“We need to tear down the walls in our minds and offer a new and more hopeful vision, where all are valued and able to contribute, an even more powerful movement, a movement of peace.”

Gulalai Ismail – TEDx Exeter 2017

Gulalai Ismail

Be a (non-violent) hero, not a martyr

How can we encourage young Muslims to choose life, not violent jihad? Until she was 16, Gulalai Ismail hoped to die a martyr. Now she leads a network of educators in Pakistan which has helped 10,000 young people at risk of radicalization to build peaceful communities. In this talk she explains her journey from would-be jihadi to a passionate campaigner against intolerance and extremist violence.

Gulalai Ismail was just 16 when she co-founded Aware Girls, in Pakistan, with her sister, Saba. Driven by a passion to challenge a culture of intolerance and extremism, Gulalai and Saba began running workshops in their home town to provide girls and young women with leadership skills to challenge oppression, and fight for their rights to an education and equal opportunities.

Based in Peshawar, north-west Pakistan, Aware Girls has grown into an internationally renowned organisation that has trained, empowered and inspired hundreds of youths in Pakistan since 2002.

A winner of the 2009 Youth Action Net Fellowship, the 2014 International Humanist Award and the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Award for Asia, Gulalai was named as one of Foreign Policy’s Global Thinkers in 2013 and has been featured by the BBC, Guardian, Huffington Post and more. In November 2016, Aware Girls was awarded the Chirac Peace Prize in recognition of their exceptional peacebuilding work in Pakistan.

Biography published 2017

Watch our other 2017 speakers