If we are to be august men, realizing all the qualities of Rudyard Kipling’s IF, then we should start with a heightened sense of self reflection. Ergo, we look to our compatriots for inspiration and urgent perspective this International Women’s Day, on March 8th, to discover grit that trancends gender and fervour for the things worth living for.

Yasmin Rasyid on Rallying Environmental Champions
“I didn’t have an eureka moment where I decided I’d champion environmental issues. I was just following my passion, instincts and interests,” says Yasmin. Her company EcoKnights, is KL’s premier education and awareness organization for all things mother nature. They’ve promoted pragmatic solutions like urban farming, adventure camps for next-gen eco-warriors, and even the International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival.

What’s the most immediate thing we can do for our environment?

“Buying less and wasting less is a good place to start. It’s the simple things that we’re expected to do, but don’t, that ruin the planet.”

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Suri Kempe on Improving Our Systems

“It wasn’t an easy task, but we did it and it was a successful project,” says Suri about a job early in her career, that had her linking persons with disabilities to employment opportunities. That meant reassuring both parents and potential employers it would be win-win for everyone.

Currently a programme manager at the UNDP, she’s best known for her work with Sisters In Islam. Founded to promote gender equality and empower women, they ask probing questions about human rights within religious contexts. As you can imagine, not every mufti’s idea of healthy company.

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Shereen Wong on Changing Destinies, One Classroom At A Time

“My classes typically start at 8am until about 2pm. Then its administrative work and home visits. It’s very important to see what kind of environment these kids live in, what kind of families they go home to,” says Shereen. Formerly an auditor and Teach For Malaysia Fellow, she now works with Dignity For Children.

Her colleagues comes from all backgrounds, brought together by a commitment and passion for education. “We needs schools that recognize not every student can cope with the established system. And with education, we have a chance to break the cycle of poverty.”

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Michelle Yesudas on the Fight For Constitutional Rights

“There are poor people who can’t go to court, even when they’re the ones who need it most.” With her work at Lawyers For Liberty, Michelle has a front row seat whenever the system fails the most vulnerable. 

And representing the downtrodden also extends to women’s rights. “Some people still see it as a product of modernization, or liberalism or just a nuisance. We’re concerned with equal opportunity for all.”

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Young Syefura Othman on Bridging The Socio-Political Divide

“If you want your voice heard, and your ideas out there, you need to get involved in politics.” And Syefura or Rara, knows the cost of standing up for the things you believe in. Choosing to join opposition party DAP, she’s been branded with repulsive tags and even lost a few friends in the process.

But having worked in soup kitchens and various community projects,  she says, “When you’re at ground zero, it’s not about politics anymore, but about welfare and taking care of the people.”


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