The US’s acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs & Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Friday hosted the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards at the US Department of State to honor 10 women from around the world, including Afghanistan’s Roya Sadat.
The First Lady of the United States Melania Trump spoke at the event and commended the women for their bravery and determination in their respective fields. She also handed each recipient their award.
“The women of courage we honor here today are heroes,” she said.
She said these women were role models to children, especially girls, in their respective countries.
Now in its 12th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes 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 and sacrifice.
Since the inception of this award in 2007, the State Department has recognized more than 120 women from more than 65 different countries. US diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries.
This year’s recipients are as follows:
Roya Sadat of Afghanistan
Aura Elena Farfan of Guatemala
Dr. Julissa Villanueva of Honduras
Aliyah Khalaf Saleh of Iraq
Sister Maria Elena Berini of Italy
Aiman Umarova of Kazakhstan
Dr. Feride Rushiti of Kosovo
L’Malouma Said of Mauritania
Godelive Mukasarasi of Rwanda
Sirikan Charoensiri of Thailand
Roya Sadat is a well-known Afghan filmmaker, who refuses to be silenced in the face of threats in Afghanistan.
Using cinema and television as platforms for advocacy, she continues to promote positive change by telling the untold stories of Afghan women and girls.
Throughout her career, Sadat has faced enormous risks and has overcome tremendous cultural, bureaucratic, and monetary barriers.
Born in Herat in 1981, Sadat always dreamed of being a filmmaker. But when the Taliban came to power, her dreams were nearly crushed as music, movies, television, and theater were banned.
Yet Sadat organized secret theater classes in hospitals, refusing to give up her passion. At age 20, Sadat directed her first feature, Three Dots, which she secretly wrote during the Taliban era.
The film centers on a young widow who is pressured to marry an in-law. Sadat took major risks to shoot the film in a rural village; at one point, she was chased away at gunpoint by villagers angry at her use of uncovered women actresses.
Despite these and other challenges, she completed the film, which received international acclaim.
In 2003, Sadat founded Roya Film House to tell compelling stories about Afghanistan.
In more than 30 documentaries, films, and television shows, Sadat has not shied away from depicting the brutal injustices of life for Afghan women.
In 2013, she founded the Afghanistan International Women’s Film Festival to promote women filmmakers and the empowerment of Afghan women through art.
Sadat’s most recent work, A Letter to the President, tells the story of a strong-willed woman who is sentenced to death after accidentally killing her abusive husband.
In the process of examining Afghanistan’s culture through cinema, Sadat is doing her part to make her country a better place for women and girls.