2019 Women of Distinction Award Reflections

The Women of Distinction Award was one of the most significant events and it came at a very right and important time.

Living in a small conservative village in Jalalabad, Afghanistan to lobbying for gender equality, women empowerment, and youth leadership in an international stage to thousands of audience and millions of people from across the world in the presence of distinguished women has been extremely rewarding.  

We still see millions of girl whose dreams are taken from them. We live in a world Where 121 million children worldwide do not attend school. 88% of Countries Restrict Women’s Economic Opportunity. Of 189 economies assessed in 2018, 104 economies still have laws preventing women from working in specific jobs, 59 economies have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, and in 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working. The gender wage gap is estimated to be 23 percent. This reminds us again of the dire need, stronger commitment, firm political will, and speedy substantial practical steps for creating the change.

NGO CSW was a remarkable way of gathering women from across the world, who had a common vision, having unity, having a cohesive approach towards gender equality, and brining their work and experience, sharing it with other fellow colleges from around the world. This year CSW was also one of the largest forum on gender equality and women’s right for UN Member states, Civil Society Organizations, and other international actors, it had around 5000 representatives from civil society, 2000-member state delegates and 86 ministers. Women and young women were on the lead and they provided united recommendations. One of the best thing was the existence of side events. It was managed by different NGOs and global change makers. Its aim was to bring the most threating issues to the planet and how to overcome and have action oriented recommendations. Participants especially women at the UN Commission on the Status of Women delivered a very comprehensive roadmap on ensuring social protection system, sustainable infrastructure, and access to economic opportunities.

When I was on the stage on the Consultation day, it was extraordinary to see the smile on the faces of the young people from across the world, I got a lot of energy and hope and optimism for the future. I was admired for my work, and was reminded that the contribution I make, the risks I have been taking and the accomplishments I have had are noteworthy and the world appreciates it and the world is standing in solidarity with me and I am UNSTOPPABLE, and I will continue to help all the women and youth, in every corner.

I reminded myself again of the big responsibility that is ahead of me and all young people to work harder for gender equality and women empowerment. I saw all the women and men from across the world celebrating this accomplishment with me, and I saw in their eyes a hope, a hope and optimism they see in me, a young woman, for an equal world, a world where we do not have to suffer from any type of discrimination. I faced many challenges, hardships, problems, threats, and even fear of death, but continued my work. It never stopped me, or discouraged me because I strongly believe in a world run by WOMEN, in Gender Equality and I am working for it. I am a proud Feminist! Thank you for showing me again that in this journey I am not alone and I have many allies, and support networks! I was told by many young women and men and even older women and men, that I am a role model for them. Thank you for giving them the chance to find their role model, to listen to her story, and to narrate their own stories, to dream big and be the change makers!

When I was sharing a roundtable discussion with young leaders from diverse sectors, it was exposed that strong voices and political commitment exist in the higher level for meaningful youth and women leadership, how we transfer the values back down to our countries matter.

One of the main discussions in the roundtable was about women’s political participation and running for government offices. The discussion was circulating on the topic that we need to have women on the leading tables, making our tables bigger, and inclusive for all those who were/are deprived of their rights. So the voices that are deprived are heard now, and are given spaces! Not trusting young people means mistrust in the future and present talents, in the capacity of youth, in the sustainable development of the world which is leading to marginalization, radicalization, extremism, and violence. And Obviously, we do not want to see a world like this!

In an interactive session with the audience, I told them, if we young people do not engage in politics and do not do politics, politics will do us, so run for offices and make our voices heard. Make the policy makers understand that your voices matter, have accountability mechanisms on them and watch them closely, and you can use technology in the best way possible. I had tens of young leaders from different countries telling me that having a YOUNG woman getting this award means that this time their voices were reflected and listened to and actually represented in the best way possible. I had one young woman after the session telling me, “I was never thinking of running for politics, and I was convinced today and I am ready to run for Government office in my country”. We need young role models in government offices who pave the way for other youth so young people are convinced, inspired and see their platforms to run for offices and be part of the government.

This youth dialogue had played a crucial role in suggesting practical and action-oriented recommendations for policy makers for the CSW. CSW participants had discussions and group work on the theme of this year of the NGO CSW namely social protection system, public services and sustainable infrastructure. We had a powerful discussion of women leaders voicing their commitment for brining gender equality and women empowerment to the table. They promised to bring the recommendations to the CSW and ensure that they are integrated in the CSW. H.E Amina J Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General, said in the panel which was shared with me, that UN and member states are committed to not only listen to the voices of youth, but also to work together with youth making sure that they have a place at the table and that progress for youth leadership is accelerated.

I was also on another panel on “Women leadership for inclusive social protection systems: how we can accomplish that”. It was very impressive to see dynamic and energetic youth from across the world sharing their perspectives on how women leadership could lead to an inclusive social protection system and sharing their work and the contributions in this arena.

I also shared the panel with astonishing women who are working for eradicating child marriages all across the world. We had a very productive and engaging session, talking about how we have been overcoming the child marriages in our respective countries. When discussing, we saw unbelievable statistics of girls becoming brides in a very early age, their exposure to sexual violence and the counter effects of child marriages on social, domestic and academic life of the child and everyone in the family and society. We discussed how we can minimize child marriages, which practices worked best, and what measures need to be in place for the perpetrators of child marriages, who is considered as the actual perpetrator and do we really still need to stick to the wording of child marriages. Since this wording child marriage, in its core carries Marriage and marriage is a legal term so even the wording needs to be changed.

I was also invited to the Afghan Embassy in the US and had a very great discussion on the Role of Women in Leadership and decision making for Celebrating the International Women’s Day, and month and hopefully in the future as how H.E Ambassoder Roya Rahmani said “Women Year” at Afghanistan Embassy in the US. I was on the panel with Seddiqa, a young leader from Afghanistan; the United States Institute of Peace President, Nancy Polesi, the World Bank Representative, Jennifer and UN Women and NGO CSW, CeCe Cole. She said that back in 1900 anthropologists from other countries would travel to Afghanistan and would share the stories of hope and resilience of Afghan women with the world, but that is no longer needed since Afghan Women and Afghan Men are now speaking for themselves, they are the people who make their stories and they are the ones who narrate their stories of power and resilience to the world redefining the image and the reality of the country, and leading it to a right and peaceful direction. We also had the Afghan Ambassador to the US who despite having a very tight schedule was able to meet us and congratulate me for this outstanding opportunity. She said that we need these three things: 1. Development 2. Justice 3. Peace

H.E Roya Rahmani is a very articulate, skilled, expert and a great exemplification of the Afghan Nation and of the young Women of Afghanistan.

We need to start by collectively making our voices heard. Support each other, it is important to think of the world as a whole, and have a global perspective and of course it comes with local solutions to global problems.  It is wonderful to have this conference being hosted each year and I will be very happy to have collaboration and any support.

Leadership is also about conviction and measurable sacrifices, about the resolve to take risks if they bring you closer to the shared progress you envision. Its about standing in solidarity with each other, its about paving the platforms for role models to raise their voices louder and boulder so it reaches the world, and its about selecting the right people for taking the challenges, and providing them with the skills and tools so they can move ahead firm and trusting them with full mind and heart, and leaving them to take the lead, leave a legacy behind which is never left ever before and rock the world!!

I am more empowered when I was surrounded with people who want change! WHO do not want to see the world as how it is now! I also saw a network of very strong committed, spiritual and remarkable individuals and communities who are already contributing to make the world a very better place, and their every single contribution from each day and each hour contribute to thousands of lives leaving a better world each minute. I received love, respect, extraordinary recognition on a global level. Thisrecognition is another example of the great support that the NGO CSW and the UN and UN Women have given young women! I know I still have much to learn, but with continued support and encouragement from people like you I am and will be accomplishing a great deal. I am sure and confident that I will have your generous support for the future and much to come since we have a long way to go! The season looks promising, and I plan to make the most of the upcoming opportunities, I am ready to take on the challenges. NGO CSW was a learning experience. It ensured me of the global support and network and allies I have, and how I can take the most usage out of it! We need to work together more than ever.

I am the first women ever in the history of NGO CSW to get the Women of Distinction Award 2019 being 22 years old. I will cherish this award and will remember with gratitude to merit this recognition, I am thrilled that you selected me and I will make sure that I deliver to the best of my abilities.