First lady Jill Biden honors ‘women of courage’ at White House


WASHINGTON (AP) — First lady Jill Biden hosted a White House ceremony on Monday for “women of courage” who have fought political repression, sexual violence, economic hardship and gender discrimination around the world.

“You’ve spoken out for yourselves and for others in the face of fear and risk, and those who have tried to steal your voices away,” Biden said.

She added, “Change never happens on its own. There is power in this community of women.”

Twelve women received the awards, which were distributed by the U.S. Department of State. It was the 18th year the awards have been given out. Among the honorees were a lawyer from Myanmar, a former political prisoner from Belarus, a disability rights advocate from Afghanistan and a teacher from Ecuador.

One of the honorees, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, was not able to attend because she was not allowed to leave her home country of Cuba. She’s faced detention and harassment during her decades of advocacy for human rights and political freedom.

“Marta may not be able to be with us today in person, but we want her to know all of us are with her every single day,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Nine women from Nicaragua were also honored with the Madeleine Albright Honorary Group Award, which is named for the first female U.S. secretary of state. The women were among 222 political prisoners who were released a year ago and they now live in the U.S.

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