Suraya Pakzad is a woman's rights activist who fiercely believes in the potential of girls and women. Her vision is to craft a sustained environment to empower women of Afghanistan through advocacy in favor of their rights and by creating opportunities for them to achieve education, participate in decision making processes and express their views to build a prosperous Afghanistan.
Ms Pakzad is the Executive Director of Voice of Women. This NGO runs a range of projects that support the most disadvantaged and oppressed women and young girls in Western Afghanistan. Family guidance and shelter projects in five provinces of western region are of the most critical projects. Shelter programs provide immediate safe refuge, food, clothing, medical attention, psycho-social counseling, legal counseling, legal aid, vocational training, literacy classes, job placement and reintegration into families to girls and women at risk.
As a response to denial of rights of Afghan women and their treatment in the society as second-class citizens, Ms. Pakzad founded the Voice of Women Organization (VWO) NGO in 1998 and began to teach girls how to read in groups across Afghanistan. Since 2001, when women of Afghanistan to some extent could operate to pursue their aspirations in a rigid society, VWO began to function openly. Her work to protect women and girls at risk as well as advocacy for women's right puts her in constant danger in a traditional society in Afghanistan.
Trough Legal Advise Bureau Project her staffs provide free legal advice and legal aid to women and girls seeking access to formal justice. Legal advice and legal aid (follow up of cases in courts of law) are provided for family, non-family and criminal cases.
She is the first and only woman in Afghanistan who has trained women entrepreneurs to run a restaurant, and a latrine production center in Herat. In March 2008, she was honored by the State Department of United States of America to receive the Women of Courage 2008 award. In December 2008, her work was recognized and she was awarded the National Medal (Malali Medal) by the President of Afghanistan. In May 2009, for her invaluable work, she was recognized by the TIME Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential persons. Suraya has also been nominated for Voice of Peace Award, 2009 by the Peace Organization, United States of America. She has been awarded with an honorary Associate of Arts degree by the Burlington Country College, New Jersey, Philadelphia, USA in March, 2010. She also was awarded with an Honorary Degree of Doctorate from University of Pennsylvania, USA in 2010. She received the Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2010 from Clinton Global Initiative, USA. She has received the peace Jirga award for her active participation in 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her work was recognized and she was awarded by Victim of Terrorism Foundation, Madrid Spain in 2010. Also she was recognized by Newsweek magazine as 150 Women Who Shake the World. Most recently in October 2012 she has received the Female Leader of the Year Award by the Astraia Female Leadership Foundation, Germany.
Suraya Pakzad was born in Herat, Western Afghanistan. She graduated from Kabul University, Faculty of Literature in 1990.