The United States has honoured ten extraordinary women who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment.
Three of the women are from Africa and they have demonstrated courage even at great personal risk and sacrifice. They include Moumina Houssein Darar of Djibouti, Mama Maggie of Egypt and Anna Aloys Henga of Tanzania.
The 13th Annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards was hosted at the State Department on March 7 and First Lady Melania Trump delivered special remarks in honour of the women who were nominated by U.S. diplomatic missions overseas.
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Moumina Houssein Darar is an anti-terror investigator from Djibouti who has put away numerous al-Shabaab terrorists while Anna Aloys Henga is a Tanzanian lawyer who fights for human rights for women and girls and advocates for more female candidates for public office.
Mama Maggie is a leader of a nationwide NGO in Egypt that serves the most impoverished urban slums and rural villages.
The other seven women to receive the awards include Razia Sultana of Bangladesh, Naw K’nyaw Paw of Burma, Colonel Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal of Jordan, Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland, Olivera Lakic of Montenegro, Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru and Marini de Livera of Sri Lanka.
Here are details of the African recipients of the Annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards as compiled by the State Department.
Moumina Houssein Darar – Djibouti
Born in Djibouti City, Djibouti, in 1990, Moumina Houssein Darar is the oldest of nine siblings—six brothers and two sisters. At age 23, she joined the Djiboutian National Police Force and quickly rose through the ranks in a male dominated profession. Ms. Darar trail blazed her way to the exclusive specialty of anti-terrorism investigations, where she consistently serves as the lead investigator for high-profile investigations. Her investigative efforts have led to the conviction and/or deportation of numerous Al-Shabaab terrorists. She enabled Djiboutian National Police (DNP) to thwart several attempted terrorist attacks after the 2014 La Chaumiere bombing in Djibouti City. She has confronted multiple terrorist suspects and hundreds of illegal immigrants, who were initially resistant to being interviewed by a female police officer. Ms. Darar has also worked undercover as a male to advance terrorism investigations. She has faced numerous challenges since joining the Police Force, including threats to her personal safety. Criminals she detained or convicted, when eventually released, would verbally abuse her. She has even been assaulted by children throwing rocks at her in the street, simply because she was a female police officer, and endured other threats simply for being a woman in uniform. Despite the abuse, she has persevered and remains committed to helping her entire community. Besides her passion for bettering the community through her law enforcement efforts, Ms. Darar has been a leader in community service. Four years ago, Moumina developed the idea to start a charitable neighborhood organization to assist children in need, as well as provide other services and assistance to help the local community.
Mama Maggie – Egypt
Mama Maggie abandoned numerous opportunities provided by her elite upbringing and resisted restrictions against women’s leadership to establish Stephen’s Children (SC), a non-governmental organization that serves the most impoverished urban slums and rural villages in Egypt regardless of their color, creed, or faith. From its humble beginnings in a Cairo slum, SC has grown to a nationwide Christian institution that feeds, clothes, educates, and mentors children, as well as providing vocational training for adults with a program for empowering women and young ladies. Mama Maggie and SC save children’s lives daily in Egypt, a country of almost 100 million, nearly half of whom live in poverty. She has laid the educational foundation and provided economic salvation for tens of thousands of impoverished children. In addition to multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, Mama Maggie is the recipient of numerous Egyptian and international humanitarian awards. Frequently called “the Mother Teresa of Egypt,” Mama Maggie has worked to overcome the pressure of family and societal norms placed upon women of her class to establish an institution that incorporates the poor and forgotten into the Egyptian education system and economy.
Anna Aloys Henga – Tanzania
Anna Henga is a Tanzanian lawyer, passionate human rights activist, and the Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC). She has dedicated her entire professional career to advancing human rights in Tanzania with a particular focus on women and children. Highlights of Ms. Henga’s work include coordinating Tanzania’s Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Coalition, mobilizing the Southern Africa Legal Assistance Network to defend the human rights of women in Maasai communities, and proactively encouraging women candidates to run for office during the 2015 general election cycle, which resulted in several successful campaigns. She has also played an influential role in publicly voicing concern over the direction of democratic governance through adverse legislative and constitutional actions in her country.