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8 Women Who Are Using Their Influence To Create Impact

#1: Michelle Yeoh

An internationally renowned actress, Michelle Yeoh is more than meets the eye. Acclaimed for her roles in Star Trek, James Bond, and Crazy Rich Asians, the Ipoh-born film star is not only a martial arts expert who does her own stunts at the age of 58 and she is also a humanitarian with a heart of gold. 

Michelle Yeoh speaks during a forum on sustainability and renewable energy in Kuching December 10, 2019. Source: Malaymail

Following a 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the UNDP Goodwill Ambassador flew to the region to help with disaster relief efforts in the hardest-hit villages. Moved by the kindness of Nepalis in the aftermath, she joined Live to Love, a charity that focuses on education and environmental conservation efforts in the Himalayan mountains[1].

A strong advocate for social causes, Michelle has fearlessly raised awareness on HIV and AIDS despite the cultural taboo and stigma surrounding the topic[2]. She was also the spokesperson for the #MakeRoadsSafe campaign for the FIA Foundation, which calls for the recognition of road injury as global public health and development priority. Together with leading international experts, Michelle addressed the UN General Assembly multiple times leading up to and during the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020)[3].

The media is the quickest and most powerful way to speak out. Those of us who have the attention of the media are privileged, and we have the responsibility to put that privilege to good use! [2] – Michelle Yeoh 

Michelle Yeoh and UNDP’s Panda Ambassadors. Source : UNDP

One with a fondness for animals, Michelle amplifies wildlife conservation causes through initiatives like The Lion’s Share Fund, the UN campaign against illegal trade of wildlife, as well as the Save China’s Tigers project. She also leverages her platform to raise awareness on climate change by emphasising the importance of responsible consumerism, sustainable fashion and ethical business practices[4]

A strong character on screen and in real life, Michelle Yeoh is certainly one to admire. 

My goal is to help empower people around the world to take action and win the fight for a better tomorrow. That’s the only way we can make real change in this world.[4] – Michelle Yeoh

#2: Amalina Bakri

Having made headlines upon scoring an astonishing 17As for SPM back in 2004, Dr Amalina Bakri’s journey as a doctor has certainly inspired many. The ambitious, kind and vocal surgeon graduated in 2013 as a doctor with an additional internship program in Gynaecology Oncology and Surgical Oncology from Harvard Medical School. She later enrolled in the University of Cambridge to do her Masters in Philosophy (MPhil) in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics[5].

Dr Amalina Bakri. Source: Malaymail

Once selected as one of the top 10 surgical trainees in the UK, the renowned physician also engaged in medical volunteer work in Tanzania and Zanzibar. When terrorist attacks occurred in Westminster and London Bridge several years ago, Dr Amalina was amongst the NHS frontline catering to victims of the attack. Her perseverance in facing a physically and emotionally challenging line of work is fueled by none other than her unwavering dedication to help others[6].

Everyone has one common ground – to have a sense of purpose in life and to create a better world.[7] – Dr Amalina Bakri

Adored by many, the beauty with brain channels her influence for the greater good. In 2017, Dr Amalina used her formidable online presence to highlight the story of Baby Ainul, who was then a 9-month-old in need of surgery to remove a tumour. Made possible by the generosity of the public, Ainul’s parents were able to bring her to Dr Amalina in the UK for treatment. After a challenging 5-hour procedure, the tumour was successfully removed and Ainul is now a healthy, cheerful toddler[8]

Dr Amalina played a critical role in bringing Malaysian infant Ainul Mardhiah Ahmad Safiuddin to London in 2019 for a life-saving operation. Source: OhBulan

Apart from debunking medical myths to combat misinformation, Dr Amalina also engages in talks regarding mental health in leadership, women empowerment, equality in the workforce and anti-bullying awareness. More recently, she uses Twitter and Instagram to raise vaccine awareness and encourages Malaysians to remain strong in the face of adversity. Embodying the values of a resilient independent woman, the female icon continues to inspire us to positively impact communities in our own unique ways. 

#3: Raudhah Nazran

A law graduate turned social entrepreneur, Raudhah Nazran embarked on the social impact journey by starting her own charity organisation at the age of 18. Back then, her focus was primarily to help children in orphanages and the homeless. Upon increased exposure to poverty, Raudhah sought to delve deeper on how to tackle the issue at its root but was unsure of a long term solution. Luckily, she was able to find answers when she entered an entrepreneurship club in her university – the kickstart to her vibrant career in the social impact industry[9]

Raudhah Nazran was also listed among the 400 Leaders of Tomorrow on the Gen T List 2020. Source: Gen T

Now the CEO and Founder of Accelerate Global, Raudhah spearheads her very own social enterprise which focuses on tackling youth unemployment amongst the marginalised and underprivileged. Together with her team, Raudhah conducts upskilling programs to equip the youth with the hands-on skills needed to create their own enterprises and thus, be able to stand on their own two feet. Her classes do not only shed light on the technical aspects of being an entrepreneur, but they also highlight the importance of confidence, emotional resilience and grit. To cultivate a responsible generation of leaders, Raudhah emphasizes social and environmental aspects in her programs to ensure that ethical concerns and externalities are given their rightful weightage[10]

When her social enterprise was selected as one of the top 3 in the UK, Raudah was called to the UK Parliament by Lord Michael Hastings to speak on the issue of youth unemployment. She has also spoken on children’s rights to education during a United Nations Humans Rights Conference. A staunch advocate for self-development, Raudah often reminds the youth to not let fear of failure become a deterrence to achieving one’s dreams.  

Source: Instagram | Raudhah Nazran

Apart from leading a diverse team of 104 individuals, she is also working on closing the digital gap between youths in rural communities and those living in urban areas. She also has plans to build three community centres internationally to cater to underprivileged youths[11]

You have to be resilient especially in high tide and this is when passion and sincerity come in. You have got to have the heart for it.[12] – Raudhah Nazran

#4: HRH Tengku Zatashah binti Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah

The royal patron of several charities, HRH Tengku Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah imbues kindness and generosity in all her undertakings. Previously a journalist, the Selangor princess now wears many hats. From helping the homeless and urban poor to organising beach clean-ups and environmental campaigns, Zatashah Idris (as she prefers to be called) is a driven yet extraordinarily humble individual with numerous passions. 

One of the charities she works with includes Make-A-Wish Malaysia, for which she seeks to give hope and a positive outlook to children battling life-threatening illnesses. By making a wish of theirs come true, she endeavours to not only uplift the spirits of the child but his or her family too[13].

Zatashah with a six-year-old girl whose wish is to meet and experience the life of a real princess. | Source: Make-A-Wish

A passionate activist and environmentalist, Zatashah has founded several high-impact campaigns such as #SayNo2Plastic (2016), #ZeroFoodWastage (2016), and #NoMoreLitter #BecauseWeCare (2020). Acknowledging the severity of food wastage in Malaysia, she mobilised numerous hotels to donate surplus food to those in need. In her TED Talk on poverty, she deconstructed the stigma against the homeless and urged for greater compassion in society. In her heartfelt speech, the princess also recounted life lessons from working with Kechara Soup Kitchen to deliver groceries to the urban poor families[14]

Source: Nona

Having received numerous local and international accolades for her work, Zatashah aspires to continue amplifying community efforts and participating in volunteer work.

Do not let age, gender, education or background stop you from doing what you believe in. If there is a cause that you’re passionate about, then step up and do something about it. It just takes one person to light that spark.[14] – Tengku Zatashah Idris

#5: Tricia Yeoh

Tricia Yeoh is the CEO of IDEAS (Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs), an independent public policy think tank in Malaysia. Previously the Director of the ASLI Centre for Public Policy Studies, Tricia has also served as a regular columnist at the Sun and the Penang Monthly magazine, for which writes fervently about national socio-economic policy. An esteemed researcher, she has delivered various presentations both internationally and locally alongside other renowned academics[15]

Source: Business Today

A keen analyst of social, political and economic developments, Tricia has been involved in numerous research projects outlining the steps that Malaysia needs to take as a nation for a better future. Her experience in advocacy for nation-building has also led to her being invited to speak in a myriad of online webinars, in which she covers various issues such as sustainability, economic recovery and social welfare. 

When IDEAS launched the ‘Kita, Bukan Kami’, a media campaign to promote racial harmony and inclusivity, Tricia highlighted the importance of creating safe spaces where race relations can be discussed in a healthy manner through the art of empathetic conversations[16]. Similarly, during a webinar with Gerakbudaya, she encourages Malaysians to celebrate diversity and embrace the plurality of identity within the country[17].

A vocal advocate for progress and social change, Tricia bravely voices her opinion, backed with data and ardently engages in efforts to address challenges facing the nation in hopes to build a better Malaysia.

Tricia Yeoh, CEO of IDEAS. | Source: Malaymail

Discrimination of any kind, be it on the basis of race, religion, gender and others, always stems from a lack of understanding of the perceived ‘other’, which then leads to suspicion and fear. It is this barrier of fear that we need to overcome.[17] – Tricia Yeoh

#6: Deborah Henry

Formerly Miss World Malaysia in 2007, beauty queen Deborah Henry is more than just a model, actress and TV host – she is also an influential human rights activist. With travelling being an essential part of her career, Deborah jumps at every opportunity she can to take part in humanitarian efforts. From visiting villages in India to spending time with street children in Myanmar, she has gained a deeper perspective on the needs in this world. This realisation fueled her to make positive changes where possible[18]

Deborah Henry with the children at Fugee School. | Source: Malaymail

Carrying this resolve, she collaborated with her friend Shikeen Halibullah to establish Fugee School, a nonprofit education hub that provides primary, secondary and tertiary education for refugee children in Malaysia. Today, more than 500 children have completed their education since the organisation was founded[19].

To this moment, the well-known socialite dedicates much of her time and resources to champion the rights of refugee children. From dismantling stereotypes about refugees to raising education funds through her social media, Deborah seeks to use her influence for the greater good. 

The popular style icon also integrates her love for fashion and business in her work. In 2009, she founded Fugeelah, a social enterprise that supports refugee youths by providing skills training and employment opportunities, with proceeds going to educating even more children through Fugee School[20].

Source: Fugee School

In one of her speeches, Deborah reminds her audience to imbue a higher purpose in what we do and love, as well as to use our talents to positively impact others.

If you’re not sure how you can make a change, start by asking yourself: what brings you happiness? What are you good at? And then, try to see where you can use your talent to do something, help someone, or add value to someone’s life. – Deborah Henry

#7: Datin Goh Suet Lan

Witnessing injustice towards women with her own eyes evoked a strong calling for Datin Goh Suet Lan to champion female-related causes. Now serving as the president of Women of Will (WOW), Goh currently spearheads the NGO’s efforts to transform the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable B40 women. Through micro-credit financing and entrepreneurship programs, the organisation strives to help single mothers, widowers, victims of abuse as well as those with incapacitated husbands to become financially independent[21]

Datin Goh Suet Lan, President of Women of Will (WOW). | Source: Options, The Edge

Especially in cities with high costs of living, Goh believes that urban poor, single mothers should be empowered and equipped with the right skill sets to sustain themselves and their families. Through WOW’s Entrepreneurial Development Programs, these women learn the ropes of marketing, financial management, e-commerce and communication to prepare themselves for running their own business. 

In the past four years, WOW has helped over 1,000 women from various PPR areas such as Sri Kota, Taman Mulia, Desa Tun Razak and Raya Permai. In an effort to expand WOW’s reach and impact, Goh oversees projects as far as Keningau, Sabah to help women within the agricultural sector explore sustainable farming methods alongside sharpening their business management skills[22].

Goh finds immense value in her work and firmly believes that empowered women ultimately become positive role models for their respective communities, thus creating a ripple effect of inspiration. To this day, the lessons of resilience she learns from her beneficiaries fuels her drive to continue championing women’s rights.

The opportunity to work with and support them, watch them transform their lives and be a small part of that positive change was so rewarding for me … The humility and strength of the women, in doing what it takes to create better lives for themselves and their children, really drew me in. – Datin Soh Guet Lan

Source: Harian Metro

#8: Yuna Zarai

An acclaimed Malaysian singer-songwriter, Yuna is no stranger to Malaysians nor the international music industry. Having graced the pages of Vogue Arabia to the billboards of New York, the hijabi performer is known not just for her impeccable style, but also for her outspokenness on the issue of diversity and racial inclusivity.

Yuna Zarai. | Source: Gen T

Yuna’s journey towards stardom was certainly not a bed of roses. As a Southeast Asian Muslim woman in the American music industry, she has experienced multitudes of discrimination firsthand. Refusing to be defined by stereotypes, Yuna remains steadfast in upholding her values and firmly takes pride in her identity. In many of her interviews, she urges her fans, especially Asian women, to define success by their own terms and not let societal perception trammel their dreams[23]

From speaking out against Anti-Asian hate crime amidst shootings in Atlanta, posting in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter, to addressing the harmful toxicity of beauty standards, Yuna often uses her platform to advocate for social justice. She also amplifies the efforts of social impact organisations such as MyHutan, Tenaganita, All Women’s Action Society and Project Liber8 on her Twitter page and website. Exuding positivity and confidence, the pop star continues to hold her head high in championing social causes and promoting equality to all that cross her path[24]

Source: Prestige

It starts with a conversation. Learn about other people’s struggles, grow your conscience to seek the truth and find ways to help in your own way. – Yuna

Explore Our Sources:

  1. South China Morning Post. (2020). Michelle Yeoh: Changing the World for Good. Link
  2. AMFAR. (2009). An Interview with Michelle Yeoh – Fighting AIDS from the heart. Link
  3. FIA. (2016). Yeoh: Scale up road safety as SDG priority. Link
  4. United Nations. (2016). Interview with Michelle Yeoh on Sustainable Fashion. Link
  5. Wikipedia. Nur Amalina binti Che Bakri. Link
  6. Kata Malaysia. (2019). Dr Amalina Bakri. Link
  7. The Star. (2017). Saving lives while looking glam. Link
  8. The Star. (2020). One year from tumour op, Baby Ainul now a cheerful toddler. Link
  9. Astro Awani. (2021). The future is female: Championing Youth Entrepreneurship. Link
  10. Generation T Asia. (2020). For helping youths become more employable. Link
  11. Tatler Asia. (2020). A day in the life of a social entrepreneur. Link
  12. Malaysian Tatler. (2020). Raudhah Nazran. Link
  13. The Star. (2016). The real princess diaries of Zatashah Idris. Link
  14. TED Talk. (2018). Tengku Zatashah: Make change for good. Link
  15. Atlas Network. Our People – Tricia Yeoh. Link
  16. IDEAS. (2021). IDEAS launches Kita, Bukan Kami campaign to promote national unity and inter-racial harmony. Link
  17. Gerakbudaya | Facebook. (2020). Managing Ethnic & Religious Identities in a Multicultural Setting. Link
  18. London Speaker Bureau. Deborah Henry – Keynote Speaker. Link
  19. Malaymail. (2020) Humanitarian former beauty queen Deborah Henry urges Malaysians not to fear refugees. Link
  20. GenT. (2021). How Deborah Henry Of Fugeelah is Helping Refugees Upskill. Link
  21. Malaymail. (2019). Empowering women via high-impact entrepreneur program. Link
  22. OptionsTheEdge. (2019). Women Of Will transforms lives of disadvantaged women through micro-loans. Link
  23. Vogue. (2021). Yuna opens up about the secret to songwriting, superstardom and repping Southeast Asian women. Link
  24. Malaymail. (2020). #BlackLivesMatter: Yuna speaks out against racism. Link

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