Malaysian senator and former Paralympian Ras Adiba receives International Woman of Courage award
The US State Department has awarded Senator Ras Adiba Radzi the 2023 International Woman of Courage (IWOC) award, making her Malaysia’s fourth recipient.
The disability-rights advocate was one of 11 recipients chosen from among 60 candidates from around the world at the White House award ceremony on March 11.
Speaking to Free Malaysia Today, she said: “It never occurred to me that I would receive this award because there were 60 women who were being observed by the State Department.
“Whenever people ask me whether it was true I won the award, I will tell them I did, but I have to pinch myself after that. I still can’t believe it, not because I don’t want the award, but because it is so special.”
Ras Adiba was chosen for consistently advancing and promoting human rights through her profession and for calling attention to injustice on various social media platforms.
The assessment included her work as a senator who advocates for people with disabilities.
The former newscaster said she got “brownie points” when she was chosen as the chairman of Bernama.
“I joked with them that they have been stalking us for a long time. In actuality, they have been observing us for a long time to see our contribution to the community.
“Among the recipients are doctors who come from countries in turmoil while others have gone to prison numerous times defending women’s rights.”
Other awardees include Afghan human rights advocate Dr Zakira Hekmat, Argentina’s special envoy for sexual orientation and gender identity Alba Rueda, and Costa Rican indigenous rights advocate Doris Rios.
The IWOC was founded in 2007 to recognise women who have shown courage, strength, and leadership in bringing about positive change in their communities. So far, it has recognised over 180 women from 80 countries.
Ambiga Sreenevasan, a lawyer-activist, Nisha Ayub, a transgender activist, and Susanna Liew, the wife of abducted pastor Raymond Koh, are among the other Malaysians to receive the IWOC.
“When we arrived at the White House, we were stunned,” Ras Adiba said. “But, we felt appreciated as the staff made sure we were comfortable. We felt like royalty and were very thankful.
“This is the first time since Covid-19 that they have given out the award at the White House. The last time was three years ago.”
She said it was surreal to visit the White House which she had admired when she was young and later as a media person.
She said the award had boosted her resolve to continue helping people, especially the disabled.
“If able-bodied people can go to school, we want the same for us,” she said. “We also want to live in a home that is accessible. We are Malaysian citizens and deserve to be given the same rights.”
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