MALAYSIA’S leading defender of trangender rights, Nisha Ayub, was a recipient of the prestigious International Women of Courage Award on Tuesday in Washington D.C.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the award to Nisha and 13 others in recognition for their courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress.
In his speech, Kerry lauded Nisha for standing up for Malaysia’s transgender community, which still faces violence, discrimination, and oppression.
He said that despite threats to her own safety, Nisha remained committed to her work because “it’s what she cares about and because she knows it’s the right thing to do”.
“Nisha Ayub – for your extraordinary work to promote societies that are more just, fair and tolerant, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, we honor you,” said Kerry.
Established in 2007, the annual award has been accorded to nearly 100 women from 60 different countries. Nisha is the first transwoman to be presented with the accolade.
After accepting the award, Nisha wrote on her Facebook page:
“This award is not just for me, but it is for all trans-women as it shows that we trans-women are recognized and accepted as being a part of this international award that is for women. It’s an honor to receive this award on behalf of the community.”
She also thanked the transgender community for their support and dedicated the award to them.
“Thank you to my beloved community that has allowed me to speak on their behalf,” she added.
Last year, Nisha also received global recognition when she was awarded the Alison Des Forges Award by international human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch for extraordinary activism.
Nisha is an outspoken advocate for transgender rights, something which is still considered taboo in Malaysia, speaking up about her experience of being thrown in jail for three months for cross-dressing and being sexually abused by the prison warden and other prisoners.
She is also the co-founder of two NGOs: the community-run SEED Foundation and transgender grassroots campaign Justice for Sisters.