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NEW YORK — Four activists aged 30 and under were honored here Wednesday night at the annual Reebok Human Rights Award ceremony. They spoke of their causes and challenges that included imprisonment, death threats and harassment.

The award winners were Yinka Jegede-Ekpe, 25, an AIDS activist from Nigeria; Ahmad Nader Nadery, 28, of Afghanistan, a member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission; Vanita Gupta, 29, an American lawyer with the NAACP, and Joênia Batista de Carvalho/Wapixana, 30, of Brazil, who was that country’s first female indigenous lawyer and who now fights for her people’s rights to their ancestral lands.

This story first appeared in the May 7, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“I am accepting this award on behalf of millions of Afghans who lost their lives and have suffered during the last three decades under the Taliban,” Nadery said. “Afghan women have been treated as subhuman and it’s time we reach out to those deprived of basic human rights.”

There was some star wattage at the ceremony at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Among the presenters were Jessica Lange, Gloria Reuben and Lucy Liu, as well as Caroline Kennedy and Vernon Jordan. The event featured video tributes about human rights, and musical performances by singer Nellie McKay and Jabali Africa.

“Our goal is to use the awards as an instrument to make change,” Paul Fireman, Reebok’s chairman and chief executive officer, told WWD. “We like to encourage young people to get involved and also show kids that they can make a difference.”

Reebok started the program in 1988, and has presented awards to 76 people in 35 counties. The presenters each receive a grant of $50,000 to further their human rights work. The ceremony takes place in a different city each year, and is scheduled for London in 2005.

— Melanie Kletter

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