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7 Powerful Female Youth Activists Paving The Way For A Better Malaysia

Today, an increasing number of young women in Malaysia are bravely stepping forward as leaders, voicing out their opinions, rallying their peers, and spearheading change. Embodying courage and resilience, these girls stand bravely at the frontlines of social movements and are actively using their platforms to demand progress and reform.

Their work — whether through protests, social activism, or campaigns — have not only raised awareness on pertinent social matters, but they have also become sources of inspiration for many aspiring female changemakers across the nation.

In honour of the International Day of the Girl, we at Wiki Impact wish to highlight and celebrate several female youth activists who have shown tremendous courage in pushing for social progress. From advocating gender equality, calling for urgent climate action, to empowering minorities, these inspirational young women have played an extraordinary role in their communities and have risen to challenges with unwavering faith.

With that being said, here are 7 amazing female youth activists in Malaysia you should know about!

1. Firzana Redzuan 

Source: Firzana Redzuan | Instagram

Firzana Redzuan is the president and co-founder of Monsters Among Us (MAU), a youth-led organisation combatting child sexual abuse through advocacy and community involvement. Empowered by her mother who single-handedly raised her to “fight for what’s right”, the young activist hopes to make it possible for all children to enjoy safe and happy childhoods[1].

Having experienced harassment herself when she was younger, Firzana seeks to utilise her knowledge and skills as a law graduate to protect children from sexual predators. 

Throughout her 5 years (and counting!) in MAU, Firzana has spearheaded numerous training programs and workshops for schoolchildren all over Malaysia to educate them about their rights. Through online reading sessions, Firzana also hopes to destigmatize and encourage greater discussion on the topic of sexual reproductive health amongst Malaysians[2].

Having personally witnessed child abuse cases being swept under the rug throughout her stint, Firzana actively demands for children’s voices to be heard and for youths to not be seen as incompetent. In an interview with Astro Awani, Firzana asserts that children are more than capable of engaging in complex and difficult conversations. She also firmly believes that, if given the chance, children can effectively lead changes within their circles and community.

Unrelenting in her activism, Firzana is committed to championing safe childhoods for kids in Malaysia and empowering youths to defend their rights with courage.

Source: Lapor Predator | Monsters Among Us

What inspires me to push for change is the capacity that I have to push for change. I truly believe that you do not need to be the most powerful person to make a difference[1]. – Firzana Redzuan 

2. Marscella Ling

Source: Project ID

Marscella Ling is a youth changemaker from Bintulu, Sarawak, who is passionate about empowering students to discover their fullest potential.

Only 16 years of age, the vocal activist is part of numerous initiatives catering to youths in Malaysia. As a member of the Student Outreach Team in Project ID, Marscella actively works together with her fellow comrades in running high-impact programmes to cultivate confidence and leadership skills amongst students in Malaysia.

Eager to bring reform to youths in her hometown, the Iban girl is the content lead of Undi Sarawak, a campaign aimed at empowering Sarawakian youths through democracy. Together with the team, she advocates for greater political awareness and helps to educate youths about the democratic process. She is also the content creator for Impian Kencana, a non-profit that seeks to coach teenagers from challenging backgrounds with key skills and mindsets to succeed in the workforce.

The 2021 Closing The Gap ReachUni Scholar also represented Bintulu, Sarawak in Parlimen Digital last year. Being only 15 at the time, she was the youngest representative out of the 222 participants[3]! Now, Marscella is part of @dewanmudamsia, a 2-year leadership development programme that provides youth with a platform to explore political advocacy & policymaking. Serving as the representative for the Ministry of Children and Youth, Marscella’s journey of growth definitely appears to be an exciting one ahead.

In for the long game, Marscella Ling is determined to continue accelerating social change in her unique ways.

Source: Parlimen Digital

You are never ‘too young’ to spark change. If you are looking to further develop yourself, don’t make up excuses and stop yourself from doing so — give yourself an opportunity to learn[3]. – Marscella Ling 

3. Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar 

A staunch environmental activist, Ili Nadiah refuses to stay silent in the face of climate change and injustice. 

In 2019, Nadiah founded Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY), a youth-led climate activist group that seeks to push for greater environmental awareness and reform in Malaysia. The grassroots movement received massive support from the public, and within just 4 months, the ardent activist successfully rallied a 1,000-strong crowd for a climate strike in Dataran Merdeka to protest against climate inaction[4].

Undeterred by COVID-19, Nadiah has taken to online spaces to carry out advocacy efforts. From campaigning against the degazettement of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve to raising awareness on mental health and eco-anxiety, Nadiah speaks on a wide array of issues and actively encourages climate discourse centred on justice and human rights.

Until today, Nadiah continues to advocate passionately for climate policies based on peace, equity and democracy. As an eco-feminist, the vocal campaigner also highlights the importance of gender justice in the face of climate change. 

Nadiah is the Co-Founder of Weaving Hopes for the Future, a mentorship programme aimed at cultivating leadership and organisational skills in Malaysian indigenous communities, particularly women and the youth. Through this project, Nadiah demonstrates the power of art in generating discourse  and empowers Orang Asli to enrich discussions on climate through creative means[5]

Committed to amplifying the voices of vulnerable communities and changing the status quo, Nadiah shows no sign of slowing down in her fight for climate justice.

Source: Weaving Hopes for The Future | Instagram

Intersectionality is important; we need to amplify the voices of vulnerable communities, especially those in the frontlines of climate impact. They must have access to decision-making spaces and capacity-building.–  Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar [6]

4. Roshinee Mookaiah 

Source: Roshinee Mookaiah | Instagram

Roshinee Mookaiah is a young professional in Malaysia who is passionate about using media, art and story-telling for advocacy purposes. 

Inspired by international activists who were using their online presence to champion the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Roshinee felt she could do more to campaign for causes she is passionate about. Today, she utilises her skills in psychology, fundraising and marketing in carrying out advocacy work and speaks fervently on issues such as equity in education, mental health and racial representation[7].

Roshinee Mookaiah is the founder and curator of MAINAN, a story-telling platform with a mission to break stereotypes and redefine the narrative around the Malaysian Indian community. Inspired by the format of Humans of New York, she created the platform to showcase the stories of everyday Malaysian Indians from diverse backgrounds and life experiences as a step to amplify the voices of underrepresented minorities[8]

In addition to empowering youths and raising political awareness through Undi18, she also runs a passion project called cukup.club – a blog entirely dedicated to overcoming mental health issues. Through art and bite-sized articles, Roshinee shares the importance of therapy and encourages Malaysians to safeguard their mental health by inculcating good habits. 

Source: @cukup.club | Instagram

The fight is not over. I’m working towards an alternative future, one that provides accessible education and holistic care to all children in Malaysia, one that elevates minority communities in all facets of life, and one that has accessible resources on mental health for everyone. – Roshinee Mookaiah[8]

5. Melinda Anne Sharlini

Source: Monash Lens

Melinda Anne Sharlini is a gender justice advocate who is devoted to championing women’s rights. Identifying as an intersectional feminist, Sharlini strongly believes in the need for gender mainstreaming in governance and is passionate about contributing towards the strengthening of feminist movements. 

A vocal advocate for gender-equal citizenship rights, Sharlini has been actively engaged with Family Frontiers in pushing for immigration policy reform concerning Malaysian binational and transnational families[9]. As programme manager, she has undertaken numerous lobbying efforts in support of the cause — from researching, writing, designing, fundraising, to even organising capacity-building programs for advocates. Melinda also leads the ‘Right to Belong’ project, Family Frontiers’ youth network for gender-equal citizenship. 

Previously part of the Strategic Planning & Design team for With & For Girls, Sharlini currently serves as an advisor for the Asia Pacific Committee of FRIDA Fund; both of which are feminist funding organisations. She is also part of the campaign team for the 111initiative powered by Undi18, which advocates for increased women’s political participation in Malaysia[10].

Passionate about student activism and advocacy, Sharlini hopes to continue utilising her skills  to actively push for change and therewith, contribute towards creating a more equal society. 

Sharlini speaks on ‘Citizenship Deprivation’ at the SDG Summit in KL, Malaysia. Source: Melinda Anne Sharlini | LinkedIn

I’d love to see greater representation and diversity in our political landscape; there needs to be more young people, women, and marginalised communities in decision making areas. This change can begin from the grassroots. – Melinda Anne Sharlini [11]

6. Elizabeth Gerard

Source: Monash University

Elizabeth Gerard is a Malaysian youth advocate for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), one of the world’s largest voluntary movements dedicated to girls and women globally. 

Passionate about addressing social issues, Elizabeth Gerard co-founded the #NoBridesUnder18 campaign to push against child marriage. She also co-developed a mental health awareness proficiency badge and represented WAGGGS and Malaysia at the #YOUNGA2020 Forum for gender equality and mental health advocacy[12]. In last year’s virtual United Nations General Assembly, Elizabeth had the opportunity to present her mental health project catered  to Malaysian girls and women alongside other youth advocates from across the globe.

Recently, she launched a project called #WonderfullyMade, a digital advocacy campaign targeted towards tackling self-objectification among Malaysian youths. She aims to lobby for the inclusion of comprehensive positive identity development education in schools  and to help girls break away from gender stereotypes as well as to establish themselves as confident individuals in their own right. 

Currently training as a professional counsellor, she hopes to serve the youth and marginalised communities in Malaysia once she completes her postgraduate studies. Determined in bringing about change in policymaking and Malaysia’s mental health landscape, Elizabeth’s trajectory proves to be a promising one.

Elizabeth speaks during a girls takeover session by the Girl Guides Association of Malaysia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. Source: Elizabeth Gerard | LinkedIn

As cliche as it sounds, advocacy does begin with us. Once we’ve mastered that, we work on influencing others, including journeying with them to realise the goals[13]. – Elizabeth Gerard

7. Heidy Quah

Source: Heidy Quah | Vital Voices

Heidy Quah, now 27 years old, was only 18 when she founded the non-profit organisation Refuge for the Refugees (RFTR)[14]. In her mission to uplift refugee communities, Heidy raises awareness about their plight through advocacy and seeks to ensure that they have access to basic human rights such as education and healthcare. Now in its 9th year, RFTR supports and empowers 35 refugee schools and 2 halfway homes across Myanmar and Malaysia, caring for over 2,000 children in total. 

Apart from tackling their lack of access to education, Heidy also seeks to help refugees and migrants who, due to their status and lack of legal protection, are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. From handling human trafficking cases to raising awareness on the mistreatment of refugees, Heidy has undertaken various efforts to ensure that justice is upheld for these communities[15].

In 2017, Heidy was selected as a recipient of the prestigious Queen’s Young Leaders Award for her work. She was among 60 winners, selected from thousands of applicants across the Commonwealth, to be recognised for “taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives.[16]” 

Despite the daily struggles of being an activist, Heidy admits that she has learned a lot about determination, grit and kindness from her work with migrant communities. Particularly inspired by how they choose to love in spite of hate, Heidy hopes to emulate their grace and resilience in the face of adversity.   

Heidy Quah receives an award from her majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Source: Queen’s Young Leaders

It’s time we shift the narrative, giving the community back their voice and sharing their plight in a way that’s dignifying. If nothing else, it is to remember that refugees are people, just like you and I[17]. – Heidy Quah

Explore Our Sources

  1. TheStar. 2021. Her mission: keeping children safe. Link
  2. New Sarawak Tribune. 2021. Monsters Among Us. Link
  3. Medium. 2020. Making the impossible possible. Link
  4. Malaysiakini. 2021. Ili Nadiah just can’t stay silent in the face of climate crisis. Link
  5. Malaymail. 2021. Eco-warriors use art and activism to empower orang Asli. Link
  6. BFM Radio. 2021. Not Passive Victims: Youth planning for the planet. Link
  7. The Edge. 2020. Digital platforms keep the activism flame burning. Link
  8. TheSunDaily. 2020. Rewriting under-represented narratives. Link
  9. Monash. Bridging the citizenship divide. Link
  10. Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights.Youth Activism. Link
  11. BFM. 2020. Importance of Women and Young Voices in Politics. Link
  12. Free Being Me. Meet the Advocates. Link
  13. Elizabeth Gerard | LinkedIn. 2019. Link
  14. Malaysiakini. 2017. Princess of refugees off to meet the Queen. Link
  15. Going places. 2019. Heidy Quah. Link
  16. NST. 2017. Heidy Quah gets the Queen’s award for work with refugees. Link
  17. Tatler Asia. 2021. Refugees in Malaysia: 5 Moving Tales From Activist Heidy Quah. Link

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