The $1,00,000 award will be divided equally between the two laureates
Afghan women’s rights campaigner Anarkali Honaryar and Palestinian peace activist Khaled Abu Awwad have been conferred the 2011 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence, an award instituted in memory of Mahatma Gandhi.
The $1,00,000 award will be divided equally between the two laureates, who were selected by an international jury.
The award ceremony will be held at the UNESCO in Paris on December 9.
Ms. Honaryar was cited for her commitment and tireless work to improve the conditions of women and minority groups in Afghanistan and to promote the ideals of human dignity, human rights, mutual respect and tolerance.
As a member of Afghanistan’s minority Sikh community, Ms. Honaryar’s constant battles to protect the rights of the needy had earned her the epithet, the ‘Sherni’ (lioness) of Afghanistan.
As much as she has received public recognition for helping women who suffer owing to domestic abuse, forced marriages and gender discrimination, Ms. Honaryar is also known for advocating the rights of Afghanistan’s religious minorities.
After the Afghan parliamentary elections in 2010, Ms. Honaryar became the first non-Muslim woman member of Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament.
Bridging the divide
Mr. Abu Awwad was chosen for the award for his efforts to promote tolerance, peace and non-violence through his work as a peace activist and leader in the reconciliation process between Palestinians and Israelis.
Active on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, Abu Awwad is the general manager of the Palestinian branch of the Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF), an organisation of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost immediate family members in the conflict.
In 2006, Mr. Abu Awwad — along with other leaders and prominent members of the Palestinian peace movement — founded AI-Tariq (The Way), the Palestinian Institution for Development and Democracy, of which he has been the manager and Executive Director since 2006.
The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize was created in 1995 on the initiative of Indian writer and diplomat Madanjeet Singh to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The prize is dedicated to advancing the spirit of tolerance in the arts, education, culture, science and communication. It is awarded every two years to individuals or institutions for outstanding contributions to the promotion of tolerance and non-violence.
The members of the international jury that determined the winners of the 2011 Prize were Ioanna Kuçuradi (Turkey), Maurice Glele Ahanhanzo (Benin), Kamal Hossain (Bangladesh), Masateru Nakagawa (Japan) and Mokhtar Taleb-Bendiab (Algeria).
(www.thehindu.com / 19.11.2011)