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Mar 24 2013

And the winners are

The National Secular Society had its annual awards event last night.

The National Secular Society has donated its Secularist of the Year prize fund to a global charity campaigning to ensure girls everywhere have equal access to education.

The prize fund of £7,000 was awarded to Plan UK in honour of Malala Yousafzai…

The prize was collected on Saturday at the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year event by Debbie Langdon-Davies, whose father John founded Plan in 1937. The prize was handed over by NSS honorary associate Michael Cashman MEP. The money will be used to support Plan’s Girls Fund which, as part of its ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign, helps girls to claim their rights and access life-changing education.

Malala Yousafzai was nominated for Secularist of the Year by NSS supporters for campaigning for girls’ education in the face of violent and brutal Islamist opposition.

That appears to be saying they didn’t quite exactly name Malala Secularist of the Year, but did the next best thing. Maybe she didn’t want it, in which case that looks like an elegant and polite compromise.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “Plan UK does fantastic work campaigning for girls’ education so we are delighted to be able to offer this award. It is also important to honour the incredibly inspiring Malala Yousafzai, who risked everything to stand up for her, and others’, right to an education. Secularism will always champion human rights above religious discrimination and oppression – which is precisely why secularism offers hope to oppressed women and minorities everywhere.”

Sing it.

A special achievement award was also presented to the Nigerian Human Rights campaigner Leo Igwe. Leo has campaigned at much risk to himself against the naming of children as “witches” and “warlocks” by manipulative and fanatical evangelical churches. Children branded in this way are often abandoned by their parents or become the subject of mistreatment or even violence.

Terry Sanderson said: “Leo Igwe is an incredibly brave and tenacious fighter for human rights in very difficult circumstances. He has been harassed and threatened by those he has opposed, and so has his family. We were very honoured to have him at this occasion and to honour him in this way. Few people deserve it more.”

An award will also be presented to Queen Mary University of London Atheism, Secularism & Humanism Society for their efforts to promote secularism on campus and in particular their defiant and robust response to attempts to close down free expression on campus.

Fantastic!

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Jacques Rousseau

    Yay for Leo! Fully deserved recognition for someone who works damn hard for the cause, and with such good humour too.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes! It’s great to see Leo getting more recognition, and thus his cause getting more attention.

  3. 3
    arthur

    Really pleased that Leo Igwe received his award. It would make a real difference to peoples lives if he and his work became well known throughout the world.

    Thanks Ophelia Benson for continuing to promote Leo. It was the old B&W blog that first led me to him.

  4. 4
    Dan Bye

    That’s what events like this are, or should be, mostly about. Dawkins and the rest of the well-known writers don’t need awards. The people who need awards are the people who are much less visible.

    Hopefully the NSS’s recognition of Leo Igwe will mean that more people find out about him and the issues he is involved with.

    Likewise, lots of people will have discovered Plan UK for the first time and will support them in the future too.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Exactly. The NSS’s recognition did a lot to get Maryam more attention.

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