2nd prize 2017: Muhammad Usman Khan (Pakistan)
Muhammad Usman Khan, currently studying at the Brandt School, is strongly convinced that a society can’t progress until the women have equal rights and opportunities. Through his project “My Vote- My Future”, he is attempting to empower the women of the village Gagh of District Khushab, Pakistan with the right to vote and to be voted. According to Usman, the main reasons that barred the women of this area to vote are: illiteracy, lack of awareness, patriarchal community and lack of capacity building programs on civic engagement. “A general climate of opinion exists in this community that women do not need to participate in political processes. Even women were also not aware of their right to vote until I started community meet ups to discuss social problems through the BEYLI Organization. I have started working 4 years ago on this project when I came to know that women are not allowed to vote”, outlines Usman.
“The coming generations will benefit from this project because it’s changing the course of history. The women will have more freedom to make decisions about their lives. They will have an opportunity to participate in politics as a representative of women, which has never happened earlier. The inclusion of women in politics is important in establishing a democratic society. This will lead women to advocate their rights”, he adds. The project will be managed by Usman in consortium with BEYLI Organization, of which he is an Executive Director, United Nation Development Program Pakistan and District Education Department and Election Commission of Pakistan. His previous engagement with the very same issue at hand and his hitherto extensive civic and professional engagement makes Usman believe that this project is accomplishable and will have a historic impact on the community.