Friday, April 28, 2006

WOMEN ACTIVISTS RECEIVE 2006 GWANGJU PRIZE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD


Two women activists shall receive this year’s Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Malalai Joya is a 28-year old Afghan activist and parliamentarian who rose to fame when, as an elected delegate to the Constitutional Loya Jirga, she spoke out publicly against the domination of warlord. Since then she has survived four assassination attempts. Malalai Joya’s work as an activist began at age fourteen in her hometown Farah where she set up an NGO to respond to the needs of women neglected and oppressed under Taliban control. Angkhana Neelaphaijit is the wife of Somchai Neelapajit, a prominent lawyer and human rights defender in Thailand who disappeared in 2004. Since then, Angkhana has been unrelenting in her efforts to obtain justice, unsparing in her criticism of government authorities, and has taken the lead role as an articulate and courageous spokesperson for the families of disappeared persons in Thailand.

Seoul, April 28, 2006 – Two women activists shall receive this year’s Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. They are Malalai Joya from Afghanistan and Angkhana Neelaphaijit from Thailand.

Malalai Joya is a 27 year old Member of the Afghan Parliament. She was elected to the 249-seat National Assembly, or Wolesi Jirga in September 2005, as a representative of Farah Province. Malalai won the second highest number of votes in the province.

Malalai Joya rose to fame in December 2003 when, as an elected delegate to the Constitutional Loya Jirga, she spoke out publicly against the domination of warlords. Since then she has survived four assassination attempts, and travels in Afghanistan under a burqa and with armed guards.

She is the daughter of a former medical student who was wounded while fighting against the Soviet Union (which invaded and occupied Afganistan from 1979 - 1989). Malalai was 4 years old when her family fled Afghanistan in 1982 to the refugee camps of Iran and then Pakistan. She finished her education in Pakistan and began teaching literacy courses to other women at age 19. After the Soviets left, Malalai Joya returned to Afghanistan in 1998 during the Taliban's reign. During that time she established an orphanage and health clinic, and was soon a vocal opponent of the Taliban.

Malalai Joya heads the non-governmental group, "Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities" (OPAWC). She is married to a Kabul-based student of agriculture and has six sisters and three brothers.

Angkhana Neelaphaijit is the wife of Thai human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, who was abducted by the police on 12 March 2004. At the time, Somchai was defending clients who had accused the police of torture. His body has never been found. Angkhana has been at the forefront of the campaign to get justice for his disappearance. In January 2006, one police officer was sentenced to three years in jail, but his accomplices and the masterminds of the crime have never been identified. She has received death threats because of her continued work. She has met UN officials both in Thailand and abroad to pursue the case. On International Women's Day 2006 she was given an award by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand as an "outstanding woman human rights defender". On 11 March 2006 she received the 2nd Asian Human Rights Defender Award of the AHRC on behalf of her husband, which was also given in recognition of her own work since his disappearance two years ago. Angkhana is now an inspiration to large numbers of people in Thailand, as well as internationally. She is supported in her work by her five children.

The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is an award given to individuals, groups or institutions in Korea and abroad that have contributed in promoting and advancing human rights, democracy and peace in their work. The award is given by the Gwangju people in the spirit of solidarity and gratitude from those whom they have received help in their struggle for democratization and search for truth. Previous winners have included: Xanana Gusmao (2000); : Basil Fernando(2001); Korean Association of bereaved families for democracy (2002): Dandeniya Gamage Jayanthi or Monument for the disappeared·Sri Lanka (2003): Aung San Suu Kyi(2004); and Ms. Wardah Hafidz (2005).

This year’s search received nominees from ten countries. It’s the first time for two winners to share the award. Five of the eight awardees of the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights Award since 2000 were women.

1 comment:

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