PESHAWAR, July 13: A Pakistani youth activist, Gulalai Ismail, will receive the 2013 Democracy Award of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) at a ceremony in Washington, on July 17.
The NED, a private organisation created in 1983 to strengthen democratic institutions around the world, will present its award to activists from Pakistan, Russia, Zimbabwe and Cuba during the ceremony to be held at the Capitol Hill.
At the ceremony, the organisation will highlight the important role that the youth are playing in advancing democracy in the world today. “Our democratic future: the role of youth in advancing democracy” will be the topic of a panel discussion that will be followed by the award presentation.
Ms Gulalai, 26, is the founder and chairperson of Aware Girls, a young women-led organisation that seeks to provide a leadership platform to young women and girls of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She has over 10 years of experience working on leadership development for girls and young women; addressing gender-based violence; promoting peace, pluralism, human rights, and civic education; and involving young women in political activity. The other three recipients of the award are: 22-year-old Vera Kichanova from Russia; 30-year-old Ms Changachirere from Zimbabwe; and late Harold Cepero, a member of Christian Liberation Movement of Cuba who died in a suspicious car crash in July 2012.
Belonging to Swabi district, Ms Gulalai is working with women and young people to bring change in the society. She says: “Women are not only victims of conflict, they are drivers of peace. Women’s voices must be heard if peace is to last.”
She was just 16 when she established the Aware Girl with a group of school friends to change the lives of young women in Pakistan. Her key working areas are strengthening leadership skills among young women, political participation of young women, HIV/AIDS prevention among girls and women, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and peace.
She is involved with different national and international networks and organisations in different capacities to promote peace and gender equality. Her organisation has also been imparting training to young activists to become local peace builders, challenging violence and extremism.
Ms Gulalai has also served as the co-chairperson of Youth Advocacy Network working on sexual and reproductive health rights of young people; board member of Women Global Network on Reproductive Rights), and is serving as the member of Gender Working Group of UNOY (United Network of Young peace builders).
She has already received Global Youth Action Net Fellowship 2009 and Paragon Fellowship 2010 for her efforts to promote HIV prevention awareness among young women of rural areas.