INDIRA Prahst, Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a full-time instructor at Langara College in Vancouver, received the Renate Shearer Award from United Nations Association in Canada, Vancouver Branch, and B.C. Human Rights Coalition on Wednesday.
The 25th anniversary presentation of the Award was made to Prahst “in recognition of her exemplary commitment as an advocate, activist and educator on challenges related to intercultural and inter-generational issues in the South Asian community of British Columbia.”
Wednesday evening’s event at Vancouver Community College was also a celebration to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Prahst, who is also a regular contributor to Asian Journal, said in her acceptance address: “I feel very honoured to be nominated this year for the Renate Shearer award. I accept it with great humility and responsibility. This award is a symbol of a collective effort which could not be possible without the community support.”
She added: “Tonight, the memory of Renate and her tireless work for human rights continues to be illuminated, and recognized. It has set a precedent that commitment and solidarity are key in mobilizing action for justice and that change can happen with the will of the people when they are united.”
Prahst noted: “I have often asked myself the question, what can I do with my power to empower others, rather than use my power to oppress for more power – which has been the norm in geopolitical times. I work with this conviction.”
She added: “My advocacy has been against structures of inequality, racism, violence against women, steering youth from gangs and historical atrocities. My inspiration has come from my mother, a German who struggled with her history and devoted her time to interview holocaust survivors and women’s resistance to oppressive structures which influenced my work on survivors of the Sikh genocide in 1984. Working on the grass roots level, I have seen the value in bridging academe with activism.”
Prahst said: “In solidarity and exemplified by Renate’s legacy let us continue to work together to draw attention to the fact that violation of basic human rights continue to be a local and global reality. Let us continue to be a strong force of resistance against structures that put profit before human life. And let us move forward in the spirit of hope in the continued struggle for preserving human rights– because life matters.”

(Photos by Chandra Bodalia)