Women’s rights activist Nighat Dad was honoured with the Atlantic Council Digital Freedom Award for 2016 in a ceremony at the Global Forum in Wroclaw, Poland, on Friday.

The award was delivered by former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who praised Nighat for her dedication towards not just digital rights but also her efforts in ensuring a safer and more accessible Pakistan for women.

Nighat Dad Receives the 2016 Atlantic Council Digital Freedom ...

Our Executive Director Nighat Dad has been given the Atlantic Council Digital Freedom Award for 2016. She is the second Pakistani to win the award, and the only woman who was honoured in 2016. She was presented the award by former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in a decorated ceremony.

Posted by Digital Rights Foundation on Saturday, 4 June 2016

The Atlantic Council Freedom Awards were established in 2009 in Berlin. They commemorate dedication to peace and freedom. Before Dad the award has only ever been given to one Pakistani: Malala.

The event was attended by 450 delegates which included activists, dignitaries, politicians and more.  

“Over the past quarter century, we have borne witness to rising social tensions and economic uncertainty. Global conflicts that cause millions of refugees to flee those same conflicts, for a better life for their children. Religious extremists and the far right are on the rise, exploiting the fear and insecurity of many. Ours is an unstable world.

“It is in this context that governments have the duty to protect their citizens from harm, to ensure their physical safety both in the present and in the foreseeable future. But it is vital that governments be reminded that security must not and cannot come at the cost of civil liberty,” Dad said at the event.  

Digital rights have only recently started to become more mainstream in Pakistan, and this award comes at an interesting time when Senators are actively trying to block an upcoming weak piece of legislation meant to cover digital crimes.

“The panel’s focus on these issues shows that they understand the need for concern over such issues. No governments should be able to monitor their citizens under the garb of security - judicial oversight is the need of the hour,” Dad told The Nation over telephonic interview from Wroclaw.

As she is commemorated for her fight for digital rights abroad, Dad realizes that the situation back home is not as easy. “Activists working for the rights of the average Pakistani are called traitors at home but heroes abroad. I hope the award helps the government see that together we can combine forces and do a better job of ensuring due democratic process,” she said.

Dad’s organization, the Digital Rights Foundation, has been on the forefront of the fight to ensure digital rights for not just regular Pakistanis, but also minorities and dissidents that are often sidelined and face greater oppression.

Through the Hamara Internet campaign, the organization has trained hundreds of women in how to stay safe and secure online.