Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Burgh First U.S. City to Spend Time with Courageous Women

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Burgh First U.S. City to Spend Time with Courageous Women

Article excerpt

Hana Elhebshi transformed from an apolitical architect in Tripoli before the Libyan revolution to "Nomidia" -- a spy who advised NATO strikes and leaked to the press the number of people killed and detained by Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

"During the revolution, something inside me ignited," the woman explained through an interpreter. "If every Libyan citizen did not take a step or do something, the revolution would not have been a success."

Ms. Elhebshi's story and her attitude are emblematic of the nine women with whom she will be honored Thursday as 2012 International Women of Courage award recipients by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The women, who were selected for going beyond the call of duty to forge progress in their community, are in Pittsburgh on the first stop of a three-week tour through the U.S.

"Pittsburgh was chosen because it has a rich history of civic activism," said Melanne Verveer, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women's issues.

On Monday, the award winners met with Gwen's Girls, a local organization that aims to empower young women through education and gender-based programming, to share their experiences. The women also participated in an open forum that evening at Chatham University.

Each story was different -- from a Myanmar woman imprisoned 11 years for distributing anti-government documents to a Brazilian military police major commanding efforts to take back Rio de Janeiro's slums.

But the theme remained the same: The women rose from oppression stronger and more determined than before.

"Each of them in a way tells a story about what is possible," Ms. Verveer said.

In Rio de Janeiro, Major Pricilla de Oliveira Azevedo's story is well-known.

Her uncle, a police officer, was killed by drug lords 14 years ago. She followed his footsteps into police work and nearly was killed because of it.

As a street cop in the local slums, she was kidnapped from her doorstep and beaten by seven men. When she asked for help, onlookers did nothing.

She survived the attack and worked harder and safer, going home only two days a week, fearing regular death threats might materialize. …

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