Nigar Nazar’s polka-dot–clad comic creation, Gogi, has delighted and challenged readers with her humorous take on the life of young women in Pakistan for more than 50 years.

Pakistan’s first woman cartoonist, Nazar introduced Gogi in 1970. Through a mix of word play and social critique, Gogi keeps topics ranging from extremism and corruption to interfaith harmony and the rights of women and girls in the public conversation.

“If you entertain someone, make them laugh through a cartoon, and then you slip in a message, it has a great impact,” Nazar told The Centrum Media. One young girl enlisted Gogi’s adventures in persuading her parents to allow her to stay in school, Nazar said.

Pakistan President Arif Alvi recently honoured Nazar with the country’s Medal of Excellence for her ability to empower women. She is one of 135 people to receive civil awards for outstanding contributions to Pakistan or humanity. Nazar and seven other recipients participated in U.S. government exchange programs.

The U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Program awards students, teachers and professionals with scholarships to study or work in the United States and 160 other countries around the world. Nazar twice participated in Fulbright, first studying at the University of Oregon in 2001 and later serving as a visiting specialist in 2009. She visited numerous U.S. cities, studied drawing, held workshops open to people ages 8–80 and collaborated with young illustrators.

“The Fulbright experience was invaluable as it gave me the confidence to manage my time and affairs independently,” Nazar said. Inspector General Akbar Nasir Khan of the Islamabad Police received the Civil Gallantry Award for investigating individuals suspected of terrorism, murder and other crimes. As a Fulbright scholar in 2009, Khan earned a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University.

Imran Rasool Khan, of Pakistan Customs, received a Medal of Excellence for implementing policies to combat money laundering. Khan earned a Master of Public Policy from American University with support from the Fulbright Program in 2015. Pakistan’s first visually impaired diplomat, Saima Saleem, also received a Medal of Excellence.

She serves as counsellor for the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations. Saleem attended Georgetown University through the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Exchange program in 2011. The U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) brings current and emerging foreign leaders to the United States to learn about U.S. culture, exchange ideas with their American counterparts and cultivate lasting connections.

Businesswoman Jehan Ara was honoured with a Medal of Excellence for her 25 years of information technology and business startup leadership. Ara, who participated in an IVLP exchange in 2004, works to advance women leaders and serves on the Prime Minister’s Task Force on IT and the Digital Economy.

Nadeem Malik was one of three IVLP alumni honoured for their contributions to journalism, receiving a Star of Excellence. A 2001 IVLP participant, he hosts a current events show on Samaa TV, a major news channel in Pakistan.

Journalist Aamir Ilyas Rana, the Express Tribune’s Islamabad bureau chief, was awarded a Medal of Excellence. He covers Pakistan’s civil bureaucracy and provides political analysis. Rana participated in an IVLP exchange in 2010.

A widely read news columnist and talk show host, Muhammed Javed Chaudhry was honoured with a Star of Excellence in recognition of his 25 years in journalism. The 2001 IVLP participant has written eight books and runs tourism and coaching companies, according to the Express News Group, where he works.