Gulalai Ismail is the founder and chair of Aware Girls, an organization for and led by young women. She completed an MPhil in Biotechnology at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad in June 2012, but had started Aware Girls at the age of 16 to provide a leadership platform for young women and girls of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest of Pakistan. Still only 26, she has more than 10 years’ experience in challenging patriarchy, gender discrimination and religious extremism in one the most difficult and life-threatening parts of Pakistan. She has experience working with girls and young women to address gender-based violence through attitude transformation and to strengthen support systems for survivors of gender-based violence; to challenge laws which are discriminatory and violate the basic principles of human rights (such as blasphemy); to propose laws to protect women’s rights. Her work is characterized by promoting peace and pluralism; challenging religious extremism and militancy; promoting good governance in areas stricken by militancy, providing civic education to young people; strengthening democracy; and political mainstreaming of young women.

Gulalai also works as a member of the Gender Working Group of the United Network of Young Peacebuilders and is a member of the organizing committee of the Asian Democracy Network. From 2010-2012 she was a board member of the Women’s Global Network on Reproductive Rights, and from 2009-2011 was on the Executive Committee of IHEYO (the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organization). She has been recognized both nationally and internationally, being awarded the 2014 International Humanist Award by International Humanist and Ethical Union, the 2013 Democracy Award by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Global YouthActionNet Fellowship in 2009, a Paragon Fellowship in 2009, and the Oxfam International Youth Partnership for her efforts involving young women’s empowerment. Gulalai Ismail is on the Foreign Policy Magazine’s list of Global Thinkers, and has been invited to President Obama’s Civil Society Summit and several high level meetings with the US State Department on the issues of peace and gender equality.