The past year has definitely been a wild rollercoaster ride filled with multiple challenges in that we’ve never thought we’d have to go through in our lifetime. And for all that we’ve taken on and overcome, as women we for one deserve a good pat on our backs!

At the same time, in line with this year’s International Women’s Day theme that is #choosetochallenge, we’d like to acknowledge our homegrown female warriors who have gone the extra mile to show their care, love and empathy, and protect the communities who were left without a voice during this past year of the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking back at the fundamentals of humanity, Heidy Quah, Dr. Hartini Zainudin, Juliana Adam and Dr. Jezamine Lim reveal to us more about what motivated them to look past gender, age, race, nationality and status to provide for the marginalised communities in Malaysia, how they have acknowledged their ups and downs in the process of realising their goals, and what they have chosen to challenge themselves to fight for in the coming year.

Heidy Quah, Founder & Executive Director of Refuge For The Refugees

“I #choosetochallenge injustice.”

While many of us had the privilege of staying home and staying safe comfortably, it wasn’t the same for refugees and migrant workers in Malaysia. This meant that they had to give up their only source of income without any back up since the MCO was first implemented. Coming from a single income family, Heidy clearly understood how insecure and vulnerable this made them feel and decided to go all out to get their basic needs sorted.

Every week proved to be a new challenge for her as different needs had to be attended to and like all of us, Heidy went through her fair share of ups and downs as well. “My biggest challenge was having to deal with the cyberbullying. Malaysians are extremely generous but there’s a small group out there who kind of created a hate community online and questioned why we were using the taxpayers’ money to feed refugees and migrants. There were times when I almost wanted to give up but what kept me going was my team who reminded me of the main reason why we started this whole thing. I’m definitely grateful to have a like-minded team when I was at my weakest point,” shares Heidy.

On what this year’s International Women’s Day means to her, Heidy reveals that it was the strength that she got from refugee mothers and women who remained resilient in the face of adversity and the courage that they had in them despite being victims of human trafficking. At the end of the day, it’s all about overcoming struggles despite the multiple barriers that you face in everything you do.

Look out for Heidy's story that will be released on 10th March

ON HEIDY: HOUNDSTOOTH BLAZER, RM379, ZARA. CARDIGAN, RM139, AND KICK FLARE JEANS, RM179, BOTH BERSHKA. RUCHED STRAP MULES, RM179.90, CHARLES & KEITH. EARRINGS, NECKLACES, AND RINGS, ALL LES GEORGETTES BY ALTESSE

Dr. Hartini Zainudin, Co-Founder of Yayasan Chow Kit & Child Activist

“I #choosetochallenge the belief and policy of child marriages in Malaysia.”

While many might recognise this bubbly lady for the work that she has done in the last 40 years to provide for refugee and migrant children in Malaysia, Dr. Hartini took it a step further by reaching out to single mothers and the families and communities of these children in the past year.

On average, the number of cases that she had to deal with per day rose from three to 50 after the MCO started as many refugees and migrant workers lost their sources of income and didn’t know where to turn to. Her biggest challenge throughout this whole episode was having to deal with the xenophobia as many people questioned her contribution of time and money to the refugees and migrant families.

“My heart broke every time a kid from these communities asked me why people hate them or when they asked me if they could have a little extra food. I asked myself so many times: what will happen if I stop? Maybe someone else might do what I do but the answer was no. I needed to continue doing this for the children and for their families, and that kept me going despite the hate comments and messages that were thrown at me,” shares Dr. Hartini.

Look out for Dr. Hartini’s full story that will be released on 15th March.

ON DR. HARTINI: ‘GEORGE’LINEN BLAZER, RM379, AND ‘DUA’ SATIN PANTS, RM209, BOTH THE EDIT. PLUS SIZE WRINKLED BLOUSE, RM169, VIOLETA BY MANGO. STRAPPY THONG SANDALS, RM179.90, CHARLES & KEITH. EARRINGS, AND BRACELETS, ALL LES GEORGETTES BY ALTESSE

Juliana Adam, CEO of Biji-biji Initiative & Co-founder of Me.reka

“I #choosetochallenge the status quo.”

Like many of us, Juliana was not spared from the downside of the MCO as she had to figure out ways to give her business a digital twist. But more importantly, she and her team were concerned about the B40 groups who didn’t have a place to turn to. As a result, together with her team, Juliana decided to make use oft he skills that this group of workers had and work with other organisations to produce PPEs for the frontliners so that it would be a win-win situation for all parties.

“Many might not realise it but these people have concerns that are far greater than what we see. Health, finance and food were among the main concerns that they needed to work through. These people lived in PPRs and while they worked to produce PPEs, we made sure that they had all the skills required so that they could eventually re-enter the workforce again,” says Juliana. At the same time, she decided to use this period to upskill herself by taking courses on leadership management and put her creativity to the test by learning how to produce accessories.

Look out for Juliana’s full story that will be released on 22nd March.

ON JULIANA: RUCHED SLEEVE BLAZER, RM324.90, AND PURE COTTON OVERSIZED LONG SLEEVE SHIRT, RM179.90, BOTH MARKS & SPENCER. LEATHER-EFFECT ELASTIC WAIST TROUSERS, RM169, MANGO. KNITTED SOCK SNEAKERS, RM229.90, CHARLES & KEITH. EARRINGS, NECKLACES, BRACELET, AND RINGS, ALL LES GEORGETTES BY ALTESSE

Dr. Jezamine Lim Iskander, Founder of Cell Biopeutics Resources, Research & Scientific Advisory Board member for private companies and Co-founder of The Hope Branch Community & The Joke Factory

“I #choosetochallenge gender inequality.”

As a woman who is always on the go, Dr. Jezamine found it extremely hard to be sitting at home even for three days in a row when MCO 1.0 took place. This led her and her husband, Harith Iskander to figure out ways of contributing PPEs to our frontliners through their existing resources even before the start of the MCO.

What came as a surprise to Dr. Jezamine was when they both decided to officially register their then-mini project called The Hope Branch to become an official NGO, which is now known as Pertubuhan Amal HI (Harith Iskander), so that they could raise more funds in a short span of time.

“Once the PPEs were sorted, we contacted Datuk Munirah Hamid who heads the Pertiwi Soup Kitchen to check in on her, and that was when we found out that things were really tough for them as there were no funds coming in. It was then that I decided to go all out and use my time to not only raise funds through our NGO but also cook an average of 2,000 meals a week. As a woman, this International Women’s Day made me realise the importance of lifting the spirits of others out there and the struggle that many mothers in society go through,” explains Dr.Jezamine.

Look out for Dr. Jezamine’s full story that will be released on 29th March.

ON DR. JEZAMINE: KNIT ARM WARMERS WITH TURTLENECK, RM119, AND KNIT CORSET TOP, RM99.90, BOTH ZARA. CROPPED BLAZER, RM179, BERSHKA. DARTS LYOCELL TROUSERS, RM169, MANGO. WOVEN CAGED PUMPS, RM349.90, CHARLES & KEITH. EARRINGS, NECKLACE, AND RINGS, ALL LES GEORGETTES BY ALTESSE 

Here's a sneak peek of what our women warriors will be challenging themselves to this year.

Photography & videography: Tan Guo Xiang
Art Direction:
Zariel Zahann
Styling:
Rachel Dulis
Coordination:
Vasenta Selvanayagam & Yang Mei Ling
Assisted by:
Angela De Souza
Makeup & hair:
Kenny Yee & Moon Tio/Makeup Miracle

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