Pakistani advocate for women empowerment wins the Mother Teresa Award

October 08, 2018

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Salman Sufi speaking at an event. — Photo courtesy Twitter
Salman Sufi speaking at an event. — Photo courtesy Twitter

Salman Sufi, the former director general Strategic Reforms Unit of Punjab, has won the 2018 Mother Teresa Award, the advocate told Dawn.com on Monday.

Sufi's efforts for women empowerment in Pakistan include the Women-on-Wheels campaign through which around 700 women were handed over keys to motorcycles.

On winning the award, Sufi told Dawn.com: "This award is for millions of abused women of Pakistan and India who strive to get justice but are denied because unfortunately our priorities have been to strengthen arms race instead of people. It’s time to change that."

"I dedicate this award to the women victims of violence and pledge to keep working for them," he wrote.

On late Sunday, Sufi took to Twitter to announce the news and said that he was "humbled" to have been nominated for the award alongside the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nadia Murad.

"It’s time to make women masters of their destiny so the fate of Pakistan and India can change for the better, they hold the key, we ignore them at our own peril," he added.

In a second tweet, Sufi said that the projects he launched for women's empowerment, "were not possible without the political support provided by [Shahbaz Sharif] and civil society that stood by us".

"The fight for equality is far from over. Let’s keep the momentum going."

Since 2014, Sufi worked voluntarily for the Special Monitoring Unit (SMU), which was renamed to the Strategic Reforms Unit (SRU) in August 2016, on law and order to implement various reforms in fields such as women’s empowerment, minority rights, graveyard reforms, law and order and excise and taxation.

He was instrumental in the passage of the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016, established the Violence against Women Centres, created Punjab Women Protection Authority, started the Women-on-Wheels campaign in collaboration with Punjab police and district administration providing free motorcycle training and subsidised bikes in Lahore, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Multan and Rawalpindi.

He also led the SRU to draft and include chapters on gender sensitisation in Pakistan Studies textbooks for classes IX to XII, among several other initiatives.

According to BBC Urdu, the awards ceremony will take place on Oct 21 in Mumbai.

The award is "bestowed as an honour to individuals or organizations who aim to promote peace, harmony and social justice".