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Honoring Young Democracy Leaders

NED Democracy Award From left to right: Rosa Maria Paya of Cuba (receiving on behalf of Harold Cepero), Vera Kichanova of Russia, Carl Gershman, President of NED; Glanis Changachirere of Zimbabwe.

Democracy Award highlights the role that youth are playing in advancing democracy, honoring activists from Pakistan, Russia, Zimbabwe and Cuba.

Four young people who have fearlessly promoted democracy in their home countries were recently honored by the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit, U.S. - congressionally funded organization that supports freedom around the world.

Honoring Young Democracy Leaders
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This year’s Democracy Award highlighted the role that youth are playing in advancing democracy, honoring activists from Pakistan, Russia, Zimbabwe and Cuba.

Judy Shelton, Vice-Chair of NED’s Board of Directors, said that these young activists provide a “sterling example of human courage”:

“These are young individuals who have already accomplished near miraculous triumphs in moving their home countries toward recognizing the vital importance of free speech, honest elections, the right to assemble and rule of law. In so doing, they have inspired their fellow citizens to embrace democratic principles and stand up for human rights.”

Twenty-six year old Gulalai Ismail of Pakistan founded Aware Girls at age sixteen. This group provides a leadership platform for young women and girls in dangerous areas to empower their communities, receive an education, and gain control over their lives. She recently also founded the Youth Peace Network to promote religious tolerance and fight radicalization. She was also active in organizing an all-women monitoring effort during the Pakistani elections earlier this year.

Russian activist Vera Kichanova, 22, campaigned door to door for a seat on a northwest Moscow district legislative council. Despite her opponents’ skepticism, she won the seat, and now works on the local level toward incremental but important changes.

Glanis Changachirere, 30, is the founding director of Zimbabwe’s Institute for Young Women’s Development, which encourages marginalized young women to participate in Zimbabwean politics. Ms. Chagachirere dedicated her award to her hope for peaceful, democratic elections, in Zimbabwe.

Cuban activist Harold Cepero tragically died in a car crash along with Cuba’s most prominent democratic activist, Oswaldo Payá, in 2012. Cepero, 30 years old, was the leader of the youth wing of Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement, or MCL. The MCL is known for organizing the Varela project -- a citizen petition movement that called for a popular referendum to establish the foundation for a democratic system in Cuba, which garnered thousands of signatures.

“We are also paying tribute to their compatriots, around the world,” said Dr. Shelton. “The millions of youth activists who have fought for liberty, for justice, for human dignity and human decency.”