The International Women of Courage Award

The International Women of Courage Award was established by the U.S. Department of State in 2007 to honor women who are making a substantial difference in the lives of women around the globe. Nominated by U.S. embassies and NGOs, the candidates are selected by the State Department for their courageous and selfless efforts advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress, often in the face of great personal risk. Honorees travel to the U.S. for an award ceremony at the State Department and an opportunity for cultural exchange across the country.

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AWIU’s International Women of Courage Celebration

Since 2008, American Women for International Understanding has had the privilege of working in partnership with the State Department on the International Women of Courage Celebration, an evening event that recognizes the awardees and celebrates their exemplary efforts. In addition, AWIU provides each of the awardees with a monetary grant to support continued efforts in her home country. International Women’s Day provides the backdrop for this prestigious dinner event held in Los Angeles in the Spring. Over the last 15 years, AWIU has supported the work of over 150 International Women of Courage.

International Women of Courage Honorees

The International Women of Courage come from all walks of life and share the same unshakeable commitment to the rights and well-being of women around the globe. Their exceptional leadership and courage are helping to transform their societies despite tremendous challenges.

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The State Department Award Ceremony

The U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award Ceremony and Reception is held at the Department of State, and usually attends by the First Lady and the Secretary of State. Since the inception of this award in 2007, the State Department has recognized more than 170 women from more than 80 different countries. U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.

"Women leaders around the world are working on issues, which promote peace, justice, and progress for societies. As Margareth Mead famously said, all it takes to change the world is a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens. In their work, AWIU recognizes efforts and lasting achievements of women around the globe and encourages them to take action. Thus, this group of committed citizens becomes stronger and leads the world towards lasting peace, respect to human rights and international solidarity."

Zuzana Stevulova
2016 International Woman of Courage - Slovakia

"We can change the world. Without us, it will not be done. Hand in hand, we will make the world a better place."

Rebecca Kabugho
2017 International Women Of Courage - Democratic Republic of the Congo

"We are not driven by revenge But the desire that history never repeats itself.

Aura Elena Farfan
2018 International Women Of Courage - Guatemala

"Economies cannot prosper and countries cannot be free unless women are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. That was as true in 2006 when we created this award as it is today. Together [the International Women of Courage] represent the leading edge of the women’s empowerment movement and are an inspiration to us all."

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Founder of the IWOC Award

"Courage is the ability to challenge norms. It is the ability to move beyond words and act upon something that will challenge the present and bring change to the future."

Zarifa Ghafari
2020 International Women Of Courage - Afghanistan

"I appreciate the work that American Women of International Understanding (AWIU) is doing to generate awareness on women’s issues around the globe. Their support, empathy, effort and time as a volunteer, to feature problems that women face within and outside the U.S. is simply commendable. Raising awareness on women’s issues is a crucial step towards progress and so is working together in global solidarity."

Roshika Deo
2014 International Women Of Courage - Fiji

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