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Malaysian activist, Sarojeni Rengam to the fore

Malaysian activist, Sarojeni Rengam to the fore
The Penang-born Rengam is synonymous in championing gender issues in all areas of PANAPs body of work. - Photo from YouTube
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian activist Sarojeni Rengam has joined the ranks of nominees for an international award for her efforts in mainstreaming gender issues and displaying women leadership in the campaign against toxic pesticides.

Rengam, the Executive Director of Penang-based PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP), is among the nominees for ‘Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified’ award, a recognition by the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions.
The BRS Conventions is a multilateral environmental agreements that aim to protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes.

Based in Switzerland, the award is part of its activities on gender equality.
Rengam is a force to be reckoned with.

For the past 25 years, Rengam has been a firm  advocate of issues on women, farmers, farm workers, indigenous people and other marginalised rural sectors including on the impact of harmful agrochemical, as well as the right to land and resources.

“She has fought for women’s rights and equal rights when it comes to protection from the negative effects of using pesticides; the right to information, the right to choose less harmful alternatives, and the right to protest against poor working conditions,” said Ule Johanson, senior advisor for Development Cooperation, International Unit of Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI).

KEMI, which nominated Rengam, is a supervisory authority under the Government of Sweden responsible for ensuring that companies and society at large conduct controls of chemicals in an acceptable manner.

“Through her work, Rengam has inspired people and organisations in a large number of Southeast Asian countries and slowly conditions are improving.

The work has even led all the way to the global community when PANAP contributed to a strategy to address highly hazardous pesticides, a document arguing that these pesticides should be phased out,” Johanson added.

The Penang-born Rengam is synonymous in championing gender issues in all areas of PANAP’s body of work.


She is tireless in pursuing the endless battle for equality despite her and her staff being subjected to harassments from some large pesticide corporations and plantations.

She constantly engages with the global community through international conventions such as Rotterdam and Stockholm on issues related to highly hazardous pesticides.

Under her leadership, the booklet “Stories from the Field: Women Working Towards a Non-Toxic Environment” was launched to mark the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017.

The booklet documented 25 inspiring stories of women from the Asian region, who have improved their livelihood by adopting non-chemical agricultural practices with the support of PANAP and its partners.

“Sarojeni Rengam is indeed a true gender pioneer for a future detoxified,” Johanson reiterated.

The “Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified” award

On the occasion of the 2017 COPs to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, as part of its activities on gender, the Secretariat wishes to promote gender mainstreaming and showcase the leadership of women and men in governments, Basel and Stockholm Conventions regional centres, civil society, academia and the private sector, who are contributing to these important efforts.

Awards to celebrate “Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified” will recognise 10 women and men for their achievements in advancing gender equality and mainstreaming gender issues in the area of chemicals and wastes.

During the 2017 COPs in Geneva, Switzerland, a ceremony will be held at the side-event on Lessons and best practices integrating gender into implementation: Case studies from Nigeria and Indonesia and new data from the Environment and Gender Information (EGI) platform.

The recipients of the “Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified” awards will be informed by the Secretariat by April 7, 2017.