ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) organised its 7th Amtul Raqeeb Awards to acknowledge the exceptional contribution of women in PPAF-supported community institutions across Pakistan in order to mark International Women’s Day 2018. This year, the award highlighted the work of seven women champions including Nazia, Rubina, Rabbihat Jamil, Saima, Kiran Irshad, Naheed Akhtar and Naureen Akhtar for making themselves heard and bringing positive transformation not only to their lives but also to the lives of communities they come from. While receiving the awards, these women shared their stories and appreciated PPAF and its partner organisations for the enormous support in transforming their lives and making them believe in their strengths. All these women belonging to far flung areas of the country were accredited for their courage in the face of adversity and for becoming role models in their respective communities. The selection criteria for this year’s event brought into focus women belonging to the under-privileged districts of Pakistan where PPAF is supporting projects under the Prime Minister’s Interest-Free Loan Scheme Programme for Poverty Reduction funded by the government of Italy, the Livelihood Support & Promotion of Small Community Infrastructure Programme and Hydropower & Renewable Energy Programme funded by the KfW.Following its core value of inclusion, this year, PPAF presented awards to Maria Qureshi from Sialkot and Afshan Afridi from Peshawar to honour their outstanding contribution to support women with disabilities. Both these women are physically disabled but are facing challenges of life with grit and courage. They are taking initiatives aimed at raising awareness on rights of people with disabilities so that this mostly ignored cadre of the society feels accepted and can educate themselves, learn skills and build their capacities for playing a productive role in the society. National Women Football team member and Total Football Youth Academy Head Coach Asmara Kiani was the chief guest at the occasion.“Women are truly capable of achieving anything they set their sight on but it is necessary for them to have opportunities. Organisations like PPAF are trying to fill this gap and I applaud their initiative of recognising and encouraging these fantastic women and I hope to see many more stories of success in the future,” she said. PPAF Chairperson Roshan Khurshid Bharucha said, “PPAF is proud to be an enabler for these women. Their passion to make a difference is truly remarkable. It’s amazing to hear stories of women who overcome a host of challenges and manage to not only improve their lives but also bring positive change to the lives of others. These women are the real life heroes of our society and deserve all the recognition they can get.”She also appreciated the exclusive work of PPAF and winning the Global Diversity & Inclusion Award 2018 for achieving mission through its innovative approach to empower the marginalised in distant areas of the country.PPAF Grants Opersations Senior Group Head Simi Kamal affirmed, “PPAF firmly believes in the power of investing in women. It is indeed an honour to acknowledge the work of these women who will be receiving the Amtul Raqeeb award today. These powerful women and their stories are truly inspiring for all of us.”PPAF’s Gender Committee was formed in 2012 under the leadership of PPAF CEO Qazi Azmat Isa, to take forward change within the organisation and its work. “As he rightly says, ‘Uplifting women has a ripple effect as an empowered woman will take all her knowledge, resources and freedom and use it to transform lives around her. If girls and women are given equal chances of growth and development as boys and men then that in itself would bring a big change in our communities and in the country’.”PPAF organises Amtul Raqeeb Awards on International Women’s Day in the memory of PPAF social mobiliser who was killed by terrorists in 2011 on her way back from healthcare centre in Mastung, Balochistan. The award pays tribute to the courageous Amtul Raqeeb and encourages women change makers in rural settings for their sustained efforts toward societal development. Raqeeb’s immense contribution in capacity building of local traditional birth attendant resulted in a significant reduction of mother child mortality rate in the inaccessible region of Pakistan.Each year, the nominees are selected on the basis of their contributions as women entrepreneurs, social activists and innovative champions for bringing positive change at the household and community level. PPAF held the first Amtul Raqeeb Award ceremony in 2012. So far, 40 women and two men have been conferred with the Amtul Raqeeb Award during the last six years. Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2018.