THE curtain raiser of the began with International Women’s Day (March 8) which is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of the gender.

And Malaysians from all walks of life and both sides of the divide were shocked with the demise of two women who fronted rights both here and abroad.

Doyen of women’s rights Puan Sri Sukumani Sekhar passed on late Monday, and just after noon Tuesday news came of the demise of Aegile Fernandez, co-founder of human rights NGO Tenaganita.

A known strong advocate of women and migrants’ rights, the 72-year-old was the younger sister of Tenaganita’s beacon and founder, Irene Fernandez, who passed on in March, seven years ago.

A statement issued by the family described Aegile to be a warm glow of comfort for so many lives, and a bright and enduring light in the fight for justice and equality.

“Keep up her mission for justice, the practice of kindness and her open heart to all who have the least.”

Tributes that flooded social media speaks volumes of the woman and her relentless, untiring walk for justice.

Some included;

“This is sad news. Aegile and her sister the late Irene Fernandez were true activists who fought for the rights of the voiceless among migrant workers. Tenaganita which they founded were raided many times for fighting the authorities but they soldiered on. Their work was recognised internationally, eg, World Women’s conference in Beijing which I covered. Salute to both my friends. Rest in peace Aegile.” – Aishah Ali, former New Straits Times Women Section Editor and Sunday Mail Editor.

“She spent her life fighting a good fight…” – prominent lawyer and human rights advocate Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan.

“Saddened by the passing of our dear Aegile Fernandez of Tenaganita. She was a leading voice on women’s rights, migrants and domestic workers. A great loss to all of us.” – former Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioner Latefah Koya.

Klang Member of Parliament Charles Santiago said he was deeply saddened to learn of Fernandez’s death since knowing her from the days of the Young Christian Workers movement.

“We have one less Human Rights defender of migrants, women & poor. But her legacy will carry on in the work of Tenaganita and many more.”

“Extremely sad to hear the passing of Aegile Fernandez. Deepest condolences to her family and Tenaganita. She was a gem, truly genuine human rights advocate, passionate and relentless in the pursuit of rights for the most vulnerable, especially migrant workers.” – lawyer and social commentator Eric Paulsen.

“For decades she fought for the rights of migrants and Malaysians selflessly, and to work towards a more tolerant, kind and inclusive world.” – Bridget Welsh, University of Nottingham.

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