Aware Girls, Pakistan

Sowing the seeds of peace

Project overview

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is one of the most fragile states in Pakistan. Religious extremism has grown to become one of the biggest security threats to the region. Militant groups have been known to incite extremism and violence, increasingly amongst young people. Pakistani forces have struggled to maintain control in the region. Additionally, many extremist groups and civilian communities view international interventions with mistrust and resentment.

For women especially, extremism has led to growing insecurity – many fear kidnap or worse. Local peacebuilder Gulalai Ismail is working with women and young people to create real change.

Women are not only victims of conflict, they are drivers of peace. Women’s voices must be heard if peace is to last. — Gulalai Ismail

At just 16 Gulalai Ismail set up Aware Girls with a group of school friends to change the lives of young women in Pakistan. They began by focusing on women’s rights, and as their membership has grown, they are now training young activists to become local peacebuilders, challenging violence and extremism.

For more information, insight and analysis on the conflict in Pakistan, visit Insight on Conflict.

Making an impact

Aware Girls was set up in 2002 to run programmes and services to better women’s lives. In the last two years, recognising the immediate need, they launched a peacebuilding initiative. Aware Girls recruited 25 volunteers in each of the last two years to join together to promote tolerance, non-violence and peace. The initiative is proving so popular that last year they had over 150 applicants.

The 50 trained young volunteers are now reaching out to people in their communities who are vulnerable to radicalisation. They hold study circles and one-to-one meetings with these people to develop and promote ideas for a peaceful future for Pakistan. Still in its early stages, the programme will reach almost 1,500 young people in the next three years, growing a movement of activists against religious and political extremism.

Ahmad lost his brother a few years ago. He joined a militant organisation and was eventually killed in Afghanistan. Ahmad had tried to talk to his brother about his choices, to try to stop him from following this path, but he had been powerless to affect his decision. Ahmad is now a volunteer with Aware Girls, he has been trained as a young peacebuilder and equipped with the skills to give young people the space to develop values of tolerance, non-violence and peace. The loss of his brother is always with him but thanks to Aware Girls he is able to prevent other people from being recruited into militant groups.

Make a gift today and help young people like Ahmad reach out to more of their peers.

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