International Women’s Day, held annually on March 8, celebrates the achievements of women throughout history. Also known as a Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace by the United Nations, there’s no better time to shine the spotlight on these 10 Malaysian women who have achieved so much.
Yunalis binti Mat Zara’ai, more famously known as Yuna, is a singer and songwriter, and one who started very young. In 2006, when she was 19, she performed for the first time for an audience and soon started offering her music on her MySpace page. Her music, garnering over a million plays, attracted attention from an Indie-Pop record label from the US.
With many fans around the world and much praise from critics, such as Billboard, NPR, Elle, NY Times, Vibe Claire and National Geographic, she is currently signed to Verve Records, with her latest album Chapters featuring collaborations from the likes of Jhené Aiko. DJ Premier and Usher. Chapters was ranked seventh for best R&B album by Billboard.
Kiki Poh from Johor, works for possibly one of the best animations studios in the world, Pixar. Coming from the humble beginnings of a one bedroom apartment with her family, she pursued her love of her cartoons and her dreams. Seeking to further her education in computer animation in Taiwan, she came back home to a lackluster Malaysian 3D Animation industry in 2000.
Finding work in Shanghai, she eventually moved to the United States to obtain a master’s degree in visual effects. Eventually, this led to an internship in 2010 at Pixar, where she worked on Toy Story 3 and got her first real taste of seeing her work on the big screen. With what can only be described as a continuous unending pursuit of her dreams, her internship became a full time employment at Pixar Animations Studios. She has worked on Monsters University, Inside Out!, Finding Dory, and Cars 3 as a Shading and Grooming Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios.
Datuk Nicol Ann David is currently ranked 6th in the Official Women’s Squash World Ranking. Hailing from Penang, this eight time winner of the World Open has also smashed quite a few records in the sport.
- 2001, first squash player to win the World Junior title twice
- March 2011, wins her 8th Malaysian Sportswoman of the Year award
- December 2014, holds eight titles to her name for the Women’s World Open Squash Championship
- September 2015, 109 consecutive months as No. 1 in the World Ranking
- July 2016, consecutive 151 months in the world top 10 rankings
- November 2016, consecutive 143 months in world top 5
Noor Neelofa Binti Mohd Noor, also known by her stage name, Neelofa, is an actress, television presenter, commercial model, and an entrepreneur. She is easily one of the most successful millennials in Malaysia and is listed on Forbes Top 30 under 30 rankings for Asia.
Recently she has been in the news for both having AirAsia appointed her as a new non-executive independent director and her launching of her turban range, “Be Lofa Turban”. It should be noted that her launch of her turban range at Zouk KL set the internet on flames. Yet we should note as what we think as a calculated risk, she did successfully sold out the line in under 24 hours after the launch at the nightclub.
Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng originally was keen on being a ballet dancer instead of a famous actress. In a turn of fate, her previous ambitions were dashed due to a spinal injury that prevented her from becoming a professional ballet dancer. With her attention now shifted to choreography and other arts, she eventually gained the attention of D&B Films, a Hong Kong film production company.
Doing her own stunts in films like Yes, Madam, she quickly grew in popularity. This landed her roles in movies such as Tomorrow Never Dies (James Bond) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which got her many nominations for a multitude of awards. Did we mention she’s in Star Trek: Discovery and in 2008, was ranked the greatest action heroine by Rotten Tomatoes?
Yasmin Ahmad is well known for her television commercials and films in Malaysia. A film director, writer and scriptwriter, her work contained so much humour, heart and love. Some of her most memorable ads for Petronas really crossed the cultural barrier and spoke of unity amongst all.
With multiple awards from both within the country and globally, it’s a shame that she passed away in 2009. We will still remember her and her inspirational works, such as Mukhsin, Talentime and Rabun.
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan is a prominent Malaysian lawyer and human rights advocate. She has served as the former co-chairperson of Bersih 2.0 and the President of the Malaysian Bar Council from 2007 to 2009. It should also be mentioned that she is one of eight recipients of the United States International Women of Courage Award in 2009. She currently is the president of Malaysia’s National Human Rights Society, Suhakam.
Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir is eldest daughter of our 4th Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Mahathir Mohammad. An inspirational figure in Malaysia, she is a socio-political activist and writer/blogger. The leader of many organizations, such as the Malaysian AIDS Foundation, she has done much campaigning for this country.
Marina is also the recipient of the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the french government in 2016 for “Her voice and charisma to many causes”. This is an honor that only 7 other Malaysians have received so far.
Tan Hooi Ling
Tan Hooi Ling is one of the founders of the ride-hailing platform, Grab. Founded five years ago, the company now stretches into a total of eight countries. To think that this was all inspired by Tan Hooi Ling’s own struggle with the taxis. Talk about doing something amazing to fix a problem that has plagued many commuters. They’ve even brought the fight to juggernaut Uber!
Dr. Mazlan Othman
Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman is one of those pioneers that is a great role model for anyone wanting to pursue the field of science. The first Malaysian astrophysicist and a former director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, her list of achievements and contributions to space awareness and education is just extraordinary. Seriously, how many people can say that their work help launched an astronaut into space, the first Malaysian one at that?