Rising Voices’ Activismo Lenguas initiative receives International Mother Language Award

Screenshot from the public video by Shahedul Khabir Chowdhury of the International Mother Language Award ceremony held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on February 21, 2021.

The International Mother Language Institute (IMLI) of Bangladesh has awarded Rising Voices’ Activismo Lenguas (Language Digital Activism) initiative the prestigious International Mother Language Award 2021, in recognition of the project's “outstanding contribution towards the protection, promotion and revitalization of indigenous language(s).”

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Chief Patron of IMLI, presented the awards at a small ceremony held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on February 21, 2021.

This is the first year the IMLI has recognized four individuals and organizations, both national and international, for their language-related work. The awards are given in commemoration of International Mother Language Day, which has been observed worldwide on February 21 since its proclamation in 1999. Criteria for the biennial award include “special contributions towards the innovation of digital technology with regard to the preservation, protection and revitalization of mother language.”

Rising Voices, Global Voices’ outreach and digital inclusion section, launched the Latin America-focused Activismo Lenguas initiative in 2014, following the First Gathering of Indigenous Language Digital Activism held in Oaxaca, Mexico, of which Rising Voices was a co-organizer. Since that initial meeting, similar gatherings have been held in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Chile, with the aim of creating spaces and networks for peer learning and exchange.

In addition to these events, Rising Voices has supported small-scale digital activism projects in four countries, conducted two participatory research projects, created an online directory of digital projects, convened a Network of Indigenous Language Digital Activists, and created the ongoing @ActLenguas social media campaign, where indigenous language activists take turns recounting their experiences with the use of technology for language preservation.

“This award is a testament to the impact that language digital activists are having across Latin America and the great potential of their work,” said Rising Voices’ Director Eddie Avila.

“By leveraging the power of the internet and digital technology, these activists are demonstrating the power of these tools to attract new generations of speakers and for their languages to have a greater presence online. We accept this award on behalf of the hundreds of indigenous language activists and their communities, who have shared their vast knowledge and experience with others and made this movement possible. We look forward to continuing to support them as we head into the International Decade of Indigenous Languages in 2022.”

Other 2021 winners include Professor Mohammad Rafiqul Islam and Mathura Bikash Tripura of the Jabrang Welfare Association of Bangladesh. The other international awardee was Islaimov Gulom Mirzaevich, recognized for his work on the Uzbek language.

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