Syeda Rizwana Hasan is an enrolled lawyer with the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. In her professional life, she is working for the cause of the environment as the Chief Executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA). Her main focus is to promote the notion of environmental justice in Bangladesh.
Rizwana has filed PILs on various environmental issues, most of which have received favorable orders/judgments. She has fought against vehicular pollution, river pollution, industrial pollution, ship breaking, grabbing of wetlands, cutting of hills, unregulated mining, unplanned urbanization, commercial shrimp cultivation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, etc. Her cases are redefining the current notion of development devoid of environmental consideration. Since she is an anthropocentric environmentalist, her efforts add value to the conventional human rights movement by bringing in the elements of environmental justice. She places people’s legitimate rights at the center of her activism.
Rizwana has received the ‘Ananya Top Ten Award’ from a reputed journal in Bangladesh. She is among the first five South Asian women to receive the ‘Celebrating Womenhood’ award (2008) from the Creative Statement and South Asia Partnership based in Nepal. Rizwana received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2009 for her outstanding contribution to protecting and conserving the country’s environment. She has also been named one of the 40 Environmental Heroes of the World by TIME magazine. Recognizing her dynamic leadership, hard-driving skill, and uncompromising courage in the campaign of judicial activism that has demonstrated that the right to the environment is nothing less than a people’s right to dignity and life, Rizwana was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2012. In 2020, BELA was awarded the prestigious Tang Award from Taiwan for its contribution to the arena of Rule of Law (2020). Rizwana has been awarded the International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award 2022 by the US Department of State for her exceptional courage and leadership in her mission to protect the environment and defend the dignity and rights of marginalized people Bangladeshis.