WASHINGTON, D.C. — On a day meant to recognize women, First Lady Jill Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken turned the focus to men, calling on them to "be partners" with women and support their cause, while presenting the International Women of Courage Awards Wednesday to 11 recipients from around the world, including a transgender woman.

What You Need To Know

  • The 11 recipients of the International Women of Courage Awards are from Afghanistan, Argentina, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Poland and Ukraine

  • The group includes the first female general to serve in the Mongolian armed forces, along with advocates for protecting indigenous lands in Costa Rica and ending discrimination against people with disabilities in Malaysia and against LGBTQ people in Argentina

  • The awards were presented at the White House for the first time in 17 years on International Women's Day

  • Read more about the 11 IWOC awardees

Encouraging men to support women who are fighting for their rights and to become “the men of courage we need,” the First lady presented a transgender woman from Argentina with an IWOC award during a ceremony at the White House.

Alba Rueda, a biological male who identifies as a woman, is Argentina’s current Special Envoy for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship. Rueda was the first Argentine Undersecretary for Diversity Policies in the newly created Ministry of Women, Gender, and Diversity, and was the driving force behind Argentina’s executive order on the transgender labor quota in the public sector which was converted into the Transgender Labor Quota Act.

During Wednesday’s ceremony, Blinken noted that for the first time in 17 years, the recipients were honored at the White House, “a reflection of just how highly President Biden, the First lady, and this administration prioritizes gender equality and human rights.”

The International Women of Courage award recognizes women from around the globe “who demonstrate exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equity and equality, and the empowerment of women and girls, in all their diversity,” according to the U.S. Department of State.

Some of the more notable recipients honored by the State Department include Dr. Zakira Hekmat from Afghanistan who completed high school secretly under the Taliban’s first period of control and became a medical doctor in 2018.

Professor Daniele Darlan of Central African Republic earned her recognition for her defense of her nation’s constitution, her heroism in safeguarding judicial independence and her refusal to be influenced by threats or political pressure.

Doris Ríos is a recognized Cabécarindigenous leader and well-respected member of the China Kichá indigenous community. Ríos is involved in multiple influential initiatives to improve indigenous lives and is vice president of the National Indigenous Board of Costa Rica.

Meaza Mohammed, a veteran Ethiopian journalist, is the founder of Roha TV, an independent YouTube-based news and information channel. Such channels have become increasingly popular in Ethiopia, where broadcast media are almost entirely state-controlled, as a way to disseminate news and analysis that diverges from the official government line. 

Human rights activist Hadeel Abdel Aziz is a frontline defender of Jordan’s most marginalized, including juveniles, refugees, migrants and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. As founder of the Justice Center for Legal Aid (JCLA), a leading legal aid provider in Jordan, Aziz has built a nationwide network of clinics which provide services to thousands of vulnerable individuals every year.

Bakhytzhan Toregozhina is a civil society activist who has campaigned for the protection of fundamental human rights in Kazakhstan for nearly 25 years. Since January 2022, she has been the head of “Qantar 2022” (January 2022) a coalition of civil society organizations working to assist victims and document human rights violations associated with the widespread unrest that occurred in Kazakhstan last January.  

Senator Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi has spent most of her professional life advancing and promoting human rights, selflessly advocating for vulnerable populations and using her platforms to shed light on injustices in Malaysian society. She was first known as a famous broadcast journalist and news presenter, television presenter and sports commentator. 

In nearly 30 years of service to her country, Brigadier General Bolor Ganbold has achieved a series of firsts that have broken barriers and opened the door for other women to follow; from being the first female cadet admitted to the Military University of Mongolia to being Mongolia’s first female staff officer assigned to a United Nations Peacekeeping Operation.

Bianka Zalewska is a Polish humanitarian and journalist who has selflessly documented Russian aggression in Ukraine since 2014 and advocated for the people of Ukraine for more than a decade. She persevered through life-threatening injuries suffered when her press car came under fire from Russian proxy forces in Luhansk Oblast in 2014.

Yuliia “Taira” Paievska has demonstrated extraordinary moral and physical courage in defending Ukraine against relentless Russian aggression. She provided medical treatment to Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity protestors in 2013, and as head of Taira’s Angels, a volunteer unit of paramedics, she provided tactical medical training on the Donbas front lines from 2014 to 2018.