Bangladeshi indigenous people's human rights defender Rani Yan Yan has made it to the finals of the coveted Women Building Peace Award.
This annual award, unveiled by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in 2020, honors women peace builders whose substantial and practical contributions to peace are an inspiration and guiding light for generations to come. The award will be given later in the day.
Rani Yan Yan is from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region of Bangladesh. She is also the advisor to the Chakma Circle Chief and the ceremonial queen (Rani) of the Chakma people and the Chakma Circle.
Indigenous people have long suffered violence and exploitation in this region, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands. Even after a peace accord was signed in 1997, indigenous communities have limited access to their land and basic needs.
Alleged rapes of indigenous women by people outside of their communities is common in the CHT, where perpetrators are sometimes treated with impunity.
In this context, Rani Yan Yan has sought to secure the protection and rights of indigenous women and to support their leadership in society.
Despite threats and attacks on her life, Rani Yan Yan collaborates with local, national, and international civil society organisations to promote peace and justice in CHT.
Of particular concern to her is the meaningful participation of indigenous peoples in the planning, reform, and implementation of legislation, national policies, and development actions that impact them, including those related to the UN sustainable development goals and climate change actions.
Her belief in democratic processes is reflected in her inclusive and equity-driven approach to strengthen sustainable peace and equality.
The USIP received nominations of women peace builders from over 30 countries.
The nine finalists were selected by USIP’s Women Building Peace Council, an 18-member group of experts and leaders in the fields of gender and peace building.
Collectively, they represent eight countries and an intergenerational group of peace builders.
“USIP’s Women Building Peace Award is a strong symbol to the many women working for peace that their work matters,” said Ambassador Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and member of USIP’s Women Building Peace Council.
“This award recognises the agency of women as leaders, not victims, in building lasting and sustainable peace," the Ambassador added.