6 Iconic M’sian Women You Need To Know & Learn From

It’s no longer a just man’s world any more. Women are setting industry standards and paving the way for the future in various fields of work.

They’ve contributed to Malaysia in so many ways, it’s impossible to list them all — but one thing we know, our nation wouldn’t be the same without them. These iconic women prove that if you work hard enough to achieve your goals, you can do everything you’ve ever dreamed of and beyond.

From the fields of science, arts, politics and activism, read on to find out about these 6 incredibly badass Malaysian women:

1. Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman

When it comes to chasing your dreams, is the sky really the limit? Prof Mazlan Othman proves that you can go beyond the skies and into the stars. She’s Malaysia’s very first astrophysicist, and one of the leading authority of astrophysics in the world. After all, she was the first woman to graduate from the University of Otago with a PhD in Physics. She was appointed as the Director of the UN Office For Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) not just once, but twice. This means she was pretty much responsible for preventing Earth’s collisions with asteroids and overseeing space laws in different countries – a feat not many people can achieve. Back in 2007, Prof Mazlan spearheaded the efforts in sending our very first astronaut into the International Space Station when she led the National Astronaut Programme. Meanwhile, if you’ve been to the Planetarium Negara here in KL, you’ll have her to thank for that! She’s contributed so much to the astrophysics industry and brought Malaysia’s name to the stars. We’re proud of you, Prof!

2. Hannah Yeoh

Hannah Yeoh is no stranger to women in the country. Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development is the fearless, outspoken leader we need. Before venturing into Malaysian politics, Hannah was a practicing lawyer in Australia and Malaysia. She’s also the first female speaker and youngest member of any legislative body in Malaysia when she became a speaker at the Selangor State Legislative Assembly. Now, she’s on a mission to reduce the rates of baby dumping by providing a safe avenue for single moms and their babies. Thank you Hannah, for making Malaysia a better place, one efficient step at a time.

3. Dr. Nur Amalina Che Bakri

After scoring an inspiring number of 17 1As for SPM back in 2004, the super high-achiever went on to study medicine in the United Kingdom, sponsored by Bank Negara. In 2013, she graduated as a doctor from the University of Edinburgh. Earlier this year, the UK-based surgeon was awarded the Darzi Academic Clinical Fellowship from Imperial College London. “Alhamdulillah. I’ll continue my hard work and make Malaysia proud,” she tweeted.

“Alhamdulillah. I’ll continue my hard work and make Malaysia proud.” – Dr. Amalina

Plus, Dr. Amalina has a kickass sense of style. She inspires every Malaysian girl with her knowledgeable tweets and Instagram posts. As of now, she’s taken a break from Twitter to focus on her specialist training in general surgery, career goals and academics. There’s no stopping this feisty young doctor from pursuing her dreams!

4. Yasmin Ahmad

The award-winning film director’s name is no stranger in the film industry. The late Yasmin Ahmad wasn’t afraid to push the envelope with her thought-provoking films, like Sepet, which is the Malaysian equivalent of Romeo and Juliet. Yasmin’s films documented the reality of many Malaysians. Meanwhile, her Petronas ad which depicted primary school students Tan Hong Ming and Umi Qazrina confessing their love for each other captured millions of hearts nationwide when it was aired on TV. Her films and ads didn’t need special effects – they were nostalgic, relevant, inspiring, and tugged at our heartstrings because of the human element within. You didn’t just watch her story unfold, you felt it. She has paved the way and set the standards for the film industry in Malaysia. Yasmin passed away in 2009, but her legacy lives on in every Malaysian’s heart.

5. Ivy Josiah

She’s the key pioneer of the Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) in Malaysia. Ivy first joined WAO as a volunteer a few months after it was founded in 1982. She was eventually appointed as the executive director for 19 years. This incredible woman tirelessly champions for women’s rights, leads WAO’s efforts in providing shelter for battered women, advocates for policy reform for those that affect women and educates the public on violence against women. Together with Sisters In Islam, Ivy persistently lobbied for Malaysia’s Domestic Violence Act for nine consecutive years, until the bill was passed an implemented in 1996. Before the act, domestic violence was regarded as a family matter and not criminalised formally in legal circumstances. Here’s the thing about Ivy – she doesn’t accept the things she can’t change. She works hard to make changes that’s needed in our nation. Injustice angers her, as it should all of us. She has since retired from WAO, and continues to volunteer with the organization, while serving as a committee member for the National Human Rights Society.

6. Yuna

You’ve probably heard her breakout single with Usher, “Crush” about a gazillion times on the radio. Our homegrown songbird inspires every young woman to pursue her dreams, and make a name for herself beyond the continent. The singer-songwriter is based in Los Angeles and her songs have topped the Billboard charts and won incredible accolades worldwide. Early in February this year, her song “Lullabies” was featured in Oscar de la Renta’s runway show at the New York Fashion Week.

Word on the Internet says that she’ll be collaborating with Korean hip-hop group Epik High for their latest album. First of all, way to break into every segment of the music industry, Yuna! Nothing makes a Malaysian prouder than hearing her song played on the radio (or anywhere else, really) and thinking, “That’s our girl.”

Breaking the glass ceiling? These women have been there, done that. Let’s be inspired by them and continue to strive for a better gender-balanced world. Which female icon inspires you every day? Share your story with us in the comments below.