GENEVA, May 19, 2021 – An international coalition of 25 human rights organizations has announced that its prestigious International Women’s Rights award will be presented to Gulalai Ismail, a prominent campaigner for Pakistani women’s rights who fled the country after authorities falsely accused her of a litany of serious offenses for her advocacy work.
The Pakistani activist is well-known in the global human rights community for spotlighting the rampant abuse of women and girls in Pakistan. She is the founder of a leading organization called Aware Girls, which focuses on women’s empowerment, peace-building and countering violent extremism.
After authorities falsely accused her of sedition, financing terrorism, and defaming state institutions, Ismail in 2019 fled to the United States where she continues to be a leading voice for women and girls in Pakistan and vocal government critic.
She will receive the 2021 Geneva Summit International Women’s Rights Award on June 7, 2021, before an online audience of UN diplomats, human rights activists, and journalists from around the world attending the 13th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.
In an effort to silence Ismail, Pakistan authorities have targeted her parents, recently throwing her 65-year-old father into jail on false charges. She campaigned relentlessly to bring attention to the unjust detention of her father, who was released last month from Peshawar Central Jail.
“As an exiled activist raising awareness about Pakistan’s violent extremism, militarization of the Pashtun belt, war economy, and marginalization of women, I am honored to receive this award,” said Ismail.
“I hope this award brings light to the collective struggles of young people who are at the center of movements for peace and social justice, despite the increasing regressive policies of the states aiming to curtail collective struggles and voices of dissent. Dissent cannot be and won’t be silenced through aggression.”
Ismail was chosen for her “fearless defense of women’s rights in Pakistan, for which she was forced to flee and leave her family,” said Prof. Irwin Cotler, Founder and Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, a co-organizer of the conference together with more than 20 other human rights groups.
Previous laureates of the International Women’s Rights Award include Iranian anti-hijab campaigner Shaparak Shajarizadeh, anti-FGM activist Nimco Ali, Congolese anti-rape activist Julienne Lusenge, and Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament Vian Dakhil.
Other courageous champions of human rights from around the world at this year’s Geneva Summit will include dissidents, activists, victims, and former political prisoners from China, Cuba, Iran, Turkey, Belarus and Zimbabwe, who will be testifying on the human rights situation in their countries.
The conference will be held in advance of the UN Human Rights Council’s 47th session.
The Geneva Summit will showcase the voices of the world’s true human rights defenders.
The global gathering is acclaimed as a one-stop opportunity to hear from and meet front-line human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.
Subjects on the program this year include discrimination against women, jailing of dissidents and journalists, arbitrary detention, internet freedom, religious intolerance, and the persecution of human rights defenders.
Videos of past speaker testimonies are available here.
Admission to this year’s summit is free and open to the public, but registration is mandatory. For accreditation, program, and schedule information, visit www.genevasummit.org.