Every year since 2012, the United Nations has observed October 11 as International Day of The Girl Child. The international organisation declared a Day of The Girl to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face worldwide. They reported that nearly 1 in 4 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are neither employed nor in education compared to 1 in 10 boys of the same age. The International Day of the Girl demands for the commitment to tackle these challenges, boost empowerment and uphold human rights.
This year, following the theme, My Voice, Our Equal Future, the focus is placed on protecting adolescent girls from gender-based violence, harmful practices and HIV and AIDs, as well as providing them with the skills needed to succeed in the future of their choice, and supporting their activism to advance social change. Here are 5 Malaysian women who are breaking the barriers set by stereotypes and exclusion to create a more accessible and inclusive space for future generations:
1. Dr Chan Yoke Fun
The first Malaysian to win the Asean-US Science Prize for Women, Dr. Chan was recognised for her research on developing a single vaccine for both hand, foot and mouth disease, and brain diseases in children. She is the head of the Medical Microbiology Department in Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine and was picked among 10 national finalists who played promising roles in preventive healthcare.
2. Nor “Phoenix” Diana
Not only was Nor Diana the first hijab-wearing pro-wrestler, she was also the first female winner of the Malaysia Pro Wrestling Wrestlecon championship, beating out five men. The former clinical assistant was featured on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list and has been training with the British independent women’s professional wrestling promotion – Pro Wrestling: EVE.
3. Arinna Erin
Remember when Nike launched their first modest swimwear collection? One of the models who appeared in the global campaign was Malaysian, Arinna Erin. The hijabi-model is signed to BAME Models in the UK, where she received her Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Social Media from Brunel University, London.
4. Yangsze Choo
We were all excited for Netflix’s The Ghost Bride – a Taiwanese/Malaysian drama set in 19th century Malacca. The cast and crew were mainly made up of Malaysians, but the story itself was also written by a Malaysian whose book was ranked on the New York Times’ bestseller list and Oprah.com’s Book of the Week. Yangsze Choo’s second novel, The Night Tiger, was also a success – securing her a spot on New York Times and Publishers Weekly’s bestseller lists, as well as Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club.
5. Steffi Sarge Kaur
Steffi Kaur was a national football player and futsal player known for representing Malaysia in the Southeast Asian Games and South Asian Games. Now she is a FootGolf player, recently representing Malaysia at the FootGolf Asia Cup in Australia. Kaur grew up wanting to be a scientist until she was captivated by the athletes at the opening ceremony of the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
Everyone has the right to a safe, educated and healthy life, but unfortunately, many adolescent girls are denied these guarantees and freedoms. Girls have the power to change the world because they make up almost half of the population – imagine how much more effective problem-solving would be if we all worked together to solve climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention and global sustainability? In the words of Michelle Obama, “Women and girls can do whatever they want. There is no limit to what we as women can accomplish”. Let’s get it, girls!