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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (3rd L) and First Lady Michelle Obama (2nd L) stand with four of the ten winners during the State Department's 2012 International Women of Courage Award winners ceremony. - Reuters Photo

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s Shad Begum was among 10 of the world’s leading women activists the United States honoured on Thursday for their efforts to improve the lives of other women.

Shad Begum of Lower Dir district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, received the 2012 International Women of Courage Award, at a ceremony in Washington, for working for women in a deeply conservative area. The region was run briefly by the militants before the Pakistan Army cleared it in May 2009.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama presented the awards.

Secretary Clinton noted that all 10 women had worked tirelessly to improve the lives of women and girls, sometimes at great personal risks.

Some of them were also imprisoned and abused for their efforts, she noted.

Mrs Obama noted that these courageous women refused to accept the status quote, and instead chose to remake the world “as they know it should be”. Ambassador Sherry Rehman, who also attended the ceremony, said Pakistan’s democratic government had enacted a series of legislative measures to protect and advance women’s rights.

“We passed legislation criminalising sexual harassment in the workplace. We passed legislation making it mandatory to appoint neutral mediators at all levels to adjudicate charges of sexual discrimination,” she said.

“Another revolutionary legislation made it illegal to deprive a woman of her rightful inheritance, made it illegal to force a woman into marriage to settle a civil or criminal dispute; and banned compelling or arranging or facilitating a woman’s marriage to the Holy Quran.”

In a brief biographical sketch, the US State Department introduced Shad Begum as “a courageous human rights activist and leader who has changed the political context for women in the extremely conservative district of Dir.”

As founder and executive director of Association for Behaviour and Knowledge Transformation, Ms Shad provides political training, microcredit, primary education, and health services to women.

Ms Shad not only empowered the women of Dir to vote and run for office, she herself ran and won local seats in the 2001 and 2005 elections against local conservatives who tried to ban female participation.

“Despite threats, Ms Shad continues to work out of Peshawar to improve the lives of women in the communities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” the State Department noted.

Another recipient, Maryam Durani of Afghanistan, comes from the Kandahar province, among the country’s most conservative and most dangerous areas.

“But that has not stopped Ms Durani from speaking out for the rights of Afghan women and girls,” the State Department noted.

As a member of Kandahar’s Provincial Council, director of the non-profit Khadija Kubra Women’s Association for Culture, and owner and manager of the only local, female-focused radio station, “she is both a leader and a role model for women throughout Afghanistan”.

A true woman of courage, Ms Durani has survived multiple attacks on her life, including a suicide attack in 2009 that resulted in serious injury. Although she continues to face regular threats, “she is undeterred in her mission to promote basic civil rights for all Afghans”, the State Department noted.

Other award winners include Hana Elhebshi, a political activist from Libya, Samar Badawi, left, a political activist from Saudi Arabia, Aneesa Ahmed of Maldives, Hawa Abdallah Mohammed Salih of Sudan and Safak Pavey of Turkey.


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Comments (12) Closed



Meher
Mar 09, 2012 07:20pm
DO we need awards for US??? These are the people who do all the hoha about syria but ignore the abuse of women in Bahrain! what about their unauthorised drone attacks which destroys the schools, kill women and children. when will the Pakistanis realise we need to give US the message that we are what we because of us and their awards mean nothing
Noor Chaudhry from C
Mar 09, 2012 08:36pm
This is correct & I second it fully.USA is trying to exploit the 3world poor countries in these kind of dirty tricks & methods. Noor From Canada
Hussain Mustafa
Mar 09, 2012 09:51pm
May be nothing for you but ask the person who earn it, not like just sitting and waiting for Allah to give you beyond your caliber.
Naveed
Mar 09, 2012 10:07pm
Ah you talk about awards, she would be definitely dreaming of staying in US..lol
G.A.
Mar 09, 2012 10:35pm
No sane Muslim would like to receive such disgusting awards unless they have gone blind over innocent killings and torture of thousands of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay and many more. Of what these award receiving women feeling so happy... When will we come to senses?
Aziz
Mar 09, 2012 11:06pm
Congratulations to Shad Begum. I think lesson should be learnt from US, Govt of Pakistan should start encouraging and appreciating courage of women. Islam has provided status to women which we as a Muslim and so called Muslim governments are failing to provide to women. Thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for this award to Pakistani woman.
Khalid Usmani
Mar 10, 2012 02:14am
It is not about US awards...it is about recognition. These brave women do need to be recognized for their contributions to our societies under very difficult situations. I don't remember anyone in Pakistan recognizing such efforts. We should not just oppose and vilify everything US as a knee jerk reaction but learn to appreciate the good things they do as well.
jalaluddin S. Hussai
Mar 10, 2012 09:38am
I agree with Meher Sahib. The reality is drones of USA has killed many innocent people In Pakistani border areas and for that the American Pentagon should tried by the ICJ for war crimes!
sf
Mar 10, 2012 10:37am
If there were no drone attacks Islamabad probably by now would have been under Taliban control and all the girls schools would have torched. Let's thank America who is fighting for the Pakistanis and with the understanding of the Pakistan Govt.
Salma
Mar 10, 2012 02:09pm
good point Meher... yet why is it when an award comes for a woman who belongs to that area - we realize don't need awards.
Siddique
Mar 10, 2012 07:43pm
Meher, Who is stopping you from helping Behraini women. It takes guts to do these kind volunteer work. Talk is cheap. So get yourself in gear and get up roll up your sleeves.
Salman Dasti
Mar 10, 2012 08:23pm
Extra judicial, target and bomb blast killing happend in all over the Pakistan, number of innocent killed in those attackes are far more than the drone attackes.lets talk about those first. Why we are becomming more and more intolerate and consider our self perfect