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Azra Jafari wins Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians 2011 

24 September 2011 08:59:42

Azra Jafari wins Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians 2011


The Meeto Memorial Award Trust, Rozan and Sungi are pleased to honour Azra Jafari as the winner of the Meeto Memorial Award 2011. Azra is Afghanistan’s first and only woman mayor whose work and commitment towards social development have made a crucial difference to local development.

The Award was presented to Azra Jafari by Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s leading lawyer, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission and a tireless human rights activist and Hameeda Hossain, the eminent civil-rights and women’s rights activist from Bangladesh, in a ceremony that will be held at the Pakistan National Council of Arts on here on Thursday.

Among others who attended the ceremony were activists from different countries of South Asia, many of whom are also attending the Rozan-orgainsed conference titled “Reclaiming Space: from victimhood to agency: state and civil-society response to violence against women”.

A troupe of male dancers from India, led by Navtej Johar, a well-known and awarded dancer who came especially for the ceremony perform Fana’a, a revised version of the legendary tale of Heer. The Zarsanga group, performers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, regaled the audience with folk songs.

The Award has been instituted in the memory of Meeto or Kamaljit Bhasin-Malik (1978-2006), a scholar, activist and dancer, by her mother, Kamla Bhasin. The award aims to honour young South Asians whose work demonstrates a commitment to communal harmony, peace, justice and human rights. The Award comprises of one lakh Indian Rupees, a citation and a memento.

It is a special privilege for the Award Trust that the ceremony for 2011 is being held in Pakistan, thanks to the collaboration of Rozan and Sungi, two eminent civil-society partners. Another reason that the venue of the Award gains significance is that last year’s winner, Akeela Naz, is from Pakistan.


Akeela does not need any introduction in Pakistan—she is the persona behind the ‘Thapa force’, an army of protesting women farmers, a grassroots revolutionary fighting for the rights of a million landless farmers. Though Akeela was one of the many who joined the AMP, she was the first woman to do so. Starting the year 2000, Akeela actively campaigned across the Punjab province and organized women into self-defense committees. Women learnt to use their thapas as a weapon for self-protection and to guard their lands and families against encroaching police forces. It finally forced the government to give in to AMP’s demand of land ownership by tenant farmers. Akeela was one of the main interlocutors during the ultimate parleys with the government.


The first-ever Meeto Memorial Award 2009 was awarded to Anusheh Anadil, a Bangladeshi singer and peace activist, and Laxmi Ben Vankar, an Indian social worker and activist in a ceremony held in New Delhi in October 2009, the first-ever inaugural ceremony that was attended by over 200 members of civil society including artists, activists, academicians and diplomats, including guests from Bangladesh and Pakistan.