The U.S. government on Thursday marked International Women's Day by recognizing 10 women who are fighting for human rights and equality.

Presenting this year's International Women of Courage awards, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said championing women's equality is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

"Improving the lives of women improves the lives of their families, strengthens their communities and does create more opportunities for economic growth and prosperity," she said. "We know that investing in women's employment, health and education levels leads to a greater economic growth across a broad spectrum.”

This year's recipients include Afghan provincial council member Maryam Durani, who is campaigning for economic equality, and Brazilian police major Pricilla de Oliveira Azevedo, who has shut down drug gangs and is working to improve health care and education.

Burmese political activist Zin Mar Aung was awarded for her efforts to promote democracy and the rights of ethnic minorities.

Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima was recognized for working to expose sexual- and gender-based violence after she was gang raped while reporting on a story about arms smuggling.

Libyan architect and political activist Hana ElHebshi was honored for helping document the violence of her country's revolution.

Aneesa Ahmed won for her work against domestic violence in the Maldives.

Pakistani human rights activist Shad Begum was recognized for providing political training, education, and microcredit facilities in one of her country's most conservative districts.

Saudi political activist Samar Badawi won for launching legal challenges to laws restricting women's rights to marry, work or travel without the permission of a male guardian.

Sudanese human rights activist Hawa Abdhallah was recognized for speaking out for the rights of internally displaced civilians from the Darfur region.

Turkish parliamentarian Safak Pavey was honored for promoting the rights of the physically disabled, women and minorities in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

Joining Secretary Clinton at the awards ceremony, first lady Michelle Obama said these women refused to accept the world the way it was.

"They saw corruption, and they worked to expose it," Michelle Obama said. "They saw oppression, and they worked to end it. They saw violence, poverty, discrimination and inequality, and they decided to use their voices and risk their lives to do something about it. Day after day, these women have stood up and said the things that no one else could say or would say. Year after year, they endured hardships that few of us could bear.”

Secretary Clinton called on this year's winners, past recipients, and men and women everywhere to continue working for gender equality.

"We want a great crescendo of voices, an international chorus that says clearly and unequivocally that women and girls deserve the same rights and opportunities as their fathers and brothers and sons," she said.

Since 2007, the U.S. Secretary of State's Award for International Women of Courage has honored women from 34 countries who have shown leadership in campaigning for women's rights.