Spotlight: Nila Ibrahimi – Human Rights Award 2024

July 2, 2024

By Guangke Dai, Communications Officer              (Human Rights Award 2024)

Aged just 17, Nila Ibrahimi from Afghanistan became the youngest recipient of the MOSAIC Human Rights Award. That’s impressive enough in itself, but the background to Nila’s win makes her feat all the more remarkable.

Nila found safety in Canada in August 2023. Reflecting on her journey, Nila remarked, “It feels like a short time, but it has been a transformative period for me. I have grown into a different person than who I was in Afghanistan or Pakistan.”

During the Awards ceremony, Nila moved the audience to tears with her harrowing experience of escaping the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021. As a ninth-grader, she witnessed the abrupt end of her education and the oppressive rules imposed on girls. Facing this dire situation, Nila and her family fled to Pakistan, where they stayed for nine months before finally arriving in Canada. These experiences fueled her passion for advocating for Afghan girls.

In Canada, Nila co-founded HerStory, an organization dedicated to making the stories of Afghan girls worldwide heard. “There wasn’t much awareness about Afghanistan compared to other cultures. This inspired me to become a symbol of Afghan girls and to share their stories,” she shared. “HerStory gives a platform to Afghan girls from any part of the world to share their stories. Unheard, unseen, uncelebrated stories.” The initiative aims to raise awareness of Afghan women’s achievements and challenges, dismantling stereotypes, and offering essential support.

Nila’s advocacy began early. At 13, she challenged a local ban in Afghanistan preventing schoolgirls over 12 from singing in public, as part of the “IAmMySong” campaign. Her courage and dedication have since led her to speak at significant events, including the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in 2023 and the TED Conference in Vancouver in 2024.

Her journey has not been without risks. Nila often faces danger due to her outspoken advocacy. However, she remains undeterred, stating, “If I don’t speak out, life would be lived in fear. The motivators are much bigger than what can stop me.”

As a rising senior at West Point Grey Academy, Nila is currently on a full scholarship, underscoring her dedication and hard work. Yet, her accomplishments extend far beyond academics. She envisions HerStory becoming the face of Afghan girls, providing the support they need and bridging the gap between those who can help and those in need. Her future goals include expanding the organization’s impact and ensuring Afghan girls receive the education and opportunities they deserve.

In her own inspiring words, Nila shared, “The idea of Afghan girls being powerful and resilient is not seen all the time. If we are given opportunities and treated equally, we can actually thrive.” One of her biggest influences in the field of human rights and humanitarianism is Malala Yousafzai. Like Malala, Nila’s work continues to inspire and impact the lives of many, advocating for a future where Afghan girls are recognized, respected, and given the opportunities they deserve.

When receiving her award, Nila eloquently expressed, “This is not about me. This award is for appreciating the resilience, bravery, and power of Afghan girls. From everything we’ve been through, and we are going through, and how we have not given up in the face of injustice and inhuman actions towards us. This award is for every girl who’s waiting behind the doors of schools, for every woman who’s deprived of the right to work, and every female who’s deprived of a life.”

Congratulations on winning the 2024 MOSAIC Awards, Nila. Your dedication and courage are truly inspiring. We look forward to seeing all the incredible things you will continue to accomplish.