The winners -- from Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Ireland, Jordan, Montenegro, Myanmar, Peru, Sri Lanka and Tanzania -- were recognized for showing "exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in acting to bring positive change to their societies, often at great personal risk and sacrifice," the State Department said.
Since the awards were first given in 2009, the department has recognized more than 120 women from more than 65 countries for advocating for human rights, women's rights and peace and government transparency.
"Courage is one of the qualities we need the most of in society," the first lady said in a rare public speech. "It's what moves us forward. Courage is what divides those who talk about change from those who actually act. ... It is the ability to put others first."
The winners included:
-Razia Sultana, a human rights attorney from Bangladesh who's advocated for the Muslim Rohingya who have fled Myanmar.
-Naw K'nyaw Paw, a peace activist and general secretary of the Karen Women's Organization in Myanmar who's supported gender equality and indigenous rights.
-Moumina Houssein Darar, one of few female police officers in the Djibouti National Police Force who specializes in anti-terrorism investigations. Her work has led to the conviction and deportation of members of the global Al-Shabaab terrorist group.
-Mama Maggie, who established the Stephen's Children non-governmental organization in Egypt that serves the most impoverished urban slums and rural villages in Egypt.
-Col. Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal, is chief of Jordan's Women's Police Department and is one of the highest-ranking women in the country's security services.
-Sister Orla Treacy, of Ireland who helped start the Loreto Rumbek Mission, a boarding school for girls in Maker Kuei, South Sudan. The nun currently serves as the head administrator in the civil war-torn country.
-Olivera Lakic, an investigative journalist in Montenegro, where she's earned a reputation as a determined and respected reporter who covers crime and corruption.
-Flor de Maria Vega Zapata, Peru's national coordinator for environmental prosecutors, leads a team of attorneys to investigate transnational criminal organizations engaged in illegal mining and logging.
-Marini de Livera, founder and chair of Sisters at Law in Sri Lanka, is a pro bono attorney for women and child victims and promotes alternative care for children in orphanages.
-Anna Aloys Henga, a human rights attorney in Tanzania and executive director of the Legal and Human Rights Center, which advocates for human rights with a focus on women and children.