SWABI: Gulalai Ismail, a 28-year-old rights activist belonging to Marghuz village of Swabi district, received ‘Youth Award for Excellence in Development’ in London, United Kingdom the other day.

She is daughter of Prof Mohammad Ismail, a known social worker of the region. The award recognises outstanding young people under 30 whose development projects and programmes have significant impacts on their communities, countries and the world.

Ms Gulalai along with other award winners also met Queen Elizabeth-II one day before the award ceremony.

She received the award in recognition of her efforts for protecting rights of young women and girls and strengthening the political participation of young women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Ms Gulalai had launched a rights organisation, Aware Girls, when she was only 16 to empower young women by strengthening their leadership capacities so that they could act as agents of change, to sensitise the communities for creating a conducive environment where young women could exercise their human rights and to advocate for laws and policies which could protect the rights of young women and girls.

She also works for countering violent extremism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by promoting non-violence, pluralism and tolerance. She is a staunch supporter of the role of young women in peace building and development.

Ms Gulalai, when contacted by this scribe, said that she believed that if young people especially young women were not engaged in the decision making processes then the dream of living in a decent, developed and peaceful world couldn’t be materialised.

About receiving the award, she said it meant the voice of Pakistani and South Asian girls working for their rights was being recognised.

“While I receive this award, there are millions of girls, who are denied their right to education and are forced into marriages. They are victims of domestic abuse and violence in their communities,” she added.

Ms Gulalai urged people to break the silence and speak up for supporting the cause of human rights and political participation of women and girls. In 2013, she received International Democracy Award in the US Congress. She was invited by White House to attend Obama Civil Society Summit in 2013.

In 2014, she received the International Humanist Award and is one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s 2013 ‘Leading Global Thinkers’.

Published in Dawn March 12th , 2015

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