Shock, grief over death of fearless Guyanan activist

Zenita Nicholson and her daughter in happy times, as the Kaieteur News captioned Nicholson's photo. (Photo courtesy of Kaieteur News)
Zenita Nicholson and her daughter in happy times, as the Kaieteur News captioned Nicholson’s photo. (Photo courtesy of Kaieteur News)

LGBTI advocates are mourning the death of Guyanan activist Zenita Nicholson on Oct. 26, apparently by suicide.

She received the International Woman of Courage Award in 2014 from the U.S. Embassy in Guyana in recognition of her work for women’s rights and the human rights of LGBT people.

Her apparent suicide “has shown that even the toughest and strongest persons can give in to pressure at times,” the Kaieteur News wrote. “It is believed that the woman, after being constantly abused, both mentally and physically by her partner, decided to end her life. Nicholson’s death has sent shockwaves throughout the country as she was known as someone who fought against discrimination and human rights abuses and domestic violence for years.”

Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) stated that:

[SASOD] is shocked and saddened by the news of the death of one our leading activists and former board member, Zenita Temall Nicholson.

Zenita joined SASOD in May 2011 as a member and Coordinator of the “Human Rights Education for the Protection of Sexual and Gender Minorities in Guyana” Project.

Zenita Nicholson receives US Embassy's International Woman of Courage Award from U.S. Charge d' Affaires Bryan Hunt in March 2014. (Photo courtesy of Demerara Waves)
Zenita Nicholson receives US Embassy’s International Woman of Courage Award from U.S. Charge d’ Affaires Bryan Hunt in March 2014. (Photo courtesy of Demerara Waves)

Zenita was passionate about human rights and a fearless defender of the rights of vulnerable people. She applied this drive and commitment to her work, delivering exceptional results at SASOD to raise awareness and strengthen advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Due to her dedication and hard work, she became Secretary on the SASOD Board of Trustees in September 2012 – a volunteer position which she held for two years, until September 2014.

Zenita remained a member of SASOD and represented the organisation at the 45th Regular Session of the Organisation of American States General Assembly as recently as June of this year in Washington, D.C.

Zenita was recognized for her outstanding leadership and courage by the United States Embassy in Georgetown in March 2014 when Charge d’ Affaires Bryan Hunt presented her with their first International Woman of Courage Award. The citation reads: “In recognition of your exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment and raising public awareness to protect the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons.”

At the time of her death, Zenita had been working as Country Coordinator of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) and the Centre of Integral Orientation and Investigation (COIN) under the PANCAP Global Fund Round 9 “Vulnerablized” Groups Project.

Her death is an irreplaceable loss to the Guyanese and global human rights movement.

Zenita leaves to mourn her two children, Dmitri and Daria Nicholson, mother, Kamanie Singh, brother, Andrew Temall, and countless relatives, colleagues and friends whose lives she touched. SASOD extends sincerest condolences to her family, friends and the local, regional and global human rights movement in Guyana, across the Caribbean and worldwide.

Demerara Waves reported:

Zenita Nicholson (Photo courtesy of LinkedIn)
Zenita Nicholson (Photo courtesy of LinkedIn)

Well-known human rights activist, Zenita Nicholson, who was the victim of domestic violence, died early Monday morning after ingesting several carbon tablets that are used to kill rats, police said. …

It is unclear whether she drank them voluntarily or was forced to consume them by her partner who is a Mauritian attending an offshore medical university here. A senior police officer said they were investigating the circumstances of her death based on the information so far.

Nicholson was 37 years old and he is 29 years old.

Executive Member of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Joel Simpson said police merely took a statement from Nicholson’s partner although investigators believed that there might have been foul play.

Guyana's location in South America
Guyana’s location in South America

Simpson recalled receiving a call from a mutual friend at about 4:10 AM, informing him that Nicholson died at the St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital. She actually died at 3:15 AM.

On arriving at the hospital, he said the friend related that Nicholson had called him at about 2 AM urging him to collect her from her home at D’Aguiar’s Park and take her to the hospital because she had ingested 10 carbon tablets.

Her partner, who accompanied her to the hospital, said he did not know what happened as he went to bed and left her working late. The partner said he  was later awakened by Nicholson who complained of feeling unwell.

Simpson said Nicholson told him about the alleged domestic abuse at the hands of the Mauritian last week Sunday, October 18, 2015 when she asked for assistance in hiring a Canter truck to remove from D’Aguiar’s Park and return to her home because “this guy was seeing and living with her used to beat her.”

Simpson said he had insisted that Nicholson make a report to the police station, but he said the police at Providence had advised her to go to the station at Ruimveldt because that was responsible for her district.

The SASOD official further recalled that Nicholson had cancelled her plans to remove because she had her partner had agreed to resolve their differences to a point and that he would seek counseling.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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