By Akhtar Amin
PESHAWAR: Two women from Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gulalai Ismail and Saba Ismail, co-founders of non-governmental organisation, Aware Girls, were awarded the prestigious Chirac Prize for Conflict Prevention in Paris.
They were awarded the prize in recognition of their contribution towards development of a culture of peace and non-violence through the action of women and youth in Pakistan. The prize was awarded by the former French minister for culture Christine Albanel at a ceremony held in Quai Branly Museum last Thursday.
The ceremony was attended amongst others by French President Francois Hollande, the Ambassador of Pakistan Moin-ul-Haque, intellectuals, members of civil society, diplomats and media persons in large number.
Aware Girls chairperson and co-founder Gulalai Ismail after receiving the prize said their NGO, with the help of young women, was working successfully for empowerment of the women, especially in the conflict zones to bring about qualitative changes in their way of life. French President Francois Hollande while speaking on the occasion paid tributes to Aware Girls for empowerment of the women in the conflict zone.
He said that Aware Girls was giving the women the opportunity to participate in and monitor elections and to provide education to women and economically empowering them by providing micro-credit.
The ambassador congratulated the recipients on receiving the Chirac prize and appreciated their work towards empowerment of women in the conflict prone areas. The Chirac Foundation was launched by the former French President Jacques Chirac, who served two terms in office between 1995 and 2007.
Since 2008, this foundation strives for peace through five advocacy programmes which include conflict prevention. The prize for conflict prevention has been awarded every year since 2009. Aware Girls is a young women-led organisation established in 2002 with the aim of strengthening leadership skills of young people, especially women and girls to enable them to act as agents of change for women empowerment and peace building.
Talking to The News, Gulalai Ismail said that young women in Pakistan are key stakeholders in bringing social change for peace and equality. “We cannot achieve development goals without investing in girls’ leadership,” she added.
She said her organisation is working to create awareness and promote equal rights for girls and also serve as a platform to equip them with knowledge and leadership skills. “The Aware Girls arranges training courses and programmes on leadership, domestic violence, human rights, civic and political empowerment and HIV/AIDS education,” she added.
Saba Ismail, co-founder of the organisation said the award was not only in recognition of the work her organisation had done in the last 14 years but in appreciation of the work girls and women did the world over.
She said their organisation was working to empower women and promote gender equality. She maintained that working women were facing a host of problems including sexual harassment at workplace and non-availability of maternity leave and day care centres at workplaces. “Our organisation also trained women in various districts of the province under the aegis of the “Young Women Political leadership Programme” and worked for political empowerment of women,” she added.
Saba Ismail said her organization trained more than 200 domestic and home-based working women about their rights. She also shared the findings of a survey conducted by her organisation about the working conditions of women workers in factories.