It is with great pleasure that we report that Dr. Akber Gardezi (Assistant Professor at COMSATS University, Pakistan, and the Inter Islamic Network on Information Technology) and an Affiliated Member of our UNESCO Chair in ICT4D has received this year’s Saima Ammar award for his work in using digital technologies to support people with disabilities in Pakistan. The award is made annually by the Young Women Writers Forum (based in Islamabad) in association with Sightsavers, and this year it was made during a ceremony at Rawalpindi Women University.
The award was created in 2011 in memory of Saima Ammar, who had been a very active member of the Young Women Writers Forum, and had recently passed away battling Multiple Sclerosis. The Forum did not have any funding available and so they contacted Sightsavers with whom they had an existing MoU to help and support Blind Women Writers in Pakistan. The first “award” (but not in a physical sense) was a small gathering of like minded people who supported the cause of empowering women and overall inclusion more generally. As the years passed by this gathering which always took place around the 15th of October began a regular feature to honour visually impaired people who had done substantial work within the community. For the last 3-4 years they have also sought nominations from the wider community to include sighted people working for the service of visually impaired people.
Akber writes “I am deeply humbled and thankful to my vision impaired friends who recommended my name for this award. This is very special for me as it links me to the memory of the late Saima Ammar. She was a symbol of activism and defiance; she is someone who fought the cause for access to education for people with disabilities in Pakistan. She is someone who did not let blindness be a burden on her life, but rather used it as a motivation. She did not lead a very comfortable and luxurious life herself but played an immense role promoting educational culture among the visual impaired community of Pakistan. She founded Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness (PFFB) and initiated the Audio World Project in 1995 with the aim of providing education, information and entertainment to visually impaired persons through audio books. Let this be a reminder for us all to keep fighting the good fight and remember Saima in our thoughts and prayers”.