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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Gabrielle Giffords walked slowly and with the help of her husband onto a stage in Tucson as over 400 women cheered her on and gave her a standing ovation.
The former Arizona congresswoman then cheerfully gave a six-sentence speech imploring women to act on behalf of others as she received an award for being a "change maker."
"It's been a long, hard, haul, but I'm getting there," she said. "I'm still fighting to make the world a safer place, and you can too."
More than three years after she was shot in the head during an attack at a grocery store in Tucson that left six people dead and 13 wounded, Giffords remains active despite being partially paralyzed and having difficulty speaking. Giffords told the crowd of her many types of therapy — and of taking on yoga.
"Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best," she said.
Giffords smiled as attendees rose for her again while she walked off the stage with her husband, Mark Kelly, at the YWCA of Tucson's Women's Leadership Conference.
The former congresswoman from Tucson has been a staunch advocate for tougher gun laws since the mass shooting in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead.
Giffords and Kelly, a former NASA space shuttle commander, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, which advocates for stricter gun laws such as universal background checks for gun buyers.
Kelly praised his wife's courage and determination in thriving after her nearly fatal injuries and in continuing her work helping other women succeed.
"You know, she's never been the kind of woman who sat and waited for something to happen," Kelly said. "Gabby was always obsessed — and I don't use that word lightly — she was always obsessed with helping young women become leaders in their community."
What was once a long-distance marriage for the couple has turned into a close working relationship in which Kelly and Giffords have written books and launched their gun organization together while making frequent public appearances rallying for their cause.
"I don't know anybody that's tougher than Gabby Giffords," Kelly said.