We’re really excited that not one but TWO of our grassroots partners and colleagues, Sameena Nazir and Molly Melching, are finalists for the Guardian International Development Achievement Award. It’s an award that honors the unsung heroes of international development; those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make a positive difference in the lives and livelihoods of the world’s most marginalized people. Sameena and Molly need your votes to win!
So, who are these extraordinary women?
Sameena Nazir is a community organizing powerhouse who stands at the crossroads of human rights and development. She is the founding executive director of Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA) in Pakistan, an AJWS grantee that provides creative training and skills development to women and girls who do not have access to a high school education. Through PODA’s workshops, women produce handicrafts and sell them through Global Goods, an online store that brings fair trade goods to a global market. This generates income for Pakistani women and gives them the visibility, recognition and self-confidence to become economically autonomous. In rural areas, Sameena has built powerful relationships with and between women farmers, and advocated for their inclusion in local and national agricultural sectors. Because of Sameena’s remarkable networking, PODA was equipped to support communities hit by the 2005 earthquake and the 2010 floods that left thousands of women widowed or as the sole care-taker of their children. What’s more, Sameena pioneered a national campaign to recognize a day for women farmers in Pakistan. After years of lobbying, in 2008 Pakistan’s government recognized Sameena’s efforts and declared October 15th the National Day of Rural Women in Pakistan. Each year on October 15th, Sameena organizes a conference that brings together groups of women farmers from across the country to expand their networks, build coalitions and strengthen their businesses.
Molly Melching first came to Senegal from Illinois in 1974 to study French. She never left. In her early days as a Peace Corps volunteer, she set up a center for street children and established the first children’s radio program to be broadcast in national languages. After years of observing how development and education programs were not meeting the needs of local communities in which Senegal’s official language—French—was not widely spoken, Molly set up Tostan, a foundation dedicated to community-led education and sustainable development. A longtime AJWS partner, Tostan means “breakthrough” in the West African language of Wolof. Over the past 20 years, Tostan has engaged more than 220,000 people in 22 local languages across eight African countries. Molly’s ability to immerse herself in a community and earn the respect of its members enabled her to encourage much-needed dialogue about female genital cutting (FGC), a practice with a long history in West Africa. Tostan’s work to spark community-driven social change has been astounding: 6,236 villages across West Africa have publicly abandoned FGC and Senegal’s government has now woven Molly’s model into a National Action Plan to end FGC in Senegal by 2015.
I can’t think of any women more deserving of the Guardian’s International Development Achievement Award. Vote for Sameena and Molly!