The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University present the 2019 Award for Courage and Leadership to Chhaya Sharma (center), an officer of the Indian Police Service, in May, 2019. Photo courtesy of the McCain Institute.

Asia Society has announced its 2019 Asia Game Changers, a group of inspiring and path-breaking women who are making a transformative impact in Asia and beyond.

In partnership with Citi, Asia Society annually honors game-changing leaders from a broad geographic range and varied backgrounds; this year marks the first time that all of the honorees are women.

“Our 2019 Asia Game Changers are women who have truly championed gender equality while making enormous contributions to society and social structures within their home countries,” said Asia Society President and CEO Josette Sheeran, in a statement. “They are inspiring agents of change who are building a better world – for women and for everyone – by changing the rules, changing the game, and challenging all of us to follow their lead.”

Asia Society’s 2019 honorees include Japan’s Yuriko Koike, the country’s first female defense minister and first female governor of Tokyo, who has paved the way for other women leaders in her country; Chhaya Sharma, who led the investigation and prosecution of several high-profile crimes in India, and transformed police work and the roles of policewomen; China’s Jane Jie Sun, the dynamic and trailblazing leader of Ctrip, a 25-billion-dollar travel company where more than half of the employees are women; and Faiza Saeed, the Presiding Partner of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, the first woman to lead the prestigious law firm, which celebrates its bicentennial this year, according to a press release.

Asia Society is also honoring Sana Mir, recognized as one of the world’s greatest cricket players and former captain of Pakistan’s national team, who has championed women’s participation in this male-dominated sport; Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi of the United Arab Emirates, a pioneer in the art world who has tirelessly promoted greater cultural understanding and exchange in the Middle East and around the world; and the Kung Fu Nuns of India and Nepal, who have harnessed their mastery of martial arts to smash patriarchal structures and empower girls and young women in the Himalayas and beyond.

Now in its sixth year and made possible with support from founding partner Citi, the Asia Game Changer Awards Dinner and Celebration will be held in New York City on October 24, 2019 at Cipriani 25 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.

Among the awards presenters that evening will be figure skating champions and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani; 2018 Asia Game Changer of the Year Indra Nooyi, former chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo and a Trustee of Asia Society; as well as 2017 Asia Game Changer awardee Jean Liu, who revolutionized transportation in China.

The evening will also feature a performance by the renowned Young People’s Chorus of New York City, and a “Taiko and Tap” rhythm showcase by Japan’s award-winning tap dancer Kazunori Kumagai and the innovative multi-instrumentalist and composer Kaoru Watanabe, as well as a special demonstration by The Kung Fu Nuns.

The Asia Game Changer Awards, established by Asia Society in 2014 with founding partner Citi, are designed to fill a vital gap in recognition and celebration of those making a positive contribution to the future of Asia and the world. Former Asia Game Changers include Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, internet entrepreneur Jack Ma, actor and activist Dev Patel, His Highness the Aga Khan, and other inspirational figures spanning the realms of policy, business, science, arts and culture, education, and technology.

Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia Society is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to address a range of challenges facing Asia and the rest of the world.  Asia Society has cultural centers and public buildings in New York, Hong Kong, and Houston, and offices in Los Angeles, Manila, Mumbai, Tokyo, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, Washington, D.C., and Zurich. Across the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, Asia Society provides insight, generates ideas, and promotes collaboration between Asia and the world.

Earlier this year, in May, Sharma was presented the 2019 Award for Courage and Leadership by The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University.

Sharma, an officer of the Indian Police Service, is currently serving as deputy inspector general (DIG) at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India.

A resolute guardian of human rights, Sharma has led teams in detection and investigation of sensitive criminal cases and protection of human rights during her career spanning over 19 years. Sharma’s policing has consistently reflected victim-centric approach through her numerous investigations of serious crimes, particularly against women and children.

Since 2015, as DIG (Investigation) at NHRC, Sharma has been instrumental in bringing the voices of the victims of human rights’ violations for effective redressal by the National Commission. For this, she has guided a lean but effective unit of officers who directly meet the victims during spot enquiries. In addition to her background of being a police officer, her tenure with NHRC has allowed her to have pan-India outreach and deal with subjects including public health, food security, right to education, good governance and LGBTQ rights.

Her stellar contribution, however, has been leading the investigation of the infamous Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case of December 2012 in New Delhi, said the McCain Institute.

As the head of the special investigation team, she closely supervised all aspects of investigation of this blind case by actively taking charge of the situation – making quick decisions, giving directions, assimilating information and guiding with succinct inputs – all the while coordinating efforts of various teams.

During the six grueling days of the manhunt across five Indian States, Sharma stood as a shield for her team of officers and men, insulating them from mounting media and civil society pressures, which led to quick apprehension of the perpetrators of that ghastly crime. As the lead investigator, Sharma kept the focus on meticulous documentation and collection of scientific evidence including use of forensic techniques like analysis for bite marks as evidence, hitherto unexplored in India. Scientific evidence was collated, stitched into the charge-sheet and filed in a record 18 days, which withstood various stages of judicial scrutiny all the way up to the Indian Supreme Court, the highest appellate authority, resulting in conviction with maximum punishment.

Early in her career, Sharma successfully led several police operations for rescuing minors from commercial sexual exploitation for which she has received Commendation from the High Court of Delhi in 2001.

Sharma’s investigation and prosecution of human trafficking finds a prominent mention in a research published by the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi in 2005. This research credited her for causing a paradigm shift in law enforcement in the human trafficking of women and children in India. Her avowed mission against human trafficking continues in her present role with the NHRC as well, where she has played a critical role in drafting Standard Operating Procedures and Guidelines to Combat Trafficking of Persons in India in 2017. Sharma has also been an active participant of the Core Group on issues of Human Trafficking, which advises the NHRC.

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