Gulalai Ismael


Gulalai Ismael lives in NW Pakistan, one of the most dangerous places in the word to be a woman. Aged 15 she started an organisation called Aware Girls to enable females to go to school, for which her colleague Malala Yousefzai was shot in the head. Gulalai has now trained 20 teams of young men and women in Pakistan and Afghanistan to promote a culture of non violence through dialogue. They have reached and dissuaded more than 500 teenagers ‘at risk’ of becoming extremist.

What this means to me. In Gulalai’s work I see the wisdom of a woman to detect precisely what will work better than force. I admire her ability to combine the skills of listening and non-judgment with a steely determination to do what needs doing. I am moved to my core by her example of the world-changing fearlessness needed to transform extremism.

It was back in 1999 that I began to realize just how important is the unsung work of these astonishing people. So I asked Dylan Mathews, a student friend of my daughter Polly to undertake research to find out just how many locally-led peace initiatives were viable and effective, worldwide. He identified 350 of these initiatives, and we wrote up 50 of them in a book which almost immediately sold out “War prevention Works”. Photo of beautiful red cover.

This led to my setting up Peace Direct in 2002, which grew to maturity under the guidance of Carolyn Hayman and has now has gone from strength to strength with its original researcher Dylan Mathews at the helm of a marvelous team.