Tuesday December 07, 2021

‘Iron Lady of Balochistan’: US honours rights activist Jalila Haider

By Agencies
March 05, 2020

WASHINGTON: United States Department of State on Wednesday announced the recipients of the International Women of Courage Award (IWCA) for the year 2020 to honour twelve women across the world. Pakistani human rights activist and lawyer Jalila Haider is also on the list.

According to a statement uploaded on their official website, the award recognises women, around the globe, who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment at great personal risk.

The department said that Haider was the “Iron Lady of Balochistan” who had founded a non-profit to lift local communities by strengthening opportunities for vulnerable women and children. She has fought against violence against women in public spaces, the statement added.

She specialises in defending women’s rights and provides free counseling and legal services to poverty affected women. The first female attorney of her Hazara community, Haider led a peaceful hunger strike to recognise the right to life for Hazaras, it noted.

Other women named on the list include Zarifa Ghafari (Afghanistan), Lucy Kocharyan (Armenia), Shahla Humbatova (Azerbaijan), Ximena Galarza (Bolivia), Claire Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Sayragul Sauytbay (China), Susanna Liew (Malaysia) and Amaya Coppens (Nicaragua).

Who is Jalila Haider

Haider is a rights lawyer providing free legal services to women in poverty. In October last year Haider was named among the 100 most influential women of 2019 by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Besides being a vocal activist for the rights of women she is also the founder of ‘We the Humans’ a non-profit organisation working with local communities to provide opportunities for vulnerable women. It’s worth mentioning that on January 20, the authorities at Lahore airport had refused to let her leave the country, citing her "anti-state activities", she had told AFP.

Jalila Haider, 32, was briefly detained by immigration officials in Lahore as she tried to fly to Britain to attend a workshop on women's issues. They released her after several hours, she told AFP, but barred her from leaving the country, telling her that her name was on a no-fly list.

"One of the immigration officials told me that my name was placed on the ECL (Exit Control List) as I am involved in anti-state activities. I have no idea what anti-state activities he was referring to," Haider had told AFP.