The United States today honoured a Bangladeshi teenage girl with the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award 2017 for courageously resisting her mother’s attempts to marry her off at an early age.
Sharmin Akter, 15, a student of Rajapur Pilot Girls High School, has secured her precious right to continue education with her exceptional courage and set an example for teenage girls across South Asia facing similar situation, according to a US embassy press release.
Sharmin, who dreams of becoming a lawyer and wants to work against the tradition of forceful early marriage of girls, dared to break the silence expected of women and girls and advocated for her rights, eventually bringing her mother and prospective husband to justice, the release read.
Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, a trend that threatens the health, safety, and education of millions of girls and undermines the country's progress.
US First Lady Melania Trump and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A Shannon presented the award to 13 women from across the country including Sharmin Akter today at the US Department of State, the release read.
Since the inception in 2007, the US Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award has been annually recognising 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.
Over 100 women from more than 60 countries have so far been honoured with this award, the release added.
The 2017 awardees are:
Sharmin Akter (Bangladesh), activist against early/ forced marriage
Malebogo Malefhe (Botswana), gender-based violence survivor and advocate
Natalia Ponce de León (Colombia), human rights defender and acid attack survivor
Rebecca Kabugho (Democratic Republic of Congo), political rights activist
Jannat Al Ghezi (Irag), anti-trafficking and human rights activist
Major Aïchatou Issaka Ousmane (Niger), peace-building activist
Veronica Simogun (Papua New Guinea), activist against gender-based violence
Cindy Arlette Contreras Bautista (Peru), domestic violence survivor and advocate
Sandya Eknelygoda (Sri Lanka), peace and reconciliation activist
Sister Carolin Tahhan Fachakh (Syria), interfaith activist
Saadet Özkan (Turkey), anti-child abuse activist
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Vietnam), blogger and environmental activist
Fadia Najib Thabet (Yemen), children's rights advocate