Afghan activist wins Taiwan foundation's human rights award
Central News Agency
2008-11-10 04:55 PM
The government-funded Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) announced the winner of the third Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award (ADHRA) Monday, bestowing the honor on Afghan human rights activist Sima Samar.

Wang Jin-pyng, chairman of the TFD and speaker of the Legislative Yuan, said at a news conference that Samar was chosen for being "a human rights fighter" and "a pioneer in endeavoring to obtain rights for Afghan women."

"Dr. Samar braves life's dangers in exchange for human rights in Afghanistan, and without staunch belief and extraordinary willpower it would have been impossible for Samar to hold fast to her work up to today," Wang said.

He added that the TFD will hold a ceremony in Taiwan on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day to confer the award, which comes with US$100,000 grant, on Samar.

Samar is the chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission -- the first of its kind in Afghanistan's history. In this position, Samar oversees the conduct of human rights education programs across the country, the implementation of a nationwide women's rights program, the monitoring and investigation of human rights abuses, and advocacy of transitional justice.

In 1989, Samar established the Shuhada Organization -- the oldest Afghan non-governmental organization and the largest Afghan woman-led organization that runs health, education, and income generation projects for women and girls living in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

The Shuhada Organization operates 12 clinics and 4 hospitals in Afghanistan and Pakistan, all dedicated to the provision of health care to Afghan women and girls. The organization also operates 71 schools for girls and boys in Afghanistan and three schools for Afghan refugees in Quetta, Pakistan that educate a total of 48,000 girls and boys.

From Dec. 22, 2001 to June 22, 2002, Samar served as deputy prime minister and minister of women's affairs in the interim administration of Afghanistan. During that time she established the first-ever Afghanistan Ministry of Women's Affairs to help restore the rights of women and to improve their economic, political, legal and social status.

Samar was appointed as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan in 2005.

Samar has been granted numerous awards by international human rights and women's rights organizations in recognition of her leadership on behalf of women. These include the 1994 Community Leadership Award from Roman Magsaysay Award Foundation in the Philippines, the 1995 Global Leader for Tomorrow from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Award from the Feminist Majority Foundation in Los Angeles.

ADHRA was created in 2006 by the TFD -- a Taiwan-based national democracy assistance foundation that was the first of its kind in Asia -- to honor individuals or groups dedicated to democratic development, the advancement of human rights and the building of democracy.

Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Menard won the first ADHRA, while Cynthia Maung, founder of the Mae Sot clinic that provides service to refugees and migrant workers in Myanmar, won the award last year.

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