Young Afghan activist wins UNDP peace award
KABUL - Hasina Jalal is one of two Afghans to win the 2014 N-Peace Award prize, administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to recognize the leadership role of women and peace advocates from six conflict-affected countries in Asia.
Ms. Jalal, a founding member of the National Association of Afghanistan Civil Society and board member of the Freedom Message Newspaper, was named the winner of the “Untold Stories: Women Transforming their Communities” category for Afghanistan in an October awards ceremony.
More than 100 nominations were received from the six participating countries: Indonesia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Nepal and first-time participants Myanmar and Pakistan. The winners were chosen by an international selection panel for their contribution to building peace with and for women in their respective countries.
The judges recognized Ms. Jalal for her advocacy and empowerment work, which has focused on spreading awareness and demanding greater equality for Afghanistan’s women, particularly women from rural areas. In her work, the young Afghan activist has focused on helping to raise the voices of young women through education and training activities, and by promoting partnerships and collaboration among women’s groups.
“Receiving the 2014 N-Peace Award has motivated me to struggle for Afghan women’s rights toward an ideal of equality and freedom,” said Ms. Jalal, noting that she feels proud of her achievement. “I have an uncompromising belief in the promotion of women’s rights and democratic principles, enabling me to remain resilient in the face of cultural barriers and security threats.”
Despite the challenges she faces, she said she will continue to push the agenda of women’s rights. “My work for a more inclusive society extends to the written word, in which I expose abuses against women, promote inclusion and celebrate freedom of expression,” she went on to say, describing how she cofounded the Freedom Message Newspaper to promote freedom of expression, tolerance and understanding of democratic principles.
Despite her achievements, she explained, there are many challenges still to be overcome, not the least of which is the ongoing threat to her personal safety. “Recent events in Afghanistan witnessed women activists and defenders of human rights being assassinated by enemies of the people,” she said. “In the culture of Afghanistan, a young women like me is not expected to play active role in public life, much less become an activist.”
She explained that, even in facing such challenges, she remains resilient. “I believe that inclusion of women is not a favour to women but an essential element for peace,” she said, stressing that she intends to continue to focus on helping amplify the voices of young women through education and training, and promoting partnerships and collaboration among women’s groups, working to bring together the voices of people who are being marginalized by violence, poverty and isolation.
“I believe that the collective power of the disempowered is key to equality, democracy and a peaceful and more progressive life for all,” she said. “In winning this award, I demonstrated that young women in Afghanistan are capable of contributing to peace and development despite the many social, economic and political obstacles, and the enormous threats to their security.”
Since 2011, the N-Peace Awards have recognized the efforts of women peace activists in Asia as well as male partners who focus on gender equality and the inclusion of women in peace processes in their own countries. The 2014 awardees joined other peace advocates from the region and the awards selection panellists for an Awards Ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand, in October.
N-Peace is managed by UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Regional Centre.