News Analysis |
Gulalai Ismail from Pakistan made history on Thursday morning when she won a joint award for her undeterred awareness campaign to counter religious extremism, in her case specifically against the extremist Taliban ideology.
Gulalai Ismail, 31, a peace activist from Peshawar, shares this Anna Politkovskaya Reach All Women (RAW in WAR) award with the deceased Gauri Lankesh,55 a fearless and opinionated Indian Journalist against rising nationalism and intolerance, who lost her life, recently in a gunshot attack outside her home in Bengaluru.
She shares this award with Gauri Lankesh, the Indian journalist killed last month. Ismail, in a telephonic conversation with Thomas Reuters Foundation, recalled how she was devastated when she heard about the brutal attack on Lankesh. For her, it was heartbreaking to see how a courageous voice and an advocate of democracy was silenced.
Ismail has been proactively working against women oppression in the northwestern part of Pakistan. She has been the co-founder of a right activist group, Aware Girls, since the age of 16. Her organization trains young peace activist to challenge radicalization.
She has witnessed and fought off intimidation: at least 2 attacks have been made on her home, with an aim to mar her journey of instilling peace in society. She is also the proud recipient of International Humanist Year Award in 2014.
She has been labeled as an atheist, by detractors off her work, faced extreme bashing on social media where she has been dubbed an Islamophobic for speaking out against extremism.
The recognition of her services is an inspiration for those who speak up against unjustified violence against them.
She attributes her life-changing decision of becoming a peace activist to her being unable to save her cousin from becoming a victim of child marriage.
Her other associate organization, Youth Peace Network, works diligently to pursue the pluralistic ideals in society to counter the vulnerability of youth being ensnared with militant ideology.
Despite starting her campaign in 2009, her work is still very relevant, terrorist organizations are attempting to recruit educated youth towards their ideology.
Ismail is an antagonist of Hudood Ordinance Bill and considers it a hurdle to women’s progress.
Not only this, but she has also extended her philanthropy across the border by gathering the women from Pakistan and Afghanistan under the umbrella of Pak-Afghan, Pul-e-Niswaan Baraye Aman.
How can Pakistan return the favor?
Her victory, however, is a befitting response to Sushma Swaraj, the Foreign Minister of India, who in her speech at United Nations General Assembly Summit, accused Pakistan of producing terrorists.
Though her work and she herself has been recognized internationally several times, she suffers the lack of such recognition by State authorities of her homeland.
Besides gearing up diplomatic efforts, there is a need to harbor such ambassadors of peace which Pakistan produces.
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The award is being given to mark the 11th anniversary of the murder of a Russian Journalist, Politkovskaya, who was an investigative reporter and was punished for her works of divulging the human rights abuses and state’s corruption in Chechnya. With a single bullet, her life came to an end, when she was 48 in 2006.