Meeto Memorial Award 2016
Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians
The Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians was established in 2009 in memory of Meeto Bhasin Malik. Meeto was a young dancer, human rights activist, and scholar. What was remarkable about Meeto was her commitment to social justice and peace. She was pursuing her PhD at Baliol College, Oxford when, at the age of 27, she passed on. Her mother Kamla Bhasin instituted this award in Meeto’s memory and it has been given seven times thus far.
This year’s Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians will honour Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala and Wasfia Nazreen.
Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala, a committed feminist and gender rights activist, has just become the first person from Sri Lanka to climb Mount Everest. Wasfia Nazreen has been involved in development, research, advocacy, human rights and environmental issues for over a decade. She is the only Bangladeshi to have climbed the seven summits, the seven highest peaks in each continent.
Jayanthi and Wasfia have both challenged and overcome traditional myths that state that women cannot undertake physically rigorous challenges like mountain climbing by climbing the most difficult peaks in the world. Both of these women are also fierce advocates of feminism and gender equality.
Wasfia Nazreen has been involved in development, research, advocacy, human rights and environmental issues for over a decade. After several years of working on women's rights, striving primarily to end violence against women in her home country and beyond, she today uses sports diplomacy to bring critical attention to communities that need it the most.
Her foundation in the making, Ösel, aspires to empower girls in Bangladesh and Nepal through outdoor education. She is the first Bangladeshi and only Bengali in the world to have climbed the Seven Summits, the highest mountain of every continent, and this feat she dedicated to her country's women. In 2014, Nazreen was honored by National Geographic as an Adventurer for her activism and commitment to empowering women through her work in the field of adventure. In 2016, Nazreen was chosen as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, becoming the first female to hold both adventurer and explorer titles in the Society. Nazreen has been an advocate for One Billion Rising in Bangladesh from its inception.
Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala is an exemplary woman and mountaineer. She has been a professional rock climbing instructor since 2003, while simultaneously working as a full-time women’s rights activist. Jayanthi’s career has involved working with women’s rights organizations in Sri Lanka. This has provided her with extensive practical knowledge and experience in the ﬁeld of women’s rights and gender. Jayanthi worked as the Gender Specialist at CARE International Sri Lanka, working on a project to reduce gender based violence in the tea plantations. Jayanthi aims to combine her experience and skills in gender and rock climbing by establishing the latter as a sport in Sri Lanka, with the speciﬁc goal of increasing the participation of women and girls in this activity. Apart from Mount Everest, Jayanthi has also climbed Mt. Imja Tse in the Nepali Himalayas and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, among many others.
The Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians is extremely proud to honour these two incredible South Asian women, who have overcome many obstacles to shine brightly in their fields and who remain tremendously committed to women’s rights. The Meeto Memorial Award congratulates them on their extraordinary achievements!
The recipients of the award in the earlier years are as follows:
- Sabeen Mahmud: In 2015, the Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians was given posthumously to the well-known Pakistani activist Ms. Sabeen Mahmud, the founder of The Second Floor (T2F) in Karachi, who was brutally murdered for her work in promoting dialogue and peace.
- Ani Choying: In 2013, the award was given to Ani Choying Drolma, a Buddhist nun and musician from Nepal. An exceptional singer, Ani Choying uses her music to spread peace, harmony and gender equality. All of the money that is raised through Ani Choying's performances and record sales go directly to the Nuns Welfare Foundation and many of her other social development initiatives.
- Germi Roy, Violet and Seeta Leen: In 2012, these three women, who have been working with community-based organisations in the unorganised sector of fisheries, were awarded the Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians. Germi Roy, Violet and Seeta Leen have worked rigorously for the promotion of women’s rights and have sought to secure justice for dozens of survivors of rape, challenged the abuse of fisherwomen, struggled to retain spaces for fisher women in the fish market, and sought to address attacks against fisher women. These activists also seek to promote the health and education of the fishing community, and have been conducting classes for the children of the fishing community once a week.
- Azra Jafri: In 2011, Azra Jafri was awarded the Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asian. Azra Jafri is a strong proponent of human rights and has advocated for these rights through the Equal Rights Association (ERA), an organisation where she worked as a Deputy Manager. By 2007, Azra had graduated with a degree Midwifery from the Institute of Health and Sciences in Kabul. In December 2008, at the young age of thirty, Azra was invited to be the first female mayor in Afghanistan by the country’s then president, Hamid Karzai.
- Akeela Naz: In 2010, Akeela Naz was awarded the Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians. Akeela Naz is the person behind the ‘Thapa Force’, an army of women farmer who each wield a thapa (a stick used to wash/strike clothes) and fight for their rights. Outside the region, she is known as a grassroots revolutionary struggling to secure the rights of a million landless farmers. Between 2008 and 2009, Akeela Naz registered the Peasant Women Society, with the objective of empowering women farmers with education and vocational training.
- Laxmi Ben Vankar: In 2009, Laxmi Ben Vankar was awarded the Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians. Laxmi Ben Vankar is a Dalit woman from Gujarat, India who formed and registered the Triveni Anusuchit Jati Education Trust, a hostel where Dalit girls can stay and study for free. In 2003, she joined Aman Samudaya, a campaign for peace, justice and communal harmony that was started in response to the Gujarat communal carnage in 2002. She has worked in many villages, where she has conducted surveys and provided relief and immediate livelihood support to victims of the genocide. Over the years, Laxmi has interacted actively with the media and led many campaigns in various villages and tallukas.
- Anusheh Anadil: In 2009, Anusheh Anadil was awarded the Meeto Memorial Award for Young South Asians. Anushesh Anadil is a musician, song-writer, cultural activist and ethnic-crafts entrepreneur from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Through her music, she passionately fights against religious intolerance and explores issues of unity and self-exploration. In times when style scores over content and commercial popularity is the benchmark of good music, Anusheh Anadil has chosen to make music that is difficult, brave and engaging.
The Meeto Memorial Award are humbled to have such incredible women to honour.