Gulalai Ismail, a women’s rights activist from Swabi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has been awarded the Reach All Women in War (RAW) Anna Politkovskaya Award alongside the late Indian journalist, Gauri Lankesh.
At the age of 16, Gulalai co-founded a non-governmental organisation, Aware Girls, with her sister Saba Ismail in 2002. The organisation aims to challenge cultural violence and oppression of women in rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by strengthening leadership skills of young people, especially women and girls.
Driven by a passion to challenge inequality, intolerance and extremism, Aware Girls began running workshops to enable girls and young women to challenge oppression and fight for their rights to education and equal opportunities.
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai was an attendee of Aware Girls programmes in 2011.
Malala, who won the Anna Politkovskaya Award in 2013, paid tribute to Gulalai on the accolade.
“I am proud to support my sister Gulalai Ismail, a fearless advocate for girls’ education and equality in Pakistan. Through Aware Girls, Gulalai is training young women to advocate for their rights. Her work is fostering the next generation of female leaders in our country. Despite discrimination and danger, Gulalai is continuing her fight to see every girl to go to school. She has been my friend for many years and I wish her congratulations on this distinguished honour.”
Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai also congratulated Gulalai, terming her a brave activist.
Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh ─ a known critic of right-wing groups ─ was fatally shot by unidentified attackers in Bengaluru in September.
The Anna Politkovskaya Award was established to remember and honour Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in Moscow on October 7, 2006 over her reportage of the second war in Chechnya. She was 48 years old.