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Sisters in Islam wins international acclaim for empowering Muslim women

Sisters in Islam (SIS) received a coveted international award on Nov 7 in recognition for promoting women’s and human rights within the framework of Islam.

The Casa Asia Award is given by a consortium made up of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, through its Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID); the Government of Catalonia, and the Barcelona and Madrid City Councils.

In his citation, Casa Asia Director-General Juan José Herrera de la Muela said, “Throughout its 21 years of life, Sisters in Islam (SIS) has opened a public space for debate in Malaysia and given voice to Malaysian women regarding their rights under Islamic law or sharia.”

Telenisa, SIS’ legal clinic, has helped many women, particularly at the grassroots level, to address legal problems in the Syariah courts. Telenisa, which started in 2003, assisted 551 clients in 2010, averaging more than one woman a day.

In 2007, SIS, launched two related campaigns. At the local level, the Muslim Family Law campaign aims to change unjust provisions in the Islamic family laws.

At the same time, SIS also initiated Musawah, which began as a grouping that included scholars and activists from around the world. Its premise was to promote justice and equality in the Muslim family.

Musawah made international headlines in early 2009 when it rapidly snowballed into a worldwide movement.

Musawah is now known the world over as a dynamic entity that gives visibility and voice to Muslim women who believe that equality in the family is both possible and necessary.

The Casa Asia Award is given annually to individuals or organisations that stand out in the promotion of dialogue, understanding and knowledge between the societies of Spain and the Asian and Pacific region.

Past recipients include Pakistani women’s rights activist Mukhtar Mai, “for her struggle for the rights of women, justice and dignity of the people of Pakistan” and Cambodia’s Kike Figaredo, “for his struggle to help and rehabilitate the victims of land-mines and for his contribution to human development”.

The 2011 Award ceremony took place on 7 November in Barcelona, Spain. SIS received a trophy and a cash award of 6,000 euro.

Representing SIS were Executive Director Ratna Osman and co-founder Zainah Anwar. They also spoke at the annual Casa Asia 8th East-West Dialogue.

Earlier this year, SIS board member Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir and Zainah were listed among the 100 most inspiring people by Women Deliver, a New York-based global advocacy group championing the rights of women and girls. Zainah was also chosen by Newsweek and The Daily Beast as one of the 150 women “who shake the world”.

Sisters in Islam
8 November 2011


Ratna Osman and Zainah Anwar receiving the Casa Asia Award 2011, from Madam Teresa de la Vega, former Deputy Prime Minister of Spain. The Director General of Casa Asia, Juan Jose de la Muela is 4th person from the right, and next to him is the Ambassador of Spain to Malaysia, Madam Maria Bassols. At the far left is Malaysian Ambassador to Spain, Dato’ Ilankovan