These women are building a better and safer world


Everywhere, women are making people’s lives better. They defend human rights, fight corruption and protect the environment, often at the risk of their lives.

At the 16th annual International Women of Courage Awards, to be held virtually on March 14, the U.S. Department of State will honor 12 women who have demonstrated courage, strength, and leadership. extraordinary ways to improve the lives of others and their communities.

Since 2007, the Department of State has named more than 170 women from more than 80 countries International Women of Courage. The 2022 winners are:


Left: Facia Boyenoh Harris (© John Healey) Right: Roegschanda Pascoe (State Dept.)

Facia Boyenoh Harris, a lifelong advocate for women’s rights in Liberia, protects school-aged girls from sexual harassment and increases their educational opportunities. She co-founded the Paramount Young Women Initiative and coordinates with other groups addressing issues ranging from political participation and sanitation to sexual violence.

Roegchanda Pascoe, from South Africa, advocates for peace, justice and economic inclusion for historically marginalized communities in Cape Town. She continues to work for safer communities, especially for women and children, despite threats and assassination attempts.

South East Asia

Left: Woman signing banner (© Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images) Right: Seated woman with hand on guitar (State Dept.)
Left: Ei Thinzar Maung (© Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images) Right: Phạm Đoan Trang (State Dept.)

Ei Thinzar Maungof Burma, became a symbol of peaceful resistance after Burma’s military coup on February 1, 2021. A longtime advocate of human rights and inclusive government, Thinzar Maung was imprisoned in 2015 after being be opposed to a law banning student unions and education in minority languages.

Phạm Đoan Trang, author, journalist and blogger in Vietnam, advocates for improved rule of law, political inclusion and human rights. In December 2021, she was sentenced to nine years in prison for “spreading anti-state propaganda” for peacefully expressing her views.


Left: Doina Gherman (© Right: Carmen Gheorghe (State Dept.)
Left: Doina Gherman (© Right: Carmen Gheorghe (State Dept.)

Doina Gherman, a member of the Moldovan Parliament, advances women’s rights, promotes women’s political leadership and empowers victims of domestic and gender-based violence. Gherman also served on the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

Carmen Gheorghe is president of E-Romnja, which defends the rights of women and minority groups in Romania. She trains other public interest groups on LGBTQI+, gender and Roma issues, and has worked for the National Agency for Roma, developing government policies supporting Roma communities.

Middle East and North Africa

Left: Najla El Mangoush (© Yasser Al-zayyat/AFP/Getty Images) and Taif Sami Mohammed (State Department)
Left: Najla El Mangoush (© Yasser Al-zayyat/AFP/Getty Images) Right: Taif Sami Mohammed (State Dept.)

Taif Sami Mohammed, Iraqi Deputy Minister of Finance since 2019, has been fighting corruption for 36 years through his work in the Ministry of Finance. A leader against budget corruption, she has forged a reputation as the Iraqi “iron woman”.

Najla Mangoush led the public engagement unit of Libya’s National Transitional Council during the 2011 revolution, supporting a strong civil society. She became Libya’s first female foreign minister in March 2021. Mangoush, a Fulbright scholar, studied in the United States and earned degrees from Eastern Mennonite University and George Mason University, both in Virginia.

South and Central Asia

Left: Rizwana Hasan (State Dept.) Right: Bhumika Shrestha (State Dept.)
Left: Rizwana Hasan (State Dept.) Right: Bhumika Shrestha (State Dept.)

Rizwana Hassan has won cases against pollution, deforestation and illegal development in Bangladesh. As an environmental justice advocate, Hasan champions marginalized communities and was named one of the World‘s 40 Environmental Heroes by Time reviewed in 2009.

Bhumika Shrestha, from Nepal, defends the rights of gender minorities in Nepal. Her work helped push the Supreme Court of Nepal to allow people to identify as a third gender on citizenship documents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shrestha has advocated for government policies supporting the LGBTQI+ community.

South America

Left: Simone Sibilio do Nascimento (State Department) Right: Josefina Klinger Zúñiga (State Department)
Left: Simone Sibilio do Nascimento (State Department) Right: Josefina Klinger Zúñiga (State Department)

Simone Sibilio do Nascimento, public prosecutor in Rio de Janeiro, fight against drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption. She tackles controversial cases, police impunity for human rights abuses and has exposed gender-based violence and attacks on social activists.

Josefina Klinger Zuniga, from Colombia, defends human rights and the environment. As the founder of Mano Cambiada (Changed Hand), Klinger Zúñiga promotes sustainable ecotourism and empowers Afro-Colombians and Indigenous people in rural communities along Colombia’s Pacific Coast.


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