By Lisa Goh

SHAH ALAM - Human and women's rights activist Zaiton Kasim passed away at 5am Wednesday, after months of battling cancer.

She was 41.

Zaiton, who was affectionately known as Toni, passed away in her sleep at her sister's home in Batu Tiga, Shah Alam. She was laid to rest at about 1pm at the Batu Tiga muslim cemetery.

Her peers described her as "witty, passionate, a wonderfully caring person, one who had an infectious smile and a great sense of humour, a defender of human rights, one whose heart and soul was in her advocacy."

Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) director, and a close friend of Toni, Saira Shameem said she was "multi-diversed and a very strong lady".

"She was involved in so many things - film, TV, drama, human rights advocacy, women's rights, Islam, AIDS and so many other issues.

"Toni was the kind of person who never said 'No' to any challenge, especially if it was about helping others," she said.

Among the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Toni was involved in were Sisters in Islam (SIS), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), the Joint Action Committee (JAC) and Women's Candidacy Initiative (WCI), where she became the first independent woman candidate to run in the 1999 general election.

"She contested for the Selayang seat. She didn't win, but she reduced the majority-vote by about 30,000 votes.

She was planning to run again in the recent general election, but she was already ill then," Saira said.

Toni was diagnosed with fourth stage duodenal cancer in February, and had undergone chemotherapy once. She also practised reiki as an alternative treatment.

Women's Aid Organisation president Meera Samanther said the best thing about Toni was her ability to relate and reach out to the man on the street.

"She had that knack and ability that not many people have," she said.

SIS programme manager Norhayati Kaprawi said Toni's passing was "a great loss to all of us".

"Advocacy was her life," she said.

[Ed. Note: This article was originally published on The Star Online. Isis shares the grief of the feminist and LGBTQI movements with such a loss. See http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/6/4/nation/20080604152134&sec=nation]

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