The United Nations on Thursday announced the recipients of the Human Rights Prize for 2018. Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir, Tanzanian activist Rebeca Gyumi, Brazilian activist Joênia Wapichana and human rights organisation FrontLine Defenders won the prize. Jahangir got the prize posthumously.
The “United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights” is an honorary award given for outstanding achievement in human rights, the world body said. The award ceremony will take place in New York on December 10 on World Human Rights Day.
Asma Jahangir, born in Lahore in January 1952, was the first woman to serve as the president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association. She was also the United Nations Rapporteur for Human Rights, and a former Pakistan Human Rights Commission chief.
She was known for speaking up against human rights violations and was a staunch supporter of democracy. An outspoken critic of the military’s interference in civilian rule in Pakistan, Jahangir wrote for many publications and authored two books. She died in Lahore due to a cardiac arrest in February. Some reports said the lawyer had battled cancer for years.
Tanzanian activist Rebeca Gyumi is the founder of the Msichana Initiative, an organisation that works towards empowering girls by improving their access to education. Gyumi had successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Tanzanian law that allowed girls to marry at age 14 and 15.
Joênia Wapichana was the first indigenous woman to be elected to Brazil’s Congress. She was also the first indigenous lawyer to speak in front of the Supreme Federal Court and the first indigenous person to graduate from law school in the country. In 2013, she was appointed the first president of the National Commission for the Defense of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil.
Front Line Defenders is an Ireland-based organisation that works towards the protection of human rights defenders at risk.
Previous winners of the award included Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Denis Mukwege and Malala Yusafzai.