The Pakistani women’s rights activist Gulalai Ismail has collected the prestigious International Humanist of the Year award at the World Humanist Congress in Oxford.
A thoroughly deserving recipient of the award for her unstinting service to humanist projects in extreme adversity, Ismail is the founder and chair of Aware Girls, a charity which promotes the developmental and human rights of young women in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Northern Pakistan and further afield. Ismail has found herself threatened by Islamic fundamentalists as a result of her work, talking recently of how masked gunmen targeted her family home.
Making the award, the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson said that ‘Gulalai is rightly celebrated for her nuanced, outspoken, methodical attitude, and for her strategic approach, culturally sensitive without sacrificing innovation or principle’. He went on to place her in the same bracket as other Pakistani warriors for human rights, such as Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai.
Ismail will add the International Humanist gong to a clutch of other awards that she has received recently, such as the 2013 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy and a 2009 Paragon Fellowship. Collecting her prize, Ismail expressed her wish that everyone would have the right to freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
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