IWD 2022: 6 Women Leading Impact Organisations in Malaysia

The proportion of women leaders in Malaysia rose from 31% in 2020 to 37% in 2021. A figure that is higher than the global target of 31%[1]. It is a cause for celebration after continuous efforts to ensure women fill up c-level positions and sit on boards having greater say and decision making power in corporations. 

Within the impact industry, there is a stronger pull for women to be involved, rise up and take on pioneering roles as it is typically more people-centric with a great need for empathy. Females in the impact space are driven by a larger sense of purpose of ensuring no one is left behind, especially the marginalised communities and those with a lesser voice in society. Their strong sense of defying injustice coupled with their commitment to the community makes female leaders in the impact space a perfect match. 

Dato’ Shahira Bazari, Yayasan Hasanah’s Trustee And Managing Director 

Source: Dato’ Shahira’s personal archive

Entrusted with helming Yayasan Hasanah, Dato’ Shahira Bazari is a woman leader with astute quality. Driven by her passion and commitment to change the lives of fellow Malaysians, Dato’ Shahira has led the foundation since 2015. She remains inspired by the incredible women in the impact space who would set precedence for girls and women out there to create a better and more sustainable future. 

Read Dato’ Shahira’s story here.

Melissa Ngiam, Yayasan Generasi Gemilang Chief Operating Officer 

Source: Tatler Asia

Growing up, Melissa Ngiam thought her involvement in the impact space would only be limited to volunteering capacity or a path that she would only pursue after retiring. But, seeing her commitment and passion while volunteering for Yayasan Generasi Gemilang, Melissa was offered to join as a staff member. One thing led to another, and now she is the COO of Yayasan Generasi Gemilang and transforming the lives of one family at a time. 

Read Melissa’s story here.

Alina Amir, Co-Founder Of Arus Academy 

While working as an analyst, Alina had an epiphany to change the course of her life. She quit her job and joined Teach For Malaysia (TFM) Fellowship programme, throughout her experience, she identified the gaps in Malaysia’s education space. She joined hands with three other alumni of TFM and Arus Academy was founded. She is in her 7th year of running Arus Academy, her mission to address gender inequalities in education has been fruitful and gruelling.

Read Alina’s story here.

Cheryl Ann Fernando, Chief Executive Officer Of Pemimpin Global School Leaders (GSL)

Source: Generation T

The decision to quit a stable job in PR came overnight to Cheryl Ann Fernando. Saddled with baju kurung, she taught English in a rural school in Kedah with huge success. Now, a leader of an organisation that seeks to improve the education sector through training school leaders, Cheryl had her fair share of challenges. As a mother of two, transforming Malaysia’s education sector is a cause that is close to her heart. 

Read Cheryl’s story here. 

Amelia Tan, Founder Of 100% Project

To a young Amelia, she believes meaningful changes in the world require having plenty of money. With that in mind, she pursued a career in investment banking. But at 27, her chosen path had worn her out. She quit her job, went on adventures and joined Teach For Malaysia (TFM) as a fundraiser. Recognising that money is necessary for educators to equip their classroom and learning, she set out to build a niche crowdfunding platform; 100% Project. But being a woman in the impact space has not been an easy ride especially when many enterprises subscribed to profit-centric values. 

Read Amelia’s story here.

Anja Juliah Abu Bakar, Founder Of Athena Empowers 

Anja Juliah grew up with an innate affinity for entrepreneurship, she sees opportunities of a business anywhere she looks. Athena Empowers stemmed from stumbling upon an internet thread. Following suit, she devoted her time researching washable sanitary products, a novel innovation that raised the eyebrows of many when she started. After discovering how menstruation made girls lose crucial hours of learning in Sabah, she decided there’s more to be done. 

Read Anja Juliah’s story here.

Explore our sources:

  1. S.Salim. (2021). Women’s participation in senior leadership in Malaysia reaches highest ever recorded level — Grant Thornton report. The Edge Markets. Link

Cover images are sourced from:
– Dato Shahira’s personal archive
– J.Liew/ photo credits: Khairul Imran. (2019). Bright Young Things: Melissa Ngiam Of Yayasan Generasi Gemilang. Tatler Asia. Link
– Cheryl Ann Fernando: Generation T. Link
– O.Yeoh. (2017). Crowdfunding for teachers. New Straits Times. Link
– Head’s up. (2020). Playing the long game. Head’s up. Link

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