On Wednesday, March 29th Meridian was honored to take part in recognizing the work of thirteen remarkable women at the 2017 International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award Ceremony. Since 2007, the United States has honored the courageous efforts of extraordinary women who have demonstrated leadership, resourcefulness, and willingness to sacrifice for others, especially in the promotion of women's rights. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. was joined by First Lady of the United States Mrs. Melania Trump in presenting the prestigious award to each of the candidates. Ambassador Shannon delivered opening remarks before introducing Mrs. Trump, who went on to welcome and congratulate the awardees individually.
"These women have mobilized public sentiment and their governments to expose and address injustice, speak against corruption, prevent violent extremism, and stand up for the rule of law and peace, often with little more than their voices and sheer determination...They are an inspiring reminder of how individuals can make a difference. Taken together, they can provide a powerful message of courage and leadership." - Ambassador Thomas Shannon, Jr.
"Each one of these heroic women has an extraordinary story of courage, which must inspire each of us to also achieve more than we have ever imagined possible. Their lives remind us of the boundless capacity of the human spirit when guided by moral clarity and the desire to do good." - First Lady Melania Trump
The day after the ceremony, the participants were welcomed to The George Washington University to take part in a panel discussion that was organized in partnership with the Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA) and the Global Women's Institute. After being introduced by the Dean of ESIA Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety II, Ms. Veronica Simogun (Sri Lanka), Ms. Cindy Contreras Bautista (Peru), Ms. Saadet Özkan (Turkey), and Ms. Fadia Thabet (Yemen) shared their experiences in their respective nations and discussed challenges ahead before answering a series of questions along with their colleagues.
After a self-guided tour of the White House and cultural programming in Washington, each of the Honorees will embark on their International Visitor Leadership Program. Cities that will be participating in the exchange include Atlanta, GA; Denver, CO; Des Moines, IA; Minneapolis, MN; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; Pensacola, FL; Pittsburgh, PA, Portland, OR; San Diego, CA; and Tampa, FL.