KUALA LUMPUR: She may not have stood tall at the US State Department, but single mother M. Indira Gandhi received no less than a standing ovation here for her courage.
Having missed out on the State Department’s 2018 International Women of Courage (IWOC) award, Indira’s grand efforts proved not in vain when she was honoured by the US Embassy in a special ceremony yesterday.
US Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir said Indira was the embassy’s unanimous choice for this year’s award.
“We want to recognise her for her struggles, and her struggles go beyond her own family. It’s for all Malaysians.
“We recognise women who take the struggles forward and that is Indira Gandhi,” declared Lakhdhir at the envoy’s residence here.
The IWOC Award, now in its 12th year, recognises women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risks and sacrifices.
US diplomatic missions nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, with the finalists selected and approved by senior State Department officials.
US First Lady Melania Trump met the 10 finalists from around the world at a ceremony in Washington last week.
Indira, a 41-year-old kindergarten teacher, made headlines several times here during a nine-year legal battle against the unilateral conversion of her three children to Islam.
The legal saga began in April 2009, when Indira’s ex-husband K. Pathmanathan @ Muhammad Riduan Abdullah converted their three children.
He later took their youngest child, Prasana, then 11 months old, from the family home.
Tevi Darshiny, then 12, and Karan Dinesh, then 11 – remained with their mother.
On Jan 29, the Federal Court ruled in Indira’s favour, nullifying the unilateral conversion in a landmark decision.
The court ruled that the conversion of minors to Islam required the consent of both parents.
The court also ordered police to locate Riduan and Prasana, and to return the child to Indira.
Indira gave thanks to her lawyers, friends and family, saying she had not expected to be honoured by the US government.