Jill Biden calls on men to support women fighting for rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden on Wednesday praised a group of women from around the world, including those who have been protesting against Iran's leaders, for showing courage while fighting for their rights and called on men to “be partners” with women and support them in their cause.

“As much as we need women who are willing to speak up, we need more men who are willing to listen and act," the first lady said.

“We need more men to hold each other accountable when their sisters are being hurt or left behind,” she said at a White House ceremony for the 2023 recipients of the International Women of Courage Awards. “We need more men who nurture families, who feed and teach and mentor, who build safer communities. We need more men who know that caring, collaboration and kindness are signs of strength, not weakness.

“Men, we need you to support the women who are fighting for their rights and to lift up those who have been silenced,” she continued. “Be partners, be partners with women. Become the ‘men of courage’ we need. Only then will we be able to build a world where men and women are equal and all people are free."

At the ceremony, held on International Women's Day, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken presented awards to 11 recipients from Afghanistan, Argentina, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Poland and Ukraine.

The group includes the first female general to serve in the Mongolian armed forces, along with advocates for protecting indigenous lands in Costa Rica and ending discrimination against people with disabilities in Malaysia and against LGBTQ people in Argentina.

Among them was Yuliia Paievska, a Ukrainian medic who last year recorded reams of harrowing bodycam footage showing her team's efforts to save those who were wounded during Russia's bombardment of the city of Mariupol. Paievska gave the footage to Associated Press journalists, who were the last international team in the city, on a tiny data card.

The journalists fled Mariupol with the data card and shared the images with the world. Paievska was detained soon after by pro-Russia forces and held for three months.

A new group award, named for Madeleine Albright, who died last March after making history in 1997 by becoming the first female U.S. secretary of state, was given to the women and girls of Iran, who have been protesting against their government since last September.

Nationwide protests erupted in Iran after the Sept. 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Amini was accused of violating Iran’s strict dress code for women by wearing her headscarf improperly.

The International Women of Courage Award, created in 2007 by then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, recognizes women who show exceptional courage, strength and leadership while advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equity and equality, and the empowerment of women and girls. More than 180 women from 80-plus countries have received the award since its inception.

Biden moved Wednesday's ceremony from its traditional home at the State Department because she “wanted to bring the stories of these incredible women to the biggest stage we could, and that is, of course, the White House,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, who also spoke at the ceremony.