The third edition of HUM Women Leaders Awards brought entertainers, policymakers and activists together under one roof.
When Syeda Ghulam Fatima, one of the 12 recepients of the third edition of Kashmir HUM Women Leaders Awards (HWLA), took the stage to receive her award, she said something that encompasses the significance of what this platform is perhaps doing. A human rights activist well known for her work addressing bonded labour in brick kilns, Ghulam said that recognition of this nature recharges her before she has to get back to her work and responsibilities.
Recognition is what the women celebrated by the HUM Women Leaders Awards certainly need, because the work that they’re doing and the obstacles standing in their way can make for a very demotivating environment.
With nearly 208 million people living in Pakistan, roughly 48% are women, making it one of the largest ‘minority groups’ of the country. These 100 million women are living in the 6th most dangerous country in the world in terms of violence against women. And the statistics speak for themselves - the socio-economic environment does not support women to lead the lives they wish to, free from violence.
So it is an achievement when a woman rises to the occasion, despite setbacks, and creates room for other women to thrive and flourish. The 12 awards aimed to honour and propel the work being done by key players across the country, and were also in line with the International Women’s Day theme: “to make the cross and break the bias”. They celebrated 11 iconic women and a dynamic man from Pakistan and abroad for their contributions and achievements in the fields of social work, healthcare, judiciary, human rights, science, education, art and architecture. These awardees were selected with the help of an advisory committee for HWLA, consisting of Maleeha Lodhi, Ameena Saiyid, Rehana Hakeem, Amin Hashwani and Dr Huma Baqai.
The winners this year include some incredible names such as Muniba Mazari, Fiza Shah, Dr. Rozina Karmaliani, Ghulam Fatima, Maryam Bibi, Yasmeen Lari, Dr. Azra Raza, Justice Majida Rizvi, Noorjehan Bilgrami, Jaqueline Novogratz, Dr. Wan Wardatul Amani and Dr. Shershah Syed.
Muniba Mazari is a well known activist and role model, national ambassador for UN Women and working to amplify the voice of differently-abled individuals in Pakistan. Maryam Bibi was recognized for her organization Khwendo Kor which means “sisters’ home”. Through her organization, Maryam Bibi helps oppressed women who live in the remote areas of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, in particular in the territories known as FATA. Justice Majida Rizvi was the first woman judge of Pakistan High Court and is one of the most influential legal figures of the country. Justice Majida Rizvi has also served as the first chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women, and has undertaken historic work on the review of discriminatory provisions pertaining to women’s right to assets, women’s employment in the public sector and the Qisas and Diyat laws. Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first female architect and CEO of Heritage Foundation, was awarded for her conservational work on several World Heritage Sites at Makli and Lahore Fort, as well as 19th century buildings in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. Dr. Rozina Karmaliani, Professor & Dean, Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery, took the stage and announced that she was happy that the platform was giving an award “to a nurse”.
That statement is an important one because it’s very easy to recognize and be in awe of women empowerment initiatives that address attention-grabbing issues, such as rape and violence, but seldom do issues of health come up in national discourse on women.
But that’s not the only way HUM Awards are creating room for change. The award show was honoured by the presence of President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi and First Lady, Samina Alvi, as well as several notable figures such as Minister of Science and Technology Shibli Faraz, and Federal Minister for IPC Fehmida Mirza. This means that the award show is slowly becoming ground for highlighting important causes for the larger audience, as well as ensuring commitments are made and honoured by the Government of Pakistan.
In her opening speech, Sultana Siddiqui requested the president to highlight domestic violence and child abuse bills in the national assembly and requested the current government to increase women’s representation in the Parliament and National Assembly. Fehmida Mirza spoke about the importance of implementing the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act; Hareem Farooq requested everyone in the audience to work towards a safer country for women, where no woman has to fear for her safety when she steps out of her home. These promises and commitments are being televised and documented and can be used to hold the government accountable later.
It was a highly collaborative evening which brought entertainment and politics together. All of this important work was being discussed with Ahsan Khan and Mira Sethi in the background, looking glamorous and adding their wit and banter to the evening. Artists such as Sanam Marvi and Asim Azhar kept people entertained.
Since this is a recurring event, what would perhaps make the evening even more influential is if follow-ups are made on the promises made in the year before. Then the HWLA will become an event that all women can look forward to and work towards.