Head of Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), Syeda Ghulam Fatima, is among four finalists nominated for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, the New York Times reported.
The prize, created by Vartan Gregorian and two other prominent philanthropists of Armenian descent, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan, has a twist that distinguishes it from other prizes: The winner receives $100,000 and designates an organisation that inspired his or her work to be the beneficiary of $1 million.
Fatima rose to prominence earlier this year when photographer Brandon Stanton featured her picture and story on his Humans of New York photo-blog. He later went on to raise over $1.3 million for her organisation.
She works for the betterment of bonded labour in Pakistan and is known for advocating compliance of International Labour Organisation’s key labour standards in Pakistan. The activist is also a member of the provincial committee for Abolition of Bonded Labour in Punjab and of the District Vigilance Committee in the 12th district of Pakistan.
Fatima was honoured with a Global Citizen award in New York last year for her dedication to civil rights and labour laws in Pakistan. She was recognised for advocating legal entitlements of the neglected working-class brick kiln workers, as well as female domestic and home-based workers.
The other finalists for the humanitarian prize include Marguerite Barankitse, an orphanage founder in Burundi who challenged a bloodthirsty mob and other dangers; Dr Tom Catena, a physicist who founded the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Sudan’s Nuba mountains and Reverand Bernard Kinvi, a Roman Catholic priest in the Central African Republic who saved more than 1,000 Muslims, mostly women and children, from fatal persecution.
The finalists, whose selection will be announced Tuesday, will attend a ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia, on April 24, where the winner will be announced.
“They’re not celebrities. They’re surprised that some people in the outside world even noticed them,” Gregorian said of the Aurora Prize finalists.
“They’re not in the self-aggrandizing business,” Gregorian said in an interview alongside two other committee members, Gareth Evans, a former foreign minister of Australia, and Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist and Nobel laureate.
The finalists were chosen from 200 submitted after the award was announced last April during events for the centennial of the Armenian genocide, widely considered the first genocide of the 20th century. As many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
The award founders named it the Aurora Prize after a genocide survivor, Aurora Mardiganian, who witnessed the massacre of relatives and told her story in a book and film.
Gbowee said she hoped the prize would inspire a generation of young people, many of whom she feared had become hardened or intimidated by humanitarian crises around the world.
“How do we awaken humanity in them? Should we start now?” she said. “My answer is yes. And the whole idea of this prize is the perfect opportunity to begin that conversation.”