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State Department honors International Women of Courage

By Danielle Haynes
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State Department honors International Women of Courage
First lady Melania Trump (L) presents a 2018 International Women of Courage Award to L'Malouma Said of Mauritania on Friday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

March 23 (UPI) -- First lady Melania Trump praised 10 women as "heroes who walk among us" during the State Department's International Women of Courage award ceremony Friday.

Trump gave remarks at the annual ceremony hosted by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

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

The event presents awards to women from around the world who exemplify leadership, courage, resourcefulness and willingness to sacrifice for others.

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Among this year's honorees were:

-- L'Malmouma Said, a former member of parliament in Mauritania who has advocated on behalf of human rights issues and improving prisons in her country.

-- Godelieve Mukasarasi, an advocate against sexual violence against women who helped the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convict a mayor of war crimes for the sexual assault of women during the Rwandan genocide.

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-- Sirikan "June" Charoensiri, co-founder of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, which provides free legal services in human rights cases under the military government in Thailand.

-- Dr. Feride Rushiti, who founded the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims after the 1998-99 war.

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-- Sister Maria Elena Berini, an Italian nun whose Catholic mission in the Central African Republic opened its doors to thousands of internally displaced people in 2017 after rebel attacks.

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-- Aliyah Khalaf Saleh, an Iraqi humanitarian whose family rescued dozens of young military cadets ambushed by the Islamic State.

-- Roya Sadat, an Afghan filmmaker who defies threats from conservative factions by telling the stories of Afghan women and girls.

-- Aiman Umarova, a writer and lawyer who focuses on human rights violations and sexual abuse in Kazakhstan.

-- Aura Elena Farfan, a human rights activist and advocate of families whose loved ones were forcibly disappeared during Guatemala's civil war.

-- Dr. Julissa Villanueva, the director of the Honduran Attorney General's Forensic Medicine Department who has led changes in the way the country handles violent crimes against women and children.

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