Guyanese civil society activist, Zenita Nicholson was Wednesday awarded the United States (US) embassy’s first International Woman of Courage Award for her work against homophobia and fighting for women’s rights.
“This award is about courage and leadership. Zenita Nicholson embodies these principles and exemplifies the traditions of personal freedom and equality that remain shared values between Guyana and the United States,” said US Embassy Charge d’Affaires, Bryan Hunt before presenting her with the award.
Inscribed are the words “In Recognition of your exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment and raising public awareness to protect the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons.”
The award, in recognition of International Women’s Day that was observed on March 8, was established in 2007 by the Secretary of State to honour women globally who have exemplified exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality and social progress often at great risk.
Nicholson was also credited for her work to improve the conditions of women and children through advocacy and education.
The lobbyist is a volunteer with the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and Country Coordinator for Caribbean Vulnerable Communities/ PANCAP Global Fund Round 9 “Vulnerable Groups” project.
In her acceptance speech, Nicholson said the award was testimony to the support of others including her mother and children. She said her advocacy has been inspired by the LGBT community in Guyana- “a country where adult same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing are criminalized and highly stigmatized” , “those whose daily lives are filled with violence, rejection, abuse and discrimination” and “those who are being denied their rights to work, health, education and freedom of expression, and other basic rights that many of us take for granted.”
She dedicated the award to the LGBT Guyanese who fight daily struggles for their very existence, without recognition, reward or recompense. She also accepted the award in memories of Charcoe, Tiffany, Darshanie and others “whose lives were snuffed out due to hate and stigma”.
Nicholson has lobbied and engaged government, local politicians, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Guyana’s Committee on Rights of the Child and the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to improve the lot of the LGBT community, children and women.