HERO Awards 2021 Community Partners APN+, APTN and ILGA Asia Unveil much anticipated honourees list

By October 15, 2021 November 29th, 2021 Newsroom, Regional, What We Do


Supported by our Community Partner – APTN

Nisha Ayub


I come from a mixed race background. My journey as an outspoken transgender activist started from my own experienced  being arrested and imprisoned because of my gender identity as a Transwomen.

The whole trauma, discrimination and violence from that ordeal made me who I am today which is to advocate the rights of the community. I would not want anyone from the community to experience the same ordeal as me and to be empowered to speak up for their rights.

Please briefly let us know about your work.

I’m a transgender activist who has been advocating for the rights of the community here in Malaysia since 2007 till to date. I’m the co-founder of SEED, the first ever Trans-Led Organization in Malaysia looking into the development, social welfare, health and care of the community.  In 2017 we have also managed to open a transgender shelter targeting the elderly and a temporary shelter for emergency cases.

I am also one of the co-founders of Justice For Sisters that looks into legislation matters that involve the community. I am a freelance speaker, trainer and facilitator working on the issues, needs and concerns of the community.

What one achievement you’ve accomplished that you’re most proud of.

One achievement that I’m proud to share is when I was able to open the first ever shelter for the transgender community in Malaysia. This has been a personal goal for me since I was involved with the community directly. I have seen the difficulty of many transgender in the community who end up being homeless when they are not able to sustain themselves, especially the elderly and sex workers. Most shelters in Malaysia are based on the binary system and transgender are forced to change their appearance if they would want to stay in those shelters. It’s really devastating to see our elderly transgender community being forgotten and ending up being homeless. Since the opening of the transgender shelter, which is open for temporary shelter to all ages, we have managed to give a home to nearly 30 transgenders in the community.

What do you find most challenging about your work?

The most challenging part in my work is facing the continuous oppression and discrimination from certain political and religious groups .There are laws against Transgender people which eventually create an unsafe environment for the community and visible activist like me. The community has always been used as a political and religious arguments.

What do you do to recharge your battery?

Most of the time when I feel broken or burnt out, I will reach out to my loved ones and my close colleagues for support. The best way is to remove ourselves from social media and concentrate on those that love and care for you genuinely. As for me, spending time  with my loved ones and my pets is a way for me to recharge myself internally.

What is your vulnerability and how do you overcome it?

My vulnerability is my visibility as a Transgender Activist. There is constant fear of being subjected to arbitrary arrest, harassment and violence. I have learned from my previous experiences being attacked that security support and planning is important. Engaging with potential allies such as the embassies, lawyers, other NGOs and activists is crucial as it creates a network of support systems.

What was your reaction to being named one of the honourees for the Transgender Hero category?

I’m truly honoured and proud to be nominated as I believe that this recognition is important towards creating visibility of the community here in Malaysia. This recognition is also a platform to advocate for the community in a regional and international discourse. 

Despite the fact that the COVID-19 is still with us, what is a message that you would like to share with the communities in the Asia Pacific?

Always remember that you are not alone and there are people out there that still care and support the community. We have to continue to advocate for our issues, needs and concerns as our voice matters. We, as a community, should always stay united in solidarity towards creating a better and safer world for our community all around the world. 

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