Meridian hosts the 2015 International Women of Courage Awardees

First Lady Michelle Obama greets recipients of the Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award on March 7, 2015. From left: Nadia Sharmeen, Bangladesh; Arbana Xharra, Kosovo; May Sabe Phyu, Burma; Marie Claire Tchecola, Guinea; Tabassum Adnan, Pakistan; Sayaka Osakabe, Japan; Rosa Julieta Montano Salvatierra, Bolivia; Captain Niloofar Rahmani; Afghanistan; Majd Chourbaji, Syria. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama greets recipients of the Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award on March 7, 2015. From left: Nadia Sharmeen, Bangladesh; Arbana Xharra, Kosovo; May Sabe Phyu, Burma; Marie Claire Tchecola, Guinea; Tabassum Adnan, Pakistan; Sayaka Osakabe, Japan; Rosa Julieta Montano Salvatierra, Bolivia; Captain Niloofar Rahmani; Afghanistan; Majd Chourbaji, Syria. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

For the third year in a row, Meridian International Center, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, had the honor of welcoming the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) awardees to Washington in early March. The Award was established to pay tribute to women around the world who have courageously advocated for the rights, equality, and social progress of all citizens despite the adversity and dangers they often face. This annual award was created in 2007 by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to mark International Women’s Day which is March 8th. The 2015 Award ceremony was led by Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Secretary of State for Resources and Management.

On March 3, 2015, Meridian hosted the awardees for a day of programming at our campus. Meridian hosted Zin Mar Aung, a 2012 IWOC Award recipient from Burma, to speak with the group and provide valuable personal insight into how the award affected her life and career. Kathleen Kuehnast, Director of the Center for Gender and Peacebuilding at the United States Institute of Peace, also participated in a dialogue that allowed awardees to share their personal stories and explore the mutual challenges they face as female leaders.

This year's 10 awardees included:

  • Niloofar Rhmani, Captain, Afghan Air Force from Afghanistan
  • Nadia Sharmeen, Journalist from Bangladesh
  • Rosa Julieta Montaño Salvatierra, Founder and Director, Oficina Juridica para la Mujer (The Legal Office for Women) from Bolivia
  • May Sabe Phyu, Director, Gender Equality Network from Burma
  • Marie Claire Tchecola, Emergency Room Nurse, Donka Hospital from Guinea
  • Sayaka Osakabe, Founder and Representative, Matahara Net from Japan
  • Arbana Xharra, Editor-in-Chief, Zeri from Kosovo
  • Majd Charbajy, External Relations Director, Women Now for Development Centers from Syria
  • Tabassum Adnan, Founder, Kwendo Jirga (Sister’s Council) from Pakistan
  • Béatrice Epaye, President, Fondation Voix du Coeur (Preparatory Committee for the Historic National Dialogue) from the Central African Republic.

In partnership with DCI Group, a public affairs and communications firm, Meridian conducted media training workshops to prepare the IWOC awardees for interviews and media coverage in the United States, their home countries and worldwide. Meridian's Vice President for Communications, Monique McSween, oversaw the training program design.

On March 6, the awardees participated in meetings with major US Government agencies, all coordinated by Meridian. Highlights included meetings with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. John Gallin, Director of the NIH Clinical Center at NIH for Ms. Marie Claire Tchecola – a nurse and Ebola survivor from Guinea – as well as a visit and meetings at Joint Base Andrews for Ms. Niloofar Rhmani, Afghanistan’s first female fixed-wing Air Force pilot.

Despite a major snowfall the day before, the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony took place in the Benjamin Franklin Room overlooking the National Mall that Friday afternoon. Members of Meridian’s Council on Women’s Leadership - Michele Manatt, Janet Blanchard, and Ambassador Laurie Fulton - were among the audience members present to congratulate and celebrate the accomplishments of the 2015 awardees.

Before departing for individual schedules in 8 different cities across the United States, the awardees spent some time at the White House for a tour and private meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama.

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