Gender equality activist Gulalai Ismail has been named the 2015 Asia Region Commonwealth Youth Award winner in recognition of her efforts to further women’s empowerment in Pakistan.
When aged 16, Gulalai Ismail established Aware Girls to provide young women with a platform for learning and advocacy. She led a team of 100 young female monitors of the 2013 Pakistan general elections, which examined the challenges to women’s electoral participation. Gulalai was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Global Thinkers in 2013, and was the recipient of the 2014 International Humanist Award.
Ms Ismail said: “Winning this award today is not just about my recognition, it is about giving recognition to all girls who are living in extremely difficult conditions and taking risks to make the world a better place. When I started out 12 years ago I never imagined that I would be able to achieve that much. We were young and inexperienced and had little support. This recognition shows that girls have the power to change the world. Girls aren’t just victims of abuse or violence, they are actually powerful actors. They represent not the future, but the present.”
With a grant from the Commonwealth Foundation, Aware Girls is helping to promote the participation of women in electoral processes in Pakistan by training, educating and encouraging women to voice their opinion.