By Samantha Cooney
March 29, 2017

First Lady Melania Trump called for the empowerment of women and tolerance of individuals of all backgrounds at an event honoring the winners of the State Department’s International Women of Courage Award on Wednesday in D.C.

The award honors 13 women from across the globe “who are making a substantial difference in the lives of women around the globe,” according to the State Department. The winners, many of whom have survived violence, will travel throughout the U.S. to discuss their experiences and work with American citizens. Some of this year’s winners come from Yemen, Iraq and Syria, countries that were included on President Donald Trump’s executive order — later suspended by a federal court — that temporarily banned refugees and travelers from seven-majority Muslim countries.

“Together, we must declare that the era of allowing brutality against women and children is over while affirming that the time for empowering women around the world is now. Wherever women are diminished, the entire world is diminished with them,” Trump said at the event. “As leaders of our shared global community, we must continue to work toward gender empowerment and respect for people of all backgrounds and ethnicities, remembering always that we are all members of one race: the human race. Each one of us is uniquely gifted.”

The first lady said it is the duty of United States and global citizens to fight and speak out against injustice and encouraged individuals to look to the winners of the International Women of Courage Award as inspiration.

“These honorees, who have fought on the front lines against injustice, are true heroes,” she said. “To the young people here today, I ask you to allow the triumphs exemplified by these heroic women to inspire you in your own lives and to remind yourself that you too are capable of greatness … Let these brave women serve as a daily inspiration as it is now up to each of you to remain vigilance against injustice in all its many forms.”

Her husband, President Donald Trump, has been criticized for his treatment of women and minorities in the past. On one of his first days in office, he reinstated a ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information about the procedure, which critics have said could harm women’s health.

Write to Samantha Cooney at samantha.cooney@time.com.

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