Swat’s Heera among six shortlisted for international award for children

SWAT: With her determination to put an end to the menace of child marriage and corporal punishment in her area, 14-year-old Heera Akbar has been shortlisted for International Children’s Peace Prize out of 200 from across the world.

“I have raised my voice for child rights, with the main focus on marriage at a young age, corporal punishment and employment of young girls as domestic help,” Heera said while talking to Geo News. “I have been seeing my father work for the cause, hence have learned from him.”

Pleased to see her daughter follow in his footsteps, Heera’s father Muhammad Akbar said her selection is not only an honour for him but it is a moment of pride for all of Pakistan.

Heera belongs to a region where corporal punishment is common in schools, be they government or private, even today.

The 14-year-old activist hails from Saidu Sharif, Swat, the district to which Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai also belongs. Malala, who was shot by Taliban militants after campaigning for girls education, had won International Children’s Peace Prize in 2013.

Besides Heera, another girl from Swat was also nominated for the prize, Hadiqa Bashir, who is also an advocate against child marriage. She started campaigning for the cause after herself nearly experiencing a similar ordeal who raised her voice against.

According to KidsRight, when Hadiqa was 11 years old her family wanted to marry her to a man much older than her. However, the girl ran away to her uncle, who convinced her family to call off the marriage.

Hadiqa’s achievements include an applauding move – installation of streetlights to make it safer for women and girls to go out at night.

Another young one being nominated from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is Aitzaz Hassan, who sacrificed his life to prevent a suicide bomber from entering his school. In 2014, Aitzaz was killed in the process, but saved all thousands of students, who remained unharmed.

The International Children’s Peace Prize is an initiative of the Dutch based organization, KidsRights Foundation. The foundation was launched in 2005 by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

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