Happy International Women’s Day! Whether you’re a female or not, let’s look at some of the influential and inspiring Malaysian women which we all can learn from. Here they are:
1. Siti Kasim
A lawyer and an activist, she is one of the few Malay-Muslims who speaks out against hudud and what she terms as “man-made” laws. She made waves recently in Malaysia when a video of her flipping the bird to rude hecklers at a forum about PAS’ Shariah Bill went viral. The best part? She joked that she would’ve “dressed to the nines” if she had known that she was about to go viral. What a badass.
She is also the co-deputy chair of the Bar Council committee on Orang Asli rights and also frequently champions for the indigenous community on land issues, visiting the Orang Asli community in Kelantan once a month to find out about their concerns and to get lawyers to represent them. Other than helping our indigenous community, she also helps a group of Rohingya refugees by managing their rented accommodation at a shop-lot in Selayang as they aren’t able to communicate with their landlord.
Lively, outspoken and unapologetic, it’s hard not to look up to her.
2. Datin Vivy Yusof
Not a stranger to the fashion world, Datin Vivy Yusof co-founded Fashion Valet in 2010 where the e-commerce brand is now one of the region’s biggest brands. She has achieved many awards locally and internationally, and was listed in the Prestige Magazine’s 2015 List of Top 40 Under 40. Most importantly, she was listed on Forbes as one of Asia’s Top 30 Under 30. She also had the honor of collaborating with Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah of Brunei Darussalam for The Royal dUck, a headscarf collection carrying an empowering message for every woman. This humble fashion mogul juggles her time not only as an entrepreneur and blogger but also as a loving wife and mother of 2 kids.
This Malaysian songbird who is also a songwriter and businesswoman has made her country proud. She has also collaborated with big names wish as Usher, Pharell Willians, Jhene Aiko and many more. She has also received the National Youth Icon Award in 2012 for her exceptional achievement in arts. Apart from being a musician, she is also the founder of her own brand November Culture, which started off from her selling her well-known Jetfuel scarves.
4. Tan Hooi Ling
Ever wondered who was behind Grab (previously MyTeksi and GrabTaxi)? Well it’s Tan Hooi Long who has led this ride-hailing platform in Southeast Asia. She co-founded Grab together with her partner Anthony Tan and today, the platform is now operating in more than 60 cities in 7 countries.
The platform was inspired by her own struggle calling up taxis to accommodate her daily journeys. Her partner and her then came up with the idea where customers can trust the taxi drivers that they are assigned to, which can be beneficial in terms of safety but also helpful for those who are travelling alone or late at night. She believes that with this platform, both the drives and customers and benefit. The platform also gives our opportunities for people to create a source of income and become more tech-savvy at the same time. Today, it has become a strong competitor of Uber and something that we definitely need to keep our eyes on.
5. Sabariah Hussein
This 70-year-old lady made headlines when she cooked for more than 200 people a day during the month of Ramadan. Hussein moved to Canada about 30 years ago to work as a special education teacher. The movement started more than 18 years ago after she saw women on the streets begging for food. This made her decide to run her own women’s shelter from her own home.
Partnering with 2 other churches, a food bank and an NGO, Hussein provides food and shelter to the poor and homeless whilst running a stall at a local mosque where her team of volunteers come to help around.
Talk about being an inspiration!
6. Felicia Yap
This scientist-turned-thriller novelist is well-known for her debut novel entitled ‘Yesterday’, a novel that has been getting amazing review globally. The author studied biochemistry at the Imperial College London and then completed her doctorate in history at Cambridge University. It was during her days in Cambridge that she was inspired to write her famous novel which has elements of Cambridge in it.
She had also worked at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg between completing her studies, worked as a journalist in Singapore and the United Kingdom, and had also written for The Economist and The Business Times. She had also written a prequel to her debut book titled ‘Today’.
7. Zee Avi
Another great Malaysian songbird who is a well rounded performer. She is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and Ukulele player who made he debut with the song Bitter Heart. This Sarawakian-born talent is not your typical overnight YouTube superstar. In 2009, she came out with her debut album that became a hit in Malaysia. She’s now residing in the United States, spreading her wings as a musician.
In 2011, she had also received the Youth Icon (International) Award from the Sarawak State Government. She was also conferred the Pegawai Bintang Kenyalang (Officer of the Order of the Star of Hornbill Sarawak) a year later. One of her international achievements would also be winning the Best Original Film Song at the 53rd Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards that was help in China.
8. Datuk Nicol Ann David
It is unsurprising that her name is on this list. She is, after all, the world’s number 1 squash player and the first woman to achieve this prestige ranking, becoming one of the greatest sports stars Malaysia has ever had to date. She is also the first squash player to have won the World Junior title twice in 1999 and 2001 under the tutelage of Richard Glanfield and is also the 9-time winner of the Asian Squash Championship. Nicol puts her fame to good use by becoming the national goodwill ambassador for the United nations Development Program which helps promote touth development and education around poverty-stricken and over-populated countries.
9. Datin Paduka Marina Binti Mahathir
This inspiration never let her well-known family name to stop her from excelling her ideas and beliefs through many non-governmental organisations such as the Malaysian AIDS Foundation. She also an active sociopolitical blogger where she writes in her bi-weekly column called Musings in The Star newspaper since 1989. She also actively campaigns for women’s rights where she hosts her own TV talk show where she discussed about issues concerning violence against women, gender equality, and social reform whilst also authoring many successful books, namely ‘Eyes: a photographic journey through the Association of Southeast Asia Nations’, ‘In Liberal Doses’, ‘Hidden Voices: True Malaysian Experience of AIDS’, ’50 Days: Tantings’, and ‘Telling it Straight’.
10. Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
This prominent Malaysian lawyer and human rights advocate is also one of the 8 recipients of the US International Women of Courage Award in 2009. She is also well-known for her involvement in the Berish-2.0 rally and the successful ‘Marsh for Justice’ campaign against judicial corruption. Her persistency in campaigning led to the formation of a Malaysian Royal Commission calling for corrective action. Her continuous effort in striving for equal rights in other humanitarian causes is greatly well-liked.