The United States issued awards Tuesday to 14 lawyers, activists, humanitarians and reformers said to represent "International Women of Courage."

"Fourteen leaders, fourteen role models, fourteen women of courage, one crystal clear message," said Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Don't accept the unacceptable or wait for someone else to step up. Act in the name of justice. Act in the name of tolerance. Act on behalf of truth."

All but one of the honorees were able to attend the ceremony in Washington, an annual event that began in 2007 to encourage women's empowerment.

Debra Baptist-Estrada, Belize:

Estrada has fought corruption from within the Belize Department of Immigration for the past 20 years. From her position as port commander of the country’s only airport, Estrada helped U.S. officials break up a large drug and human smuggling ring last spring. Estrada was transferred to Belize’s northern border this summer, where she has repeatedly turned down bribes and unflinchingly upheld immigration laws.




U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents the 2016 International Women of Courage Award to Debra Baptist-Estrada of Belize, Port Commander at Belize Immigration and Nationality, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 29, 2016.


US State Department Awards Belizean Woman

Yesterday the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented 2016 Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award to a group of extraordinary women from around the world who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Since the beginning of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored nearly 100 women from 60 different countries. But this year, for the first time, one of Belize’s very own was presented with this prestigious award for her exceptional demonstration of courage in three pivotal areas: exposing and opposing gender-based violence; combatting corruption and strengthening the rule of law; and promoting justice and human rights for all.

Debra Baptist-Estrada, who works as a Port Commander at the Belize Immigration and Nationality Department was one of the recipients of the honorary award which was present at a ceremony at the US State Department office in Washington D.C.

As Port Commander of Belize’s international airport, Estrada worked with U.S. to crack open a drug and human smuggling operation to the U.S. and Europe, and for her integrity and commitment to good governance in Belize she was honored as a woman of courage.

Estrada was part of a group of fourteen courageous women that included lawyers, activists, humanitarians and reformers from all parts of the world.

As a recipient of this award, Ms. Baptist-Estrada will travel on April 1st to cities across the United States to engage with the American people through an International Visitor Leadership Program. The 14 awardees will visit Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, California, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. After their individual programs conclude the women will reconvene in Los Angles to reflect on their visit and discuss ways to work together to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.

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