Whether born into royalty or married into the family – princes and princesses, kings and queens in Malaysia have no qualms utilising their influence or position in society to advocate for the greater good.
Many have rolled up their sleeves, rallying support for their causes and launching organisations to help those in need. Find out the nine Malaysian royals who are doing just that.
#1: Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin Tuanku Muhriz
Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin Tuanku Muhriz is a graduate of the London School of Economic and Political Science, obtaining a degree in Government and Sociology and a Master’s in Comparative Politics and Imperial History. He is the second son of the Negeri Sembilan’s ruler, Tuanku Muhriz ibni Almarhum Tuanku Munawir.
Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin, who worked in London’s think-tanks, returned home in 2010 intending to build a better nation. He partnered with two friends to establish Malaysia’s first libertarian think tank, the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS). As the founding president of IDEAS, the non-profit organisation has been an active contributor to policy making in Malaysia. The organisation also established Ideas Autism Centre in Rawang, providing intervention and care for children from low-income households.
It [IDEAS] then got some traction and we noticed that there were many people out there who were willing to express their views and contribute to the policy debates. – Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin, founding president of IDEAS
Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin is a regular columnist in several local newspapers, speaking out on issues related to public policies. He is also the Pro-Chancellor of UCSI Malaysia.
#2: Che Puan Sarimah Ibrahim
Che Puan Sarimah Ibrahim is no stranger to the limelight and media attention through her TV hosting stints. However, since her marriage to Negeri Sembilan royalty, Tunku Nadzimuddin Tunku Mudzaffar, she had returned to her psychology roots. Che Puan Sarimah has been vocal in addressing the stigma and the lack of mental health awareness in society.
In 2021, Che Puan Sarimah was appointed as a patron of the Mental Illness Awareness & Support Association (MIASA). She graced podcasts and talk shows to spread awareness of mental health-related issues.
I believe that education on mental health as a whole is the key to achieving this nationwide. A healthy and productive nation is one that has its physical and mental health prioritised and cared for. – Che Puan Sarimah Ibrahim, mental health advocate
#3: Tengku Datin Paduka Setia Zatashah
A stalwart environmentalist and a social activist, Tengku Zatashah Idris is the daughter of Selangor’s ruler, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah. Tengku Zatashah wears multiple hats and is known for leading one of the biggest movements in the country against the single use of plastic through the #SayNo2Plastic campaign .
I say reduce, reuse and refuse. Saying ‘no’ to plastic and bringing a reusable is the best way to curb the issue. I’m not asking people to make big changes overnight. You start by taking a small step, and you’ll start to think about it. And the more you do, the easier it becomes. – Tengku Zatashah Idris, Social advocate and Royal Patron of Make-A-Wish Malaysia 
Her commitment to preserving Malaysia’s pristine environment includes her involvement in several successful beach clean-ups, dive clean-ups, coral replanting and tree planting initiatives. For her continuous effort in environmental preservation, she was awarded at the International Dive and Maritime Expo, Adex Singapore, and named Adex Ocean Ambassador in 2019 .
Zatashah is also the royal patron of Make A Wish Malaysia, an organisation granting hopes and wishes of children with critical illnesses. In 2018, she stood as an ambassador for the #StandTogether campaign organised by The Star. The nationwide campaign promotes kindness as a mechanism to end bullying in schools.
When she is not volunteering at local soup kitchens, Tengku Zatashah helms the Alliance Francaise KL, a position she has held since 2010.
#4: Tengku Amir Shah
Tengku Amir Shah, the heir to the throne of Selangor was proclaimed Raja Muda Selangor or the Crown Prince of Selangor at the mere age of 11 years. After years of living abroad, he returned to Malaysia after undergoing military training in the UK.
I’ve experienced life in the Malaysian army and developed two NGOs from the ground up, the Selangor Youth Community and Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor. Youth development is a keen interest of mine and both tackle different aspects. – Tengku Amir Shah, founder of Selangor Youth Community and Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor
Committed to understanding the needs and wants of the youth in Selangor he founded the Selangor Youth Community, a non-profit organisation seeking to help youth to empower the community through outreach programmes, arts initiatives and more.
Tengku Amir Shah also established Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor, a foundation nurturing youths to reach their potential in their respective fields. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation mobilised resources to fashion PPEs, creating 300 units in a single week for hospitals. Currently, Tengku Amir Shah is also the royal patron of organisations and events such as the Water, Air and Food Awards (WAFA), Selangor Football Club, Raja Muda Regatta and Star Sailors League.
As a young prince, I feel responsible for making sure that young voices are heard. Selangor and Shah Alam are especially very close to my heart. Approximately 70% of the Shah Alam population is below the age of 35. I feel like I’m driven to provide them with opportunities for the future. – Tengku Amir Shah, founder of Selangor Youth Community and Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor
#5: Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah
The Regent of Pahang, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah is a royal with a heart of gold. When the Covid-19 pandemic was flaring in the nation, the young royal donated several months of his royal allowance to the state of Pahang’s relief fund and the Pahang4Palestine fund launched by the Malaysian government.
Tengku Hassanal Shah sets his attention on environmental conservation and uses his position to encourage more Malaysians to take considerable care of the environment. Recently, Tengku Hassanal pledged to bring the Malayan tigers back from the brink of extinction.
We need decisive and determined action to save the Malayan tiger. Therefore, I, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah, pledge that I will make it my solemn duty to ensure that I will do my best to help bring the Malayan tiger back from the brink of extinction. – Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah, Pahang Regent
#6: Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan
Having had her fair share of mental health challenges during her adolescence, mental health awareness is a subject that is close to Tengku Iman Afzan Abdullah. Tengku Iman Afzan Abdullah is the eldest daughter of the current Yang Di Pertuan Agong and made it her mission to destigmatise mental illness.
She has served as Malaysia’s Royal Patron of the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA) from 2018 to 2020. Tengku Iman is the royal patron of the National Coalition for Mental Wellbeing and the Youth Empowerment Foundation, an organisation that extends support to underprivileged teenagers.
If I can make a change, however big or small, in helping to remove the stigma on mental health or ensure better access to help, or raise awareness of the importance of a healthy mind, I will have achieved my goal. – Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan, Founder of the Green Ribbon Group
Tengku Iman was named the International Patron of World Mental Health Day by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Her continued commitment to normalise the conversation regarding mental health in society resulted in the establishment of Green Ribbon Group, a social enterprise aiming to advocate, fundraise and collaborate toward better mental health awareness in Malaysia.
#7: Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah
Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah has been candid in sharing her struggles of conceiving children after tying the knot with Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah in 1986.
Only mothers with the same predicament will know what we went through, the longing for a baby. Other women are lucky to have children naturally, but we are tested this way, (so) we never give up, and TAFF was formed to help (such) mothers, financially and by way of continuous support. -Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, founder of Tunku Azizah Fertility Foundation (TAFF) 
Having been in the same place as many struggling couples longing for a child, she set up the eponymous fertility institution Tunku Azizah Fertility Foundation (TAFF). The organisation sought to sponsor and help underprivileged couples to receive In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatments.
On the other hand, the Queen’s involvement has been instrumental in reviving the traditional Royal Pahang Silk Weave (Tenun Diraja Pahang). When the Yayasan Tenun Pahang DiRaja initiative took place in 2005, only 15 skilled weavers created the textiles. Now, the foundation boasts 167 weavers, including some who were ex-convicts.
#8: Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz
The daughter of the 29th Sultan of Kedah, Al-Sultan Tuanku Al-Haj Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah, Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz champions causes for the betterment of the nation and the environment.
The Kedah princess has been serving the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) Kedah chapter since 1998 and was elected as the Chairperson of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) in 2018. She is currently serving her second term as the national Chairperson of MRCS. Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz makes history by being the first female Chairperson of MRCS in its 70-year history.
In 2022, Tunku Puteri was voted in for a four-year term (2022 to 2026) on the governing board of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz is also the chair of Yayasan Sultanah Bahiyah (YSB), a civil society organisation that focuses on the needs of the local community with an emphasis on health, education and youth-based activities for the past 25 years. She also currently serves as the Royal Patron and adviser of the Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark and is the Pro-Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia(UPNM) .
#9: Johor Royal Family
The Tunku Laksamana Johor Cancer Foundation was established by the royal family of Johor after the passing of Tunku Abdul Jalil. The late prince passed away due to liver cancer in 2015. The cancer foundation was formed to continue the legacy of the compassionate prince who visited cancer patients at the Oncology Centre and Cancer Ward in Hospital Sultan Ismail, Johor Bahru.
The late prince shared his concerns with his father, His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, The Sultan of Johor, on the medical expenses that are being borne by cancer patients and their families.
The foundation has provided up to RM7 million worth of assistance to cancer patients and their families since its establishment. It has also contributed to three cancer patient facilities in three government hospitals being built.
Explore our sources:
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- M.Hassandarvish. (2019). Articulate Tunku Zain of Negri Sembilan keeps on speaking out for a better Malaysia. Yahoo! News. Link
- M.Murugesan. (2021). Lockdowns and mental health. New Straits Times. Link
- Tatler Asia. Tengku Datin Paduka Setia Zatashah. Link
- H.N.Harun. (2019). Selangor princess Tengku Zatashah is a superhero in her own right. The Star. Link
- N.Randhawa. (2022). Cover story: HRH Tengku Amir Shah strives to nurture and support Malaysian youths. Prestige Online. Link
- T.Jayatilaka. (2021). 6 Malaysian Royals Who Are Empowering Others. Tatler Asia. Link
- H.S.Ong. (2022). Pahang Regent pledges to do his utmost to save the Malayan tiger. The Star. Link
- New Straits Times. (2022).Tunku Azizah opens up about journey into motherhood; had 16 rounds of IVF before becoming pregnant. Link
- The Star. (2022). Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz voted in as one of IFRC’s governing board members. Link
- Impact 100. (2022). Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz. Link
- Tunku Laksamana Johor Cancer Foundation. About Us. Link