WASHINGTON: Jalila Haider, a human rights activist from Balochistan, will receive the International Women of Courage award from US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday, said an official announcement.
The US State Department’s spokesperson’s office identified Ms Haider as “the Iron Lady of Balochistan,” who founded “We the Humans – Pakistan”, a non-profit organisation to lift local communities by strengthening opportunities for vulnerable women and children.
She specializes in defending women’s rights and provides free counselling and legal services to poverty-affected women. The first female attorney of her Hazara community, Ms Haider led a peaceful hunger strike to recognise the right to life for the Hazaras following a series of targeted attacks. She has taken up the cause of many other vulnerable communities.
As Balochistan’s President of the Women Democratic Front and Balochistan’s branch of the Aurat (Woman’s) March, “she fought against violence against women in public spaces, at work, and at home,” said her brief introduction released by the State Department.
Secretary Pompeo will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards at the Department of State on Wednesday to honour 12 extraordinary women from across the world. The First Lady of the United States Melania Trump will deliver remarks to recognise the extraordinary accomplishments of these women.
Now in its 14th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.
Since the inception of this award in March 2007, the department has recognized 134 women from 73 countries. This year will bring the total to 146 awardees from 77 countries.
Following the IWOC ceremony, the 12 awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) visiting various cities across the United States, before reconvening in Los Angeles for the conclusion of their programme on March 16.
Besides the Baloch Hazara woman, an Afghan woman Zarifa Ghafari, who became the mayor of Maidan Shar in the conservative Wardak province at the age of 26, will also receive the award. When she showed up to start work, a male mob appeared, and she was forced to flee. Despite facing death threats, Ms Ghafari returned, defying her conservative critics and their narrative that a woman is unfit to lead.
Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2020