Sharmin Akter, a Bangladeshi activist against early or forced marriage, is among 13 personalities across the world to receive the 2017 International Women of Courage Award on Wednesday.
US First Lady Melania Trump and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A Shannon will present the awards during a ceremony at the office of the US Department of State in Washington, according to a press release issued by the US Embassy in Dhaka.
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.
Locals say Sharmin saved more girls from child marriage.
The other awardees of 2017 are Malebogo Malefhe, gender-based violence survivor and advocate, Botswana; Natalia Ponce de León, human rights defender and acid attack survivor, Colombia; Rebecca Kabugho, political rights activist, Democratic Republic of Congo; Jannat Al Ghezi, anti-trafficking and human rights activist, Iraq; Maj Aïchatou Issaka Ousmane, peace-building Activist, Niger; Veronica Simogun, activist against gender-based violence, Papua New Guinea; Cindy Arlette Contreras Bautista, domestic violence survivor and advocate, Peru; Sandya Eknelygoda, peace and reconciliation activist, Sri Lanka; Sister Carolin Tahhan Fachakh, interfaith activist, Syria; Saadet Özkan, anti-child abuse activist, Turkey; Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, blogger and environmental activist, Vietnam; and Fadia Najib Thabet, children’s rights advocate, 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.