1996 - UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence

News 1st October 1996
A collective of thirty-two women's associations in Rwanda
The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence in 1996 was awarded to a collective of thirty-two women's associations in Rwanda. From right to left: Representatives of the women's associations with the SAF Founder Madanjeet Singh and his son Jeet Singh.

Collective of Rwandan women's organizations named first winner of the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence in 1996.

The Director-General, Mr. Federico Mayor, has awarded the first UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence to a collective of women's organizations in Rwanda for their work to promote women's role in building peace and combating social injustice.

"Today we recognize the Pro-femmes Twese Hamwe of Rwanda, an association of 32 women's groups that has worked in extremely difficult conditions to promote peace in this country," Mr. Mayor said. "Just as their name Twese Hamwe means 'all together,' this first UNESCO prize for tolerance is an opportunity for all of us to bring international attention to their brave and visionary work in the service of tolerance."

The Director-General selected Pro-femmes as the winner after an international four-person jury headed by the Most Rev. Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, met at UNESCO Headquarters and presented its recommendations. This US $40,000 prize honours significant activities in the scientific, artistic, cultural or communications fields aimed at advancing tolerance and non-violence.

This award recognizes Pro-femmes for "their outstanding contributions in rehabilitating families and communities devastated by mass violence, through their activities fostering a climate of peace based on tolerance and non-violence," Archbishop said.

These women's groups assembled together shortly after the April 1994 massacres in Rwanda that devastated the country's economy and infrastructure. Together they launched the Action Campaign for Peace to fight for social justice and against impunity and the denial of women's rights.

This association supports its member groups' rural development programs, operations to aid widows and orphans, health and other training activities.

Mr. Mayor also announced that three individuals will be recognized with honourable mentions. Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Cuban writer Senel Paz and Professor Abdusalam A. Gusseinov, head of Moscow Lomonosov State University's Department of Ethics will be honoured for their dedication and achievements in promoting peace and tolerance in their writing and other activities.

Members of the jury
Members of the jury from right to left: Rev. Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Syed Raza, Director-General UNESCO Federico Mayor,
French Rabbi René-Samuel Sirat and SAF Founder Madanjeet Singh.

UNESCO's Executive Board established this prize in June 1995 to mark the United Nations Year for Tolerance and the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi last year. The jury examined 26 candidates, individuals, institutions or projects from 17 countries that were nominated by governments or non-governmental organizations.
The jury evaluated the idealism, effectiveness and impact of the candidates' activities.

The prize will be awarded at Headquarters on 18th November, two days after the International Day of Tolerance, a date chosen last year by UNESCO's main decision-making body, the General Conference, when it adopted the UNESCO Declaration of Principles on Tolerance.

The prize will be awarded every two years on or close to this date to encourage new efforts to spread the spirit of tolerance and non-violence.

Madanjeet Singh, artist, writer, career diplomat and special advisor to the Director-General, initiated and endowed the prize. lmprisoned during Mahatma Gandhi's "Quit India" non-violent movement against British colonial rule, he has also served as Ambassador of India in Asia, South America, Africa and Europe.