Sharmin Akter, a Bangladeshi activist against early or forced marriage, has been honoured with the 2017 International Women of Courage Award along with 12 more women from around the world.
Melania Trump and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A Shannon presented the awards during a ceremony at the US Department of State office in Washington, Wednesday.
“The women were true heroes and extraordinary examples of finding the courage needed to help change the world,” Melania Trump told the programme.
“Together, we must declare that the era of allowing brutality against women and children is over, while affirming that the time for empowering women around the world is now,” she added.
At only 15 years of age, Sharmin of Jhalakathi courageously resisted her mother’s attempts to marry her off and secured the precious right to continue her education, setting an example for teenage girls across South Asia facing similar pressures, the statement says.
According to local media reports, Sharmin of Rajapur in Jhalakathi had been married off against her will in 2015 when she was a student of class IX. She later filed a case against her husband and her mother.
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Locals say Sharmin saved other girls from child marriage as well.
The 2017 awardees are:
**Sharmin Akter, Activist Against Early/ Forced Marriage, Bangladesh
**Malebogo Molefhe, Human Rights Activist, Botswana
**Natalia Ponce de Leon, President, Natalia Ponce de Leon Foundation, Colombia
**Rebecca Kabugho, Political and Social Activist, Democratic Republic of Congo
**Jannat Al Ghezi, Deputy Director of The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraq
**Major Aichatou Ousmane Issaka, Deputy Director of Social Work at the Military Hospital of Niamey, Niger
**Veronica Simogun, Director and Founder, Family for Change Association, Papua New Guinea
**Cindy Arlette Contreras Bautista, Lawyer and Founder of Not One Woman Less, Peru
**Sandya Eknelygoda, Human Rights Activist, Sri Lanka
**Sister Carolin Tahhan Fachakh, Member, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (F.M.A.), Syria
**Saadet Ozkan, Educator and Gender Activist, Turkey
**Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Blogger and Environmental Activist, Vietnam
**Fadia Najib Thabet, Human Rights Activist, Yemen
The Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award annually recognises women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk, according to the press release.
Since the inception of this award in 2007, the US Department of State has honoured over 100 women from more than 60 different countries.