Honoured for their acts of kindness

KUALA LUMPUR: Academician Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid, activist Zainah Anwar and the founders of the Dignity for Children Foundation have received awards from the United Nations.

UN resident coordinator for Malaysia, Stefan Priesner, said they were given the honour for their outstanding contributions under the respective categories of sustainability, human rights and leaving no one behind (inclusivity and well-being for all) as outlined in UN’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

“Our UN Malaysia Awards are closely linked to priorities that are derived from the moral underpinnings of the UN Charter that have stood the test of time in preventing catastrophic world wars, ” said Priesner.

He said this during the award presentation ceremony in conjunction with UN’s 74th anniversary celebration at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya presented the awards.

Zakri had contributed towards promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainability of environment over the last four decades.

He is the founding chair of an intergovernmental science policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem.

“Malaysia has walked the talk in environment conservation. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had during the 1992 Earth Summit pledged that at least 50% of land in Malaysia will be covered in forest. And today, we are proud to tell the world that 52% of our country is still covered in forest, ” he said.

He also said that oil palm plantations and the industry had helped alleviate poverty in Malaysia.

“Poverty alleviation is one of UN’s sustainable development goals, ” he said when asked about the European Union’s unfair policy against Malaysia’s palm oil.

Zainah, who is a columnist with The Star, was honoured for relentlessly championing human rights issues as well as fundamental freedom in relation to the rights and empowerment of women over the last three decades.

Her next mission is to actively push for the setting up of a child support agency in Malaysia to go after those shirking alimony payments.

“The government must set up a child support agency to ensure no divorced couples neglect their duty in providing for childcare, ” she said.

Zainah’s next global project is to promote gender equality and justice for women facing resistance in the name of Islam.

Reverend Elisha Satvinder and his wife Petrina Shee, who established the Dignity for Children Foundation, won the award for providing quality and holistic education to about 8,000 underprivileged and marginalised children over the last 21 years.

Satvinder said it all started in 1998 when a 12-year-old Rohingya boy named Mohd Yasin begged for money from his wife. The boy was crying and claimed his mother was sick, he said.

“My wife decided to visit the boy’s mother to give them some food and we were shocked to find an entire community living in deplorable conditions. We felt sad seeing so many children deprived of education.

“We wanted to give those students an opportunity to study and acquire skills, so they could help themselves out of the cycle of poverty, ” he said. He added that some of these children had succeeded in pursuing a higher education while others had acquired skills to work in areas of their interest.

Satvinder said there was one boy who did badly in school but took up hairdressing at their centre in Sentul.

“He is now a much sought-after hairstylist at a British-brand hair saloon in Publika.

“Customers have to fix appointments for his service. He is now earning more than me, ” said Satvinder.

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