Nisha Ayub is a renowned trans rights activist and social justice advocate at the forefront of empowering the local transgender community

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Nisha Ayub is one of the driving forces in Southeast Asia at the forefront of the region’s transgender rights movement. Recognised across the globe for her compassionate efforts in empowering as well as protecting the local transgender community, Nisha co-founded Justice for Sisters (JFS), a non-governmental organisation that sought to raise public awareness towards the violent persecution against trans people. Armed with the motto ‘nobody gets left behind’, the activist created Seed in 2007, a grassroots organisation that not only served as a safe space providing food and shelter plus medical services as well.

Having faced ridicule and assault during her own imprisonment at just 21 years old, it is a testament to Nisha’s tenacity that she continues to speak out against Malaysia’s discriminatory laws and its hostile environment towards the local transgender community. In 2014 Nisha had successfully led the charge alongside JFS to challenge a religious law that banned Malaysian Muslim trans women from cross-dressing, which the Court of Appeal had upheld as an infringement against human rights. Though the federal court reversed the ruling in the following year, it was nonetheless a historical moment that marked a positive turning point for the fight for transgender rights in Malaysia.

Recognised for her contributions both local and international, Nisha was honoured with several human rights awards, including the Alison Des Forges Award or Extraordinary Activism in 2015. She is also the only Malaysian to have been featured on the BBC 100 Women of 2019.


"We are more than what society makes us to be."


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When Nisha Ayub first visited the United States as part of the International Visitor Leadership programme, the city of San Diego declared her birthday on April 5, ‘Nisha Ayub Day’, and in the announcement itself, San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer said: “Nisha Ayub continues to fight for equality and protection of all people in her country and beyond its borders.” 

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