Thousand lives to emulate Print E-mail

 on Sunday -- Pakistan -- July 3 2005, Jamadi Al Awwal 25, 1426 A.H.

Thousand lives to emulate

By Muhammad Najeeb

A large percentage of 1000 women nominated for Nobel Prize come from obscure, rural backgrounds. The nominees include 29 women from Pakistan

The nomination of 1000 women, including 29 Pakistanis, from across the world for the Nobel Peace Prize is a remarkable initiative to recognise women's contribution to peace.

For over two years, a global group of women worked to identify 1000 women working for peace in different parts of the world. The group submitted the names to the Nobel Committee in Oslo in February this year. The proposal is that these women share the Nobel Prize.

The project was initiated by Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, a member of the Swiss Parliament, and became a global initiative, with 20 odd regional coordinators joining it from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Middle and Near East, North and South America and Europe to oversee the nominations in their respective regions.

The names of the 1000 women nominated for the prize, 158 of whom are from South Asia, were announced on June 29.

"The number 1000 is symbolic. It says that peace is not the creation of individual leaders alone. The culture of peace needs millions and it is a collective, ongoing effort," says Ali Qadir, who organised an introduction of the Pakistani nominees in Islamabad on June 29. "The eminent role of women, their strategies for sustainable peace work, their constant and courageous actions for their families and villages, their country and their culture, are not yet acknowledged as peace-promoting."

"In 2005, 100 years after the first woman recipient of the Prize, 1000 women shall be recipients of the prize. Their work shall thereby be acknowledged," he says.

Austrian Bertha von Suttner was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in 1905, for her activities as honorary president of the Permanent International Peace Office.

"The Project '1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005' intends to make visible women's efforts to counter injustice, discrimination, oppression, and violence," says one of the nominees from Pakistan, Mrs. Akhtar Riazuddin, who founded Bedari organisation to work for women's rights some 35 years back.

"The work for peace by women worldwide shall become conspicuous, comprehensible, convincing and communicable," says Yasmeen Zaidi, a women's rights activist who helped the South Asian Coordinator Kamla Bishan in nominating the women from Pakistan.

If these 1000 nominees are selected for the Nobel Prize, the prize money will be channelled into their projects.

"The women selected are experts in promoting a life in security and dignity. They have limited budgets but effective strategies and thus represent a major force in civil society," says another nominee from Pakistan, poet Kishwar Naheed.

She says the experiences of these women are closely related to the political situation in their respective countries or regions; they know the weak spots in their societies. A glance at their activities shows that they work in the following fields: political rights, economic policy, peace promotion, health, education, the environment, and children's rights, as well as the struggle against violence, organised crime and trafficking in human beings.

According to the project each nominated woman fulfils the criteria of employing and promoting active, non-violent responses to conflict situations, structural injustices and inequalities; her work is sustainable and long-term; she leads by example, acting with moral courage and responsibility; her work is exemplary and worthy of emulation; she works for the cause of peace and not for political or personal gain; her work is transparent and based on tolerance; and she includes and engages with people of different backgrounds and across the conflict divide.

The women of peace have come from regions of crisis as well as non-conflict areas. The project team has specifically nominated (35 per cent) unknown women at the grassroots' level, without excluding more prominent women.

This year a record 199 individuals and groups including the 1000 women have been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, and the secret list of nominees is believed to range from former Secretary of State Colin Powell to U2 singer Bono.

Last year, Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai won the prize. She was among 194 nominees, the previous record.

The five-member awards committee keeps the nomination list secret for 50 years. Therefore, the announcement of 1000 nominees is an exceptional case.

It is said it is easy to be nominated for the prize, but hard to win. Being nominated also does not mean that the committee endorses that candidate in any way, so it will only become clear in October this year.

Theoretically speaking, 199 candidates are nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize and the project of the 1000 women is one of them so its mathematical chances are 1:199.

The project has highlighted three of these 1000 women who represent the whole group. Names of these women are being kept secret -- "for the simple reason that their nomination is symbolic, standing for all the 1000 women," says Qadir.