Win for trans community: Malaysian activist Nisha Ayub on BBC 100 Women of 2019 list

Tan Mei Zi
Nisha Ayub pictured at T-Home, a project she started to provide shelter to vulnerable elderly trans women in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

PETALING JAYA, Oct 16 — Malaysian activist Nisha Ayub has been recognised by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for her work in assisting the local transgender community.

She is the only Malaysian on the 100 Women of 2019 list, which described her as a “tireless advocate for the rights of transgender people in Malaysia.”

It also referenced her role in co-founding SEED Malaysia, a non-governmental organisation that supports marginalised communities including trans women and those living with HIV/AIDS.

Nisha was honoured alongside other notable women such as Swedish climate change warrior Greta Thunberg, US actress and feminist Bella Thorne, and Iranian athelete Kimia Alizadeh.

The list is part of a multi-format series by the BBC that spotlights the role of women in the 21st century, covering topics such as gender equality, education, healthcare, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and more.

When contacted by Malay Mail, Nisha described the recognition as a win not just for herself but for transgender activists all around the world.

“It’s not just about me but about the other trans activists that are fighting towards our gender identity to be given equal rights just like other human beings.

“The only way to show our existence is by standing up and voicing what we have faced just for being who we are,” she said.

Nisha, who was once imprisoned under Shariah law for cross-dressing, believes that Malaysia still has a long way to go when it comes to protecting the transgender community from discrimination and inhumane treatment.

“Sadly, I still see the continuous effort to change or ‘correct’ the transgender community in Malaysia.

“We need the government to acknowledge our existence, issues, needs, and concerns not as a minority but as citizens that have the same rights as other citizens in Malaysia.

“On a positive note, I see more allies coming up to support the community and this is important to create more awareness in our society.”

Besides directing operations at SEED, Nisha is also the founder of T-Home, a safe space that provides shelter to homeless elderly trans women in Kuala Lumpur.

She was also the first transgender woman to receive the prestigious US International Women of Courage award in 2016.

The US city of San Diego also named April 5 “Nisha Ayub Day” in honour of her bravery as a trans activist.

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