Senator Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi, 54, is feeling over the moon after receiving the 17th International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award on International Women's Day (March 8) at the White House in Washington, United States.
“I am so grateful for being chosen as one of the recipients by IWCO. I never thought I could be picked, quite honestly, because there are so many amazing women worldwide. But then again, all of us have worked very hard for the community.
“I am thankful the United States government has chosen me as one of the 11 recipients. This is an honour because the (other) awardees are amazing women leaders, and I’m very privileged to be chosen alongside them,” said Ras Adiba in an interview from Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States.
Ras Abida was one of the 11 women worldwide chosen to receive the prestigious award. The award was presented to honour extraordinary women working to build a brighter future for all.
Other recipients were Brigadier General Bolor Ganbold from Mongolia, Alba Rueda, Argentina’s Special Envoy for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and human rights activist Hadeel Abdel Aziz from Jordan.
Ras Adiba said winning the award came as a surprise. She even thought US Ambassador to Malaysia Brian D. McFeeters was pulling her leg when he informed her about the award.
“I received a call from officers from the US Embassy in KL as well as the US ambassador to Malaysia. We have a good relationship, and I thought they were kidding. Then, they asked me to check my email.
"When I read it, it dawned on me that I was one of the finalists chosen from the world. So it is truly an honour to win the award. I am just so stoked. Sometimes when I sit down and think about my past, I smile and remember some of the things I have been doing over the years. I realise the award is the result of the hard work and sacrifice done by me as well as my whole team, our community and association.”
The community activist said receiving the award on March 8 was timely, as it fell on International Women’s Day.
“For a woman, this award is everything because we bring the experiences, sacrifices, hardships and hard work to do what we believe in. I became a disabled person in 2002. It hasn’t been an easy journey. I went through a lot of discrimination, and I still undergo it today.
“This award on IWD is a big step forward for women, especially for disabled women in our country. I pray with this award, it will encourage and inspire more persons with disabilities and girls to reach for the stars and know the word impossible doesn’t exist.”
It was a surreal experience being in the White House, Ras Adiba said.
“All this while, I have only seen the White House on TV. I gawked when I arrived there because it’s so beautiful. The staff were very friendly and professional. It was just magical."Being there with US First Lady Jill Biden and US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken ... it was a dream come true. It was truly an honour.”
A statement issued by the United States Department of State described Ras Adiba as someone who has "spent most of her professional life advancing and promoting human rights, selflessly advocating for vulnerable populations, and using her platforms to shed light on injustices".
In May 2020, Ras Adiba was appointed senator to represent persons with disabilities and in November the same year, she became the first female chairman of the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama).
Ras Adiba also became a national Paralympic sharpshooter. She earned a spot in the Malaysian Book of Records for ‘wheeling’ 420km in 13 days from Johor Baru to Putrajaya in her wheelchair.
She dreams that Malaysia will be a disabled-friendly country.
“It’s my mission to work with institutions to have more facilities for the OKU community. We are all citizens of the country; hence we must ensure the facilities are ready for us. We must create more awareness about the seven types of disabilities through the media.
“Malaysia is also an ageing society and we need to create more facilities for OKU and senior citizens.”
She received many encouraging comments about her award on her Instagram page (@rasadibaradzi).
Five.nineteen_519 said: “Datuk, as a fellow disabled person, there’s no doubt about it that you have made our nation beam with pride.”
“So proud of you big sis. Looking sharp in your Malaysian official uniform,” alizakim wrote.