The first Didi Nirmala Deshpande South Asian Peace and Justice Award for 2013 has been conferred on Sunila Abeysekera, leading women and human rights' defender in Sri Lanka and South Asia, and a major player in the global women's movement.
To give the award as a mark of abiding respect for Deshpande and a permanent tribute to her service to humanity, Pakistan Labour Trust, an associate of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, had instituted the award, which carries an amount of Rs1 million. Abeysekera is currently based at the Institute for Social Studies in The Netherlands as the recipient of the Scholars at Risk fellowship.
Her work has been recognised through many awards, including UN Human Rights Prize from Kofi Annan and the 2008 Human Rights Defender Award from Human Rights Watch.
Abeysekera has lived a courageous life on the forefront of many social movements, fighting relentlessly for justice and human rights — for women and on behalf of all those who experience identity-based discrimination, persecution and marginalisation.