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Unsung Heroines Awards

The Unsung Heroines Awards are aimed at identifying and rewarding Afghan women role models everyday women who are achieving remarkable things and yet their role in society sometimes goes unnoticed.

Although APn recognises the significant work of activists and politicians, it considers the Unsung Heroines to be the major contributors to positive social impact; within and outside of Afghanistans borders. Given the evident struggle, by Afghan women, to make such impact in a hostile conservative society; where they are consistently undermined and discriminated against, APn celebrates the International Womens Day with the Unsung Heroines Awards ceremony. This gesture is intended to recognise women as quintessential contributors to the success and progress of society; past and present.

Profiles of this years award winners, chosen from amongst tens of nominees, are given below. If you wish to get in touch with any of the winners please contact us at info@apn.af.

Unsung Heroines Awards Winners 2014

Amina Bakhtar, community contribution

Amina is 23 years old and is one of the first and very few females serving in the Afghan Special Forces. Alongside her military career, Amina studies law at a private university in Afghanistan. When not on duty, she comes home to her husband, Qurban Mansoor Bakhtar, and her two beautiful daughters, the elder one of whom is only six years of age and already considered highly gifted and talented.

Her career in the Special Forces is a sharp contrast to the usual role that women play in Afghanistan, and she has learnt and conditioned herself to overcome the challenges and fear factors that accompany this dangerous career. Working alongside international forces, Amina has taken part in and excelled in numerous covert and high risk operations against suspected hostiles. She works alongside and on par with the men in her unit; a unit, which itself plays a vital role in conducting day to day operations, in line with civil and military laws and regulations.

Her inspiration for joining the Special Forces came mainly from her thirst to support and inspire the women of Afghanistan. Despite discouragement in the early stages of her military career, she chose to persist and stay true to her work ethics. Fortunately, this has now turned in to a source of great pride and immense satisfaction for Amina. It is now commonplace for Amina and other female operatives to hear praises such as you women of the Afghan Special Forces are the true representation of an Afghan Hero.

Amina has had excellent support and encouragement in her endeavors from her husband and from her elder brother, Mohammad Anwar. This, once again, is in sharp contrast to the discouragement that other women of Afghanistan face on a daily basis when embarking on a career involving the military, perceived as a masculine job, or indeed pursuing any type career for that matter.
Through her career in the military and her education in law, Amina not only serves the people of Afghanistan, but also symbolically paves the way for other Afghan women to follow her example in establishing their rights to pursue education and careers.

Najiba Laima Kasraee, professional achievement

Najiba is the Editor of the BBC College of Journalisms International Websites. She speaks five languages; Pashto, Persian, Russian, English, and Urdu. She has also authored childrens stories in the Pashto language. She joined the BBC in 1992 as a BBC Pashto presenter, and has also worked for BBC Persian, BBC English, BBC Russian and the Central Asia services.

On her first day as a news presenter at the BBC World Service, she realized that, in order to produce and present an impartial, balanced and accurate report, in addition to journalistic training she badly needed to know the in-house style of her department: which Pashto word to use; which pronunciation to go for; and how to translate a word accurately. Ever since, it has been her dream to create a mechanism which will support journalists in the language they are broadcasting.

Five years ago, she saw the possibility of achieving that goal when the BBC College of Journalism accepted her proposal to create a set of websites about journalism for all of the languages in which the BBC broadcasts. She has launched 27 language websites supporting each language in the BBC World service. Recently she has helped re-launch all their websites and so far has managed to successfully present 11 international websites. They focus on journalistic skills, ethics as well as language. In the language category the department concentrates on specific issues such as grammatical learning points, the development and expansion of language, new terminologies, taboo wording, the golden rules of newsroom translation, online language and, above all, mastering the use of impartial language.

Through her recent work with the BBC College of Journalism she has had an opportunity to expand the debate about impartial language to a wider audience. One good example of that is their latest conference in Hong Kong, China; this was the first BBC conference where together with their host the Hong Kong Baptist University, they were focusing on impartiality in the Mandarin language. Throughout her career, Najiba has also had the opportunity of interviewing high profile world politicians, including the British Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the US Vice President Dick Cheney and the Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Ariadne Bechthold, contribution to the Afghan community

Ariadne is a Dutch national who studied media at university in the Netherlands where she was also involved in several community development projects for positive social change; she worked as a freelance film maker and organized media workshops/trainings with an organization called Organic Chaos.

Her interests in helping the Afghan community were sparked by her work in Calais where she helped Afghan migrants; this was also where she co-founded Calais Migrant Solidarity, a Europe-wide organization that continues to assist Afghan migrants. Through this organization, she was given the rewarding opportunity to work together with people, exchange skills and valuable knowledge.

On moving to the UK she took up a volunteer teaching position with the Migrant English Project; this gave her the chance to satisfy her willingness to support migrants, sometimes by signposting them to organizations that could assist them with legal advice, housing and education etc. She likes to believe that her work has helped prevent Afghans from ending up on the streets and has helped empower Afghan women achieve their true potential.

While in the UK, she wanted to utilize her media expertise, experience with different communities and organizational skills to develop, manage and run an organization that provides training and guidance to Afghan females; thus she decided to help set up Afghan Voice CIC, a registered, fully licensed, non-profit independent community media organization.

Besides her official activities pertaining to Afghanistan, she has had ample opportunity to develop her personal skills; she is currently learning Pashto and Dari together with gaining a more in-depth knowledge of Afghan history, culture and politics, something greatly catalyzed by her visit to Kabul in 2012. She has also enjoyed translating an Afghan proverb book called Zarbul Masalha to the Dutch language, a copy of which she has kindly donated to the Afghan Professionals Network. All proceeds from this venture will help advance education and literacy in Afghanistan.

It is crucial that we remember and appreciate that for each of these women awarded, there are thousands, if not millions more heroines who continue to push the boundaries of generosity and selflessness to make positive impact within and outside of Afghanistan. It is an absolute honour, a privilege and truly humbling for us to call such remarkable women our mothers, sisters and daughters.