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Afghan, Ukrainian, Tajik, Georgian Women Given U.S. Bravery Awards

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama (L) applauds for Dr. Nasrin Oryakhil of Afghanistan as she is awarded the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award 2014 at the State Department in Washington, DC, on March 4, 2014.
An Afghan doctor, Ukrainian activist, Tajik presidential candidate, and Georgian bishop were among 10 women awarded as "International Women of Courage" by the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. secretary of state's "International Women of Courage Award" began in 2007 to recognize women around the world who show "exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment."

Speaking at the award ceremony in Washington on March 4, First Lady Michelle Obama said: "With every life they touch and every spirit they raise, these women are creating ripples that stretch across the globe."

Winners included Nasrin Oryakhil, the founder of Kabul's Malalai Maternity Hospital, the first care center in Afghanistan that treats women for fistula.

Speaking on behalf of the others honored, Oryakhil said: "I personally experienced when Afghan [women], under very harsh conditions, were deprived of their basic and God-given rights for a long period of time."

"However, with great desire and unparalleled determination and help [and] support from the international community, [we] were able to change the tide...and gain numerous achievements in the past 12 years," she added.

Ukrainian pop singer and Euromaidan activist Ruslana Lyzhchko was also honored.

Known as Ruslana in Ukraine when she won the 2004 Eurovision song contest, she campaigned for nonviolent protest at the Euromaidan antigovernment protests in Kyiv and was known for singing the Ukrainian national anthem each evening.

Also given a "courage" award was Oinikhol Bobonazarova, one of the leading human rights activists in Tajikistan, where she was a presidential candidate in 2013.

She has spoken out against torture in detention centers and worked many years to help Tajik migrants through her nongovernmental organization.

Georgian Bapitst Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze was also honored.

She has worked for gender equality, the protection of minorities, and women's rights issues.

Gotsiridze also was one of the first religious leaders in Georgia to advocate for the rights of the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

The other award winners were Roshika Deo from Fiji, Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar of Guatemala, Laxmi of India, Fatimata Toure of Mali, Maha al-Munif of Saudi Arabia, and Beatrice Mtetwa of Zimbabwe.

The award winners will go on a multi-day tour of the United States where they will speak at various conferences before returning to Washington.