South Asians for Human Rights

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This picture taken on August 20, 2018 shows Rohingya refugee Sharifah Shakirah, 25, founder of the Rohingya Women Development Network, posing for a photograph at her office in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: AFPThe Star Online, Petaling Jaya

Sharifah Shakirah, who helps improve the lives of Rohingya women in Malaysia, has been nominated as Malaysia’s candidate for the US Department of State’s International Women of Courage award.

In a statement, the US embassy said US Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir will host a reception at the ambassador’s official residence on Wednesday (March 13) in conjunction with International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, which is celebrated every March in the United States.

Sharifah, 24, founded the Rohingya Women’s Development Network (RWDN), the first Rohingya women’s group in Malaysia, in December 2016.

Global activist group Free Rohingya Coalition, on its website, said Sharifah was born in Buthidaung Township in Arakan state, Myanmar.

She is the oldest of six siblings.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) website, Sharifah had said she decided to improve the lives of the Rohingya women after listening to a community leader berate women.

UNHCR said RWDN, which is self-funded, aims to empower women by harnessing their abilities and by providing them with opportunities to be leaders.

It added that Sharifah does this by organising 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, transgender rights activist Nisha Ayub and  Indira Ghandi, who fought her children’s unilateral conversion.

The International Women of Courage 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.

Copyright: The Star Online/ Asia News Network