Lawyer and vegetable seller win Asian ‘Nobel Prize’

A Supreme Court lawyer from Bangladesh known for her determination in tackling sensitive environmental and social cases and a vegetable vendor from Taiwan were among the winners of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award, often dubbed ‘Asia’s Nobel Prize’.

Also honored were scientists from Cambodia and the Philippines who have helped transform yields for poor farmers, Yang Saing Koma and Romulo Davide, an Indonesian natural-resources advocacy leader Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto and Kulandei Francis, a philanthropist who started a women’s self-help group in rural India.

Syeda Rizwana Hasan was recognized for “her uncompromising courage and impassioned leadership in a campaign of judicial activism in Bangladesh that affirms the people’s right to a good environment as nothing less than their right to dignity and life.”

A former student of the elite Viqarunnisa Noon School in Dhaka, Hasan’s upbringing contrasts sharply with that of Taiwanese winner Chen Shu-chu, a grocery vendor who came from a poor family and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help children trapped in poverty.

After running her small vegetable stall in Taitung County for nearly half a century, she donated a quarter of a million US dollars from her meager profits to build a children’s library – among other projects – at a school she herself attended.

During her long yet humble career she has regularly repeated the same motto: “Money serves its purpose only when it is used for those who need it.”

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