Rohingya activist nominated for US State Dept Award

Image from The Star

By John Isaac

Sharifah Shakirah, 24, who founded the Rohingya Women's Development Network (RWDN) has been nominated as Malaysia's candidate for the US Department of State's International Women of Courage Award.

The US Embassy, in a statement, said its Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir will host a reception at the ambassador’s official residence tomorrow in conjunction with International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, which is celebrated every March in the United States.

Sharifah, 24, who was born in Buthidaung Township in Arakan state, Myanmar, founded RWDN, which is the first Rohingya women’s group in Malaysia, in December 2016.

She is the oldest of six siblings.

RWDN is a self-funded organisation aimed to empower women by harnessing their abilities and by providing them with opportunities to be leaders.

Sharifah has on her part organised classes for women consisting of general education, education on sexual reproductive health as well as Quran-reading.

Previous nominees from Malaysia were former Bersih chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan, the late human rights activist and Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez, former Bersih chairman and Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, human rights lawyer Honey Tan, social activist Ivy Josiah, human rights activist Aegile Fernandez, and transgender rights activist Nisha Ayub and  Indira Ghandi, who fought her children’s unilateral conversion.

The Award is presented by the US Department of State to acknowledge women around the world who have shown courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment.

The Award was established in 2007 by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.