- She is among 12 women recognized for their courage, strength, and leadership.
Nepali transgender activist Bhumika Shrestha is among 12 recipients of the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. Now in its 16th year, “the award recognizes women from around the world who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equity and equality, and the empowerment of women and girls, in all their diversity, and more, often at great personal risk and sacrifice,” said a State Department press release. Since the inception of the award in March 2007, the Department of State has recognized more than 170 women from over 80 countries.
The awards were presented on March 9 by First Lady Jill Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. “These twelve women are separated by thousands of miles – but they are united in their dedication to serving their countries and communities with extraordinary courage and self-sacrifice,” Blinken said in a State Department newsletter.
Shrestha, who was born as a boy in a middle-class family in Nepal, has advocated for gender minorities’ rights and social justice since 2007. Despite the entrenched social stigma and historical biases against transgender persons, she has helped lead the movement for gender minority recognition.
Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled that individuals could be identified as a ‘third/other gender’ on citizenship documents, thanks in large part to her activism in 2007. In the spring of 2021, she successfully advocated changing her citizenship document from “other” to ‘“female.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she advocated with the Government of Nepal to ensure the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community were met at the policy level. At the same time, she worked at the grassroots level to ensure medical, economic, and mental health needs were being met.