PRESS RELEASE: Zainah Anwar Receives United Nations Malaysia Award 2019
(Kuala Lumpur) 24 October 2019 – Musawah’s Executive Director Zainah Anwar today received the United Nations Malaysia Award 2019 for her contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms category.
The award, which honours outstanding contributions of individuals and organisations embodying the underlying principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, recognises Zainah’s more than three decades at the forefront of fighting for women’s rights in Malaysia and around the world.
“This award is not just an honour for me but, most importantly, for Sisters in Islam and Musawah, for our ongoing struggle to stand up for women’s rights in Islam. It is also a recognition of the courage of Muslim women in different parts of the world who dare to speak out against those who abuse God’s name to justify injustice and discrimination,” Zainah said. “This is the 21st century. There can be no justice without equality. It is as simple as that.”
Zainah co-founded two groundbreaking women’s rights groups that engage with Islam from a rights perspective to promote the rights of women living in Muslim contexts: Sisters in Islam, which advocates for women’s rights in Malaysia, and Musawah, the global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. With the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action and focus on SDG+5 on gender equality, Zainah’s award comes as Musawah and other international and national civil society ramp up efforts to spotlight the urgent need to reform global family laws, including Muslim family law and personal status laws, that discriminate against women and girls.
“We at Sisters in Islam are proud to be part of her journey,” said Sisters in Islam’s Executive Director Rozana Isa.
During a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the ratification of the United Nations charter, Zainah was joined by two other awardees for the UN Malaysia Award 2019: Dignity for Children Foundation, for striving to break the cycle of poverty through quality and holistic education to underprivileged and marginalised children, and Tan Sri Zakri bin Abdul Hamid, for his contributions to promoting nature conservation and restoration and environmental sustainability. Past recipients of the award include Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, who is the chair of Musawah’s board of directors.
“Ms. Zainah has weathered many challenges in her quest for justice, fairness and rights for women and girls everywhere – and has remained steadfast in her advocacy for change in spite of it all,” wrote the United Nations Country Team in its citation.
Zainah is a sought-after international speaker and a prolific writer, currently writing a monthly column, Sharing the Nation, in Malaysia’s largest English-language daily, The Star. In 2018, she was honoured by Harvard Law School as one of the top 25 women globally who contributed in the areas of law and policy. She has been named by Newsweek and The Daily Beast as one of the “150 women who shake the world” and by Women Deliver as one of 100 most inspiring people championing the rights of women and girls, and she was cited by the online International Museum of Women as one of the 10 leading Muslim women at the global level.