On Wednesday U.S. first lady Melania Trump presented the International Women of Courage Award to 13 women in Washington as part of the celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. Four of the women honoured were notably African.

The Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award honours women around the world for exhibiting courage and leadership in their advocacy for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk. The award has in the past honoured women who have been imprisoned, tortured or threatened with death or serious harm for standing up for justice, human rights and the rule of law.

We profile the Africa women honoured here:

  • Malebogo Molefhe, Human Rights Activist, Botswana

A former national basketball player who had her whole life ahead of her, Malebogo was brutally assaulted by an ex-boyfriend, escaped death, and now uses a wheelchair due to the injuries she endured.  Malebogo has dedicated her life to teaching other girls to fight harmful gender stereotypes and domestic abuse.  Malebogo was honoured for her tenacity, strength, and resilience to help other women and girls overcome the scourge of domestic violence, especially those who have become disabled as a result of such abuse

  • Rebecca Kabugho, Political and Social Activist, Democratic Republic of Congo

Subjected to repression, arrests, and months in jail for her political activism and speaking her mind, Rebecca was, at age 22, dubbed one of the youngest prisoners of conscience in the world.  Rebecca played a key role in a series of peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations demanding the Congolese Government hold credible elections in 2016, as required by the Congolese constitution.

Rebecca Kabugho pictured looking out of the court of appeal of Goma, DRC, on 4 March: Photo RDCongo

Upon her release in 2016, she emerged as a voice demanding democratic reform and social change. She was honoured for her visionary leadership, commitment to ushering in positive change through nonviolence, and for standing up to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in her country.

  • Major Aichatou Ousmane Issaka, Deputy Director of Social Work at the Military Hospital of Niamey, Niger

A soldier, mother, and United Nations peacekeeper, Major Ousmane of Niger exemplifies what it means for a woman to serve on the front lines of conflict and peace-building.

Photo: Minumsa

She has not only helped people deal with the trauma caused by conflict and the threat of violent extremism, including Boko Haram; she also understands the deep need for social services to pave the way to recovery for families affected by war and conflict. Major Ousmane was honoured for her steadfast devotion to healing those wounded by conflict and terrorism, for demanding social services for those left to suffer the consequences of war in order to prevent further violent extremism.

  • Veronica Simogun, Director and Founder, Family for Change Association, Papua New Guinea

Founder of the Family for Change Association and advocate for women and girls in Papua New Guinea, Veronica lives and works in a country where two-thirds of women and girls have been physically and sexually abused due to their gender.

Photo: Twitter/ U.S Embassy Dhaka

Despite facing death threats for her work with survivors, Veronica has devoted herself to helping others and to building relationships with local law enforcement and men and boys to overturn the cultural norms that deprive women and girls of their status and basic rights. Veronica was honoured for her relentless dedication to protecting victims of violence and vulnerable women and children and for the pursuit of supportive partners in men and boys to make her country a violence-free society.