Asian women peace activists honored for their work in the frontlines of conflict

09 Oct 2012

Manila – Women peace activists from six conflict-affected countries in Asia received top honors today in a ceremony presided by President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines, with a message of support  from Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee of Liberia . Eight women and one man received the N-PEACE awards in Asia for their relentless efforts to build peace in the midst of chaos, sometimes putting their own lives on the line.

From high-level public figures to grassroots activists, the winners include a survivor of a rocket-propelled grenade attack who now helps women with disabilities in Afghanistan, reformers who push for women’s place at peace talks, advocates for human rights, and supporters of women’s entrepreneurship to fight poverty. They were selected from 100 nominations through an online voting campaign that included more than 55,000 voters worldwide.

The N-PEACE award winners were chosen for their leadership and contribution towards building peace in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.

N-PEACE – Engage for Peace, Equality, Access, Community and Empowerment – is a network of tens of thousands of peace advocates who communicate online and in annual meetings to share their skills and knowledge in promoting and keeping peace in their countries.

The N-PEACE network is facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with Search for Common Ground, the Institute for Inclusive Security, with support from AusAID. The network serves as a means for engagement between government, civil society and other groups on the issues of women, peace and security, and broader conflict prevention and peace building work. Women also receive skills training in such areas as negotiations, leadership and advocacy.

The gala awards were attended by more than 150 people from across the region, including high-level government officials, UN experts in crisis prevention and peace building, ambassadors, and representatives from the NGO community. The ceremony showcased the release of a documentary series profiling the work of each of the winners.

Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, expressed strong support to N-PEACE and hailed the honorees in a video message in which she said, “N-PEACE provides the means to recognize women’s leadership and their collective strength as advocates for peace. Women are often at the frontlines of conflict, but they rarely make the headlines. This is the principle behind the N-PEACE award to recognize the often invisible work that goes into building peace.”

“We have so much to learn from these brave women who refuse to give up in the face of conflict. They are unflagging as they wage peace, and the world is better for it,” said Mr. Sanny Jegillos, UNDP Coordinator, Regional Crisis Prevention and Recovery.

Winners were selected in each of the six N-PEACE countries in the main category, Role Models for Peace, which recognizes women’s contribution towards conflict resolution and prevention:

Afghanistan (two winners tied) –  Ms. Quhramaana Kakar has gained formal seats for women in provincial peace councils, while also finding ways for women in the most volatile regions of Kandahar and Helman to participate in the peace process. She was the Gender Advisor for the Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation Program to bring women’s interests into the work of the High Peace Council and the Joint Secretariat for the High Peace Council. Ms. Farkhunda Zahra Naderi is an Afghan Parliamentarian whose campaign slogan Chadari- the Window of Power, spotlighted educating and empowering Afghan women. She has advocated for the political participation of women in the Supreme Court; the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law.

Indonesia -- Ms. Suraiya Kamaruzzaman is co-founder of the Flower Aceh, an NGO through which she has championed the rights of Acehnese women during and after the conflict.  She has worked to ensure women’s safety, and has advised them on issues of economic and reproductive rights. Her organization has collected and recorded data on violence against women and offered support services for victims of sexual violence.  Since the 2004 tsunami, her organization has been running a Women’s Crisis Centre.

Nepal -- Ms. Radha Paudel  is the Founder and President of Action Works Nepal, an NGO that works in conflict affected regions of Nepal. When the Maoist insurgency erupted, Radha was a manager of a health institute where she negotiated safe access routes for medicines and medical personnel. Caught in a cross-fire, she witnessed many deaths, and saw orphaned children and aged left to fend for themselves. Marked by those experiences, she now advocates for protections for the poor and conflict affected communities.  She also coordinates the `Women's Campaign for Peace and the Constitution'. Her motto is ‘no women, no peace’.

Philippines -- Ms. Teresita Quintos Deles,  more popularly known as “Ging”, was the first woman to be appointed as the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process in the Philippines in 2003, and was later reappointed in 2010, when the Philippines became the first country in the region to adopt a National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. She was a co-founder of the Coalition for Peace, the country’s first citizen’s peace group to emerge after the 1986 People Power uprising. Her work helped lay the groundwork for landmark reform policy such as the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act and the Anti-Rape Law.

Sri Lanka -- Ms. Rupika De Silva is founder of Saviya, a women’s NGO  which promotes human rights and community participation for peace in the southern province and other conflict affected areas in Sri Lanka. She managed an innovative exchange program between Sinhala women in the North and Tamil women in the South to foster stronger relations between the two groups.  After the 2004 tsunami, she helped to build entrepreneurial skills of women who were most affected by the disaster.

Timor-Leste -- Sister Lourdes, popularly known as ‘Mana Lou’, developed a solidarity network across Timor-Leste, to help the most vulnerable communities in their struggles against poverty. Her organization, ISMAIK, offers urgent humanitarian assistance, and supports longer term efforts to improve lives and preserve local culture.
Mana Lou heroically reached out to all sides during the country’s struggle for independence, risking her life to visit refugee camps, often in remote and dangerous areas.

A special N-PEACE prize for Men who advocate for Equality was given to Mr. Sadhu Ram Sapkota, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction in Nepal, for his work in shaping the country’s National Action Plan for UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820.

The N-PEACE Emerging Peace Champions prize went to to Ms. Amina Azimi, Founder of Empowering Women with Disability in Afghanistan. Amina was just 11 years old when she lost her right leg from a rocket-propelled grenade that crashed into her home. Eighteen years later,  she advocates for and assists disabled women to become active members of society, many of whom have remained hidden in their homes for years.  Ms. Azimi reaches out to other disabled Afghans via Qahir-e-Qahraman (Qahir the Champion), a radio show to spread her message about the rights and needs of people with disabilities.

Contact Information

For more information, to line up interviews, or receive video footage of the winners:
Cherie.hart@undp.org; 66 8 1 918 1564