Q. Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
A. I have several women who inspire me, but I would like to pay tribute to one woman who I look up to as a source of inspiration. She is a simple ordinary woman, blind, rejected by her family, and grew up in an orphanage. She strove to be independent, worked as a telephone receptionist at a university, married a husband with low vision, and raised four beautiful children. In spite of her disabilities and difficult life, she was always positive, advising and giving courage to others, and had a cheerful disposition.
We lost Nurul last week to COVID. Her family and loved ones, including me, were able to say our goodbyes over video calls. Nurul has left a mark in our hearts and will always be loved and remembered for her kindness, love and support to family, friends and all.
Nurul, we will miss your sweet voice and smile. You inspire me!
Q. What do you think is the most important change that needs to happen for women and girls around the world right now?
A. I wish to see positive changes in male behaviour, perception and attitude toward women and girls starting from family, home, school and the workplace. That all biases and prejudices are removed, and women and girls are empowered to make their own life choices and decisions.
I wish for all women and girls to love themselves, to have self-respect and self-worth, be brave and strong to overcome barriers and constraints that impede their success and progress, to have the courage to strive for what they want in life and to be supported by men, fathers, brothers, educators, bosses, peers and others in all phases of their lives.
Q. Are there any positive changes in legislation or initiatives that have happened for women and girls in your country recently?
A. The ANA CHAT BOX Initiative, which is a platform for girls and boys to freely discuss health and well-being related issues in the privacy of their own settings. It was launched in 2021 and is housed with the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations Malaysia (FRHAM), and is funded by UNICEF.
Many teenagers are not informed nor prepared especially on personal and sensitive topics such as their sexuality, reproductive health, mental health, relationships and trust.
In order to give teen girls and boys a safe space to discuss their personal issues with privacy and confidentiality, RAGE, a media youth group, devised ANA CHAT BOX. Starting originally with commonly asked questions such as dating, skincare, periods and mental stress, the youth group looked for technical knowledge partners to enrich ANA.
Together with UNICEF, ECPAT Malaysia worked with RAGE to include sexual and reproductive health, mental health, online and offline sexual abuse and exploitation, teenage pregnancies, family planning and more. Town halls were held with youth to give input and obtain feedback which was then fed into ANA.
ANA is being promoted to a wider audience of adolescents and youth to keep them informed, safe and protected.