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Cameroon women’s activist wins award in memory of French icon Simone Veil

Cameroonian activist Aissa Doumara Ngatansou gives a speech after receiving the prize at the Elysee Palace in Paris on March 8, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday awarded the inaugural Simone Veil Prize to Cameroonian women’s rights activist Aissa Doumara Ngatansou, who runs an association to help victims of rape and forced marriages in her home country.

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Speaking in front of a large portrait of Veil, the late Auschwitz survivor known for her battle to make abortion legal in France, Doumara said she accepted the award with "a lot of emotion".

The 46-year-old dedicated the prize to "all women victims of violence and forced marriages, to all those who have escaped from Boko Haram," the armed Islamist movement active in northeast Nigeria and across neighbouring borders.

The ceremony marked the 42nd International Women's Day and the award was created in tribute to the life and work of Veil, who died in 2017, aged 89.

Last year, Veil became just the fifth woman to be laid to rest in the Pantheon in Paris, the burial site for France’s most distinguished citizens, along with her husband.

>> Read more: At mausoleum for France’s ‘Great Men’, Simone Veil burial is most revolutionary yet

The Simone Veil prize is worth 100,000 euros ($112,000).

French president hails Doumara's 'courage'

Macron hailed Doumara for "her commitment of over 20 years in the service of women, carried out in silence, sometimes in disapproval."

"This is an example of courage, of challenging the weight of legacies," he added.

Macron also said that France would give 120 million euros to a fund to support "the fight against violence and discrimination inflicted on women" around the world.

He said he wanted 2019 to be "a year for women's rights" while France holds the rotating presidency of the G7 group of industrialised powers.

Measures will be taken to educate young girls, particularly in the Sahel region, with the establishment of a bank to support women in business across Africa. Paris also proposed to host a global women's conference next year, 25 years after the last such gathering in Beijing.

"Many women are on the front line of this fight society as a whole should mobilise, including men," Macron said as he handed her the prize.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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