In a rare public appearance, first lady Melania Trump took part in a ceremony Wednesday to give the State Department’s International Women of Courage Award to 13 recipients who are political and social activists in their countries.
Among the women recognized were a human rights activist from Yemen and a Salesian nun from Syria, two nations whose citizens would not get U.S. visas under President Trump’s revised executive order on immigration.
Another recipient was an activist from Iraq — a country that was dropped from a list of seven Muslim-majority countries affected by the original executive order.
“As leaders of our shared global community, we must continue to work toward gender empowerment, and respect for people from all backgrounds and ethnicities, remembering always that we are all ultimately members of one race — the human race,” the first lady said before the awards were announced by Thomas Shannon, the undersecretary of state for political affairs.
The Women of Courage Awards were established in 2007 by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They recognize women who have shown courage and leadership advocating for women’s rights and advancement.
The 13 women honored Wednesday come from Bangladesh, Botswana, Colombia, Congo, Iraq, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, Vietnam and Yemen. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, an environmental activist from Vietnam, was the only recipient who did not attend.
The recipients include the deputy director of a group in Iraq that helps shelter women fleeing domestic violence; a woman who tries to prevent children in Yemen from being radicalized; a nun who runs a nursery school in Damascus; and a Colombian who after being attacked by a stalker with sulfuric acid lobbied to penalize such assailants.
“Their stories of individual bravery remind us that there is always hope whenever the human spirit is brought to bear in the service of others,” Melania Trump said, “and that healing and personal empowerment are often born from such deeds.”
Her appearance Wednesday marked one of her few public forays since becoming first lady. She continues to live in New York City with her son, Barron, and visits Washington periodically.