps lead the fight against terrorists
who seeks only to destroy life. And I see courage in a woman who risked her
own life to see that the women and girls of Iraq are no longer subject to the horrors
of human trafficking, killings, or rape. These are some of the stories of courage
we will hear today. Each of them defines a hero
who walks among us. As many of you know, I’m focused on
helping children in everywhere that I can. And I believe that they learn
by what they see around them. The women we are honoring today define
what it means to be a role model. I cannot thank all of you enough for the path
you are helping to pave for our next generation. As we take this moment to honor such deserving
women, let me also thank the men and women of the State Department who work every day
in pursuit of a world that is more free and more prosperous, not only for the American
people, but for all of mankind. I thank you, our incredible American diplomats, for showing courage on behalf
of our country every day. I’m here because I believe in you and the
honorees with whom I’m privileged to share the stage with, and who do so much
on behalf of humanity. God bless you, your families. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) MS NAUERT: Thank you, Mrs. Trump. Thanks to all of you. As Mrs. Trump just discussed,
courage takes many, many forms. This year, we are honored to recognize 10
extraordinary women who have dedicated and demonstrated not only courage and leadership, but a deep resolve to fight for what
they believe in day in and day out. I’d like to introduce you to these women. First, we have Roya Sadat. She’s from Afghanistan. She is a writer, a producer, a film director. Ms. Sadat, she’s over here. She is being honored for refusing to be silenced
in her home country. She uses the arts to raise awareness of the
brutal challenges facing women and girls, and despite threats to herself, her cast,
and her crew, she’s served as a pioneer for Afghanistan’s cultural reawakening. In fact, she wrote her film, “Three Dots,”
while keeping it a secret from the Taliban, and many of you will recall that entertainment
was not allowed – music, films, all of that was not allowed under the Taliban. Congratulations to you. Thank you for your bravery. (Applause.) And next, from Honduras,
we have Dr. Julissa Villanueva. She is the director of forensic medicine at the
Honduras political – excuse me, public ministry. Dr. Villanueva is being honored for tackling
pervasive violence against women, changing the face of criminal accountability
through the use of scientific evidence, and facing down gang violence
in the struggle to bring justice. Welcome and thank you. (Applause.) And next I’d like to introduce you
to Aliyah Khalaf Saleh. She’s from Iraq. A humanitarian volunteer working to
resist sectarian and radical ideology, Ms. Saleh is being honored for her bravery,
her heroism, and her compassion in the wake of ISIS terror. She selflessly risked her own life
to save others. In fact, she is credited with rescuing
58 young Iraqi military cadets who were ambushed by ISIS
back in 2014. Imagine the bravery that takes
for a woman in that country. It’s really incredible. She risked her own life to save others,
and working with all Iraqi communities as well as security forces. Congratulations. (Applause.) Such tremendous bravery in this room. Next I’d like to introduce you to
Sister Maria Elena Berini. She’s from Italy. She’s a Sister of Charity of Saint
(inaudible) Antide Thouret. She was born in Italy but works at a Catholic
mission in the Central African Republic. Sister Maria Elena is being honored
for her service to counter hatred, injustice, and war-related horrors. She has provided refuge to those
internally displaced people by conflict; and her tireless work to bring peace
in the Central African Republic. Thank you, Sister. (Applause.) And next I’d like to introduce you
to Aiman Umarova. She’s from Kazakhstan. She is a lawyer, a human rights defender,
a promoter of justice and other reforms. Ms. Umarova is being honored for improving laws to address violence against women and children, delivering justice in a number of landmark
cases for rape victims, and her efforts in countering violent extremism despite the
grave risks that she faces in Kazakhstan. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Dr. Feride Rushiti is from Kosovo. She’s the founder and executive director of
the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims. Dr. Rushiti is being honored for decades of
advocacy on behalf of civilian victims of Kosovo’s war, including rape survivors, and she’s laid the groundwork
for a legislative victory to support survivors of wartime
sexual violence. Thank you, Doctor. (Applause.) To Mauritania now. I would like to introduce you to
L’Malouma Said from Mauritania. She’s a former slave and now a deputy member
of parliament in Mauritania’s National Assembly. That is incredible. (Applause.) Mrs. Said – (Applause.) Mrs. Said is being honored –
wait here, Mrs. Said. (Laughter.) You can stay here. We’re not done yet. Stay right there. Thank you. Mrs. Said is being honored for her relentless
activism in the fight against slavery, including work in the country’s most
effective anti-slavery organization; perseverance and promotion
of human rights and equality; and resolve in addressing a failing
prison system in Mauritania. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Godelive Mukasarasi is from Rwanda. She’s the founder and coordinator of an NGO
dedicated to helping widows and orphans of the Rwandan genocide, and she is herself
a survivor of that trauma. She is being honored for her instrumental role in bringing women’s voices to the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, leading to the first historic conviction
of rape as a war crime. Thank you, ma’am, for your courage. (Applause.) Next, Sirikan Charoensiri is from Thailand. She is a lawyer and human rights defender
and is being honored for fiercely standing up for human rights. She includes – this includes the rights
to peaceful assembly and expression. During Thailand’s military rule,
she co-founded an organization to provide pro bono legal services to those who are facing
politically motivated charges and overcoming unprecedented
harassment and persecution. As a result of her advocacy, she now
faces three sets of criminal charges for her work as a lawyer,
and those charges include sedition. What a brave woman. Thank you. (Applause.) And next to Guatemala. Aura Elena Farfan in a human rights activist and an advocate for families
of the forcibly disappeared during Guatemala’s civil war in the 1960s
and subsequent conflicts. Ms. Farfan is being honored for her 33 years
of fearless leadership and enabling the prosecution of former military
officers involved in extrajudicial killings. She has been an activist since her brother
disappeared back in 1984. Since then, she’s received death threats, and has even been kidnapped by
armed assailants in her country. We recognize Ms. Farfan in absentia today,
as she is not able to travel to Washington from Guatemala due to a current
medical condition that she suffers. So please join me in thanking these women,
welcoming these women to the United States, and I would like to introduce you
to our next speaker. Please join me in giving a round of applause
for this remarkable group of leaders, and it is my pleasure to introduce
one of our women of courage, who will give remarks on behalf of the group,
Godelive Mukasarasi from Rwanda. Thank you. (Applause.) MS MUKASARASI: Mrs. Trump,
Acting Under Secretary Nauert, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor for me to stand here to tell you my joy and my gratitude for this acknowledgement
of my work in Rwanda. As a committed activist, I have been fighting
for the rights of women, victims of rape, and their children born of such rapes during the genocide against the Tutsis
in 1993 and ’94. Through an extensive therapy process
to help heal them of their trauma and through active advocacy,
the rape victims have become models of self-development and resilient citizens. During the genocide, one million
innocent lives were lost and millions of survivors were affected by the trauma, left with physical and emotional wounds. Rape has been used as a war weapon. Tutsi women and girls raped, raped en masse, and some of them became pregnant by the militia and soldiers
of the former regime. A number of these women were infected with
HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. Some underwent genital mutilation. Others were forced to marry the perpetrators
as a price to escape death, therefore becoming sexual servants and captives. When the militias were defeated,
the women returned to their families but were rejected and stigmatized by relatives for having been the spouse of a militia member or for being pregnant by them. They were told to abort or to walk away
with their cursed pregnancy. Some of these women decided to abort or
they have left their families to hide far away, protecting those babies who today are
beautiful 24 year-old women and the men. Even too, the Government of Rwanda has done
everything to address the effect of the genocide, the cases of rape were kept silent, because speaking of sexual issues
is taboo in Rwanda culture. Breaking the silence of this crime,
I started the SEVOTA organization in Taba in December 1994. Before meeting SEVOTA organization,
every woman thought she was alone and would remain humiliated. But when sharing their stories, they find out that they could decided to accept themselves and accept their children. After experiencing the SEVOTA healing session and receiving assistance, these Rwandan women decide
to speak out against the rape and stood up to testify about them in the international criminal court
of Rwanda. These women – these women’s advocacy
persuaded the international community make rape punishable as
a crime against humanity. These resilient women and young people
are fully integrated in the community, undertaking income-producing activities, sustaining themselves, and
preventing renewed trauma. However, there is the need for more attention, as many of them are living
with post-traumatic effects such as HIV/AIDS, poverty, and a fragilized and wounded memory. This is why SEVOTA continues to advocate, to heal, and to participate
in self-development program using different channel – different channel, such as the recent film “The Uncondemned,” where Seraphine, Victoria, and Cecile
played a key role in speaking out. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like
to express my profound gratitude toward those who have encouraged me, including the Government of Rwanda, which appoint me as one of
the guardians of the social pacts, and the institution who have
selected me for this prize. Finally, I would like to extend many thank you
who have attended this ceremony, and most of all, my sincerest thanks
to First Lady Mrs. Melania Trump, Acting Under Secretary Nauert, the Secretary Office for
Global Women’s Issues, and the Bureau of Educational
and Cultural Affairs. Thank you. (Applause.) MS NAUERT: Thank you. Godelive, thank you so much. Please join me in a final round of applause
for this remarkable group of women leaders. (Applause.) The United States will continue to work the
advance – the rights of women and girls globally, well aware that when women do better,
countries do better, families do better, we all do better. Mrs. Trump, thank you for your inspiring words
and for being part of today’s ceremony and our ceremony last year as well. This is certainly your passion,
(applause) and we are so grateful to have you. (Applause.) To the 2018 International
Women of Courage awardees, thank you for all that you have done and all that you continue to do. Thank you for your bravery, for your commitment,
especially in the face of adversity. We honor you and your work. At this time, I’d like to ask the First Lady
and the 2018 International Women of Courage Award recipients to please stand
for a group photo together, and we’ll get a picture together, and then we’ll conclude our ceremonies. Ladies and gentlemen, please remain seated while the First Lady and the 2018 International Women of Courage
Awardees then depart. Let’s take a picture first. (The picture is taken.) Please remain seated while the First Lady and the 2018 International Women
of Courage awardees depart. Thank you, ladies. (Applause.) And thanks to all of you for coming today. (Applause.) For those of us who are joining us
in our reception, (Applause.) you are now invited to proceed
to the Ben Franklin room, and that is on the eighth floor.

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