Pakistani Amn-o-Nisa Coalition Member Receives Prestigious Human Rights Defender Award
To commemorate International Human Rights Day, Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf presented Human Rights Defender awards in December 2012 to Dr. Tahira Baloch and 12 other activists who courageously promote human rights awareness and practices in their country. Foreign diplomats, parliamentarians, and civil society representatives attended the ceremony.
Currently an Operations Officer with the World Health Organization, Dr. Baloch coordinates public health programs and oversees health emergency and disaster management projects in Balochistan. She also directs the provision of free maternal healthcare at the district and provincial level—no easy feat considering her province has the highest maternal mortality ratio in Pakistan. (At 785 deaths reported per 100,000 live births, it is also on par with the sixth worst ranked country in the world.)
Dr. Baloch has worked for numerous UN Missions and been a council member on the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan since 1997. A tireless advocate for women’s rights, she served on Pakistan’s National Commission on the Status of Women from 2006 to 2008 to push forward a bill against honor killings. Additionally, she is the Balochistan Provincial Coordinator of Amn-o-Nisa, an Institute-supported coalition of Pakistani women leaders working to address instability and violent extremism in their country.
Given Balochistan’s alarming rise in disappearances, kidnappings, and targeted executions in recent years—especially of journalists and human rights defenders—the province is particularly dangerous [PDF] for those exposing and protecting human rights. Between June 2010 and May 2011 alone, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported 30 targeted killings and found the bodies of 140 missing persons there.
Compounding this, women health workers are increasingly at risk of violence from militants, as evidenced by the recent spate of killings of female aid workers delivering polio vaccines. Dr. Baloch works in perilous situations and risks her life daily to make her country safer and healthier for all, especially women.
Having known Dr. Baloch since Amn-o-Nisa formed in April 2011, I’ve continually been inspired by her tenacity, courage, and the calm with which she accepts the dangers and challenges her work presents. It is fearless women leaders like Dr. Baloch that shed hope on an otherwise grim scenario and provide inspiration for all those striving to make the world a more secure, peaceful place.
Congratulations to Dr. Baloch and her fellow human rights defender awardees!
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