Asian female peace leaders honoured

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will honour female peace advocates from six Asian countries today at the N-Peace (Engage for Peace, Equality, Access, Community and Empowerment) Awards 2014.

These female leaders and peace champions will be celebrated for their achievements at a marquee event in Bangkok, which will also highlight Asian men who strive alongside women for gender equality.

The celebration marks the conclusion of an annual regional campaign that received more than 100 nominations from six participating countries - Indonesia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Nepal, and first-time participants Myanmar and Pakistan.

"It is so important that we highlight the stories of women who are doing such inspiring work resolving and preventing conflict throughout Asia," said Nicholas Rosellini, UNDP's deputy regional director for Asia and the Pacific and director of the Bangkok Regional Hub.

"So often the only stories we hear about women in conflict-affected areas involves them as victims, as passively accepting their fate. In reality, in communities everywhere, women are the ones bringing different groups together to talk, encouraging reconciliation and negotiation. UNDP is honoured to be celebrating the tireless efforts of these women and their male allies," he said.

At the award ceremony at 7pm at VIE Hotel, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, special adviser to the secretary-general of the University for Peace, will present the "Untold Stories - Women Transforming their Communities" awards to the five winners - selected by more than 8,000 members of the public in an online poll.

They are: Bimala Kadayat from Nepal, who works to reintegrate socially and reconcile children and youth who were embroiled in that country's armed conflicts; Hasina Jalal from Afghanistan, an advocate fighting for the rights of rural women in remote areas of Afghanistan; Mi Kun Chan Non from Myanmar, a devoted women's rights activist working for Mon women to fight their marginalisation; Mona Parkash from Pakistan, a grass-roots education activist who promotes diversity and tolerance in the school she established when she was still a teenager; and Syarifah Aliyyah Shihab from Indonesia, who works with her country's vulnerable youth to empower them and help them access a range of opportunities.

The 2014 special-categories winners were chosen by an international selection panel of celebrated peace advocates. The winners include Miriam Coronel Ferrer from the Philippines and Hajji Khalil from Afghanistan in the category "Campaigning for Action - Women and Men Mobilising for Peace".

Ferrer played a key role in the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro, which ended 30 years of conflict in the southern Philippines.

Khalil, a former fighter, now heads the Badghis Provincial Peace Council and works for inclusive peace that empowers women.

Rabiah Jamal Beg from Pakistan will be presented the "Breaking Stereotypes - Women and Media" award as she was the first female crime reporter in her country and reported from some of the worst conflict zones.

Wai Wai Nu from Myanmar and Shah Zaman from Pakistan will be honoured in the category "Peace Generation - Young Women and Men Building Peace".

Wai Wai Nu is a former political prisoner who has founded two non-governmental organisations with the aim of reducing hatred and discrimination, especially discrimination faced by her Rohingya people. Shah Zaman founded the Milky Way Youth Movement, an organisation that supports young people to pursue education and become more involved in their communities in Pakistan.

The Democracy and Peace Women Network (Myanmar) will be the first organisation to win an N-Peace award in the category "Thinking outside the Box - Bringing New Solutions to Persistent Problems". The women behind this organisation work to empower those in Myanmar society facing persistent issues of discrimination and injustice.

To recognise and showcase the achievements of this year's 11 awardees, the UNDP will also host an exhibition titled "Unseen. Unheard. Untold" to highlight the forgotten stories of Asian conflicts through the photographs of renowned photojournalists Philip Blenkinsop, Nic Dunlop and Tim Page. The exhibit at Siam Paragon's Hall of Mirrors is open to the public from October 24-26 today until Sunday.

A film screening of short documentaries telling the personal stories of each awardee will be available for the public to view from Monday on the N-Peace YouTube channel: Network.