U.S. Department of State

Washington, D.C.

From soft lullabies to battle cries for justice, women nurse and nurture, teach and build, lead and dream our world forward—each and every day. 

Women have never been silent, but women have been silenced: with violence, with hate, discrimination, and isolation, with work and care that is never done.

Women have been told that they are dangerous. And that’s because they are—dangerous to corruption and injustice. When we raise our voices, we have the power to shatter the shields of oppression.

That’s why cowardly men stop girls from learning. It’s why women’s bodies become casualties of war. 

Like all of us, my heart has ached watching videos of Ukraine. Sick kids fleeing on makeshift medical trains, the unthinkable bombing of a maternity ward. Parents weeping over their children’s broken bodies in the streets. The senselessness is staggering.

We also know that there are horrors happening around the globe that never make the evening news. There are children’s broken bodies and women who bear the scars of war all around the world. 

And there are women everywhere whose voices need to be heard — because stories are powerful. They shape our lives —defining the shades of our joy and sorrow, dividing what matters from the rest. They’re how we understand and connect to each other—beyond language, and distance, and time. They foster empathy and compel each of us to act. 

I continue to teach writing at a nearby community college, and in my classes, I watch students find confidence when they lay their lives down on paper. I’ve seen them draw closer to one another when they share, realizing that their differences are precious and their similarities infinite.  

The stories we tell matter. 

My husband, our President, knows that. He knows how the stories he heard from survivors of abuse kept him up at night, how they inspired him to write and champion the Violence Against Women Act.

He knows that women’s voices have been the heart of resistance to tyranny, and that no country that oppresses half of its population can thrive.

And he knows that the United States must lead a global community dedicated to stopping the corruption, and injustice, and brutality that silences women.  

Because there can be no true democracy, no true peace, no true prosperity without women’s voices. There can be no history without our stories. 

That’s why what we do here resonates far beyond these walls. 

For 16 years, these awards have lifted up the voices of women around the world. It has shined light on the struggles and strength of women in the global North, South, East, and West. It has declared to all: The United States stands with these heroes. They are not alone. 

Today, we honor twelve women—and we go further, giving them a platform to speak their truth in their own words. We recognize the power that they hold—to take on the most dire challenges of our time and move us all to do more.

When you hear their words, hold them close to your heart. Share them with your daughters and sons, and with everyone you know. 

Tell their stories because they can inspire our world to rise to their courage. 

Tell them because women warriors everywhere need to hear what’s possible. 

Tell them because there is a sisterhood of girls who hold a universe of possibility within themselves, who need to know that the future belongs to them, too. 

To all Women of Courage—those fighting injustice in Latin America or hoping to learn in the Middle East, working for democracy and stability in Europe, protecting their families in sub-Saharan Africa, or speaking out against gender violence in Asia—we will continue to work with passion and persistence, with development and democracy, to stop those who wish to silence you.

And we will tell your stories, even when you cannot.

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