Meet These 7 Badass Malaysian Women Who Are Doing The Country Proud

Motivated by a simple motto - #IAmIWantIWill.

Cover image via Su Ling Chan , Sakhti.D , OneApps

Everyone has a dream or a goal that they're working towards. At times they may seem far away, and the journey may be tough - but nothing that sheer perseverance and determination can't pull you through. 

Going with their #IAmIWantIWill campaign, AIA believes that you can achieve whatever you want to do in life as long as you take charge of it, just like these women:

1. Heidy Quah, co-founder of Refuge For the Refugees

Heidy was just 18 when she co-founded Refuge For the Refugees (RFTR), a non-governmental organisation that aims to raise the standard of living for refugee children in Malaysia. The NGO's main mission is to provide education to refugee children, as well as aiding existing refugee schools as much as it can.

It all started as a charity project to raise funds for the refugee school where Heidy was volunteering. The school was on the verge of shutting down due to lack of funds. In five years' time, RFTR grew into a full-fledged NGO that supports 35 schools in Malaysia and Myanmar

It was never a smooth sailing journey, but Heidy said in an interview with New Straits Times that seeing the smiles on the children's faces make it all worth it. “And knowing they too have started empowering their own people with education keeps me motivated and makes me more confident to continue what I’m doing now.”

Currently 23 years old, Heidy continues to run RFTR and is the sole Malaysian winner of the Queen's Young Leaders Award, an award that recognises youths between the ages of 18-29 from Commonwealth countries who took the initiative to lead and transform lives with their skills.  

2. Aveena Devi Krishna Kumar, author and visual artist

Image via Aveena Shakti

At just 23 years old, Aveena is already a published author as well as a visual artist who has recently sold a number of her paintings. At the same time, she suffers from spina bifida, a condition that happens when a baby's spine and spinal cord did not develop while they're in the womb, resulting in a gap in the spine.

Due to her condition, Aveena had to go through major life-threatening surgeries since the day she was born. By the time she turned 17, she had already been exposed to seven more high risk operations. 

Apart from battling the pain caused by her medical condition, Aveena also had to fight to attend school. Many public schools could not accept her due to her condition - she had to study in a private school, where she published her first book. Upon graduation, she even went on to get a Diploma in Culinary Arts. Aveena also recently sold a few of her paintings in a bazaar.

"My wheelchair does not define me," she said. Aveena never let her condition stop her from doing the things she likes, and even learn how to drive. "Giving up is not an option. Once you do, everything falls apart."

3. Dr. Mazlan Othman, Malaysia's first astrophysicist

Dr. Mazlan is not only the leading authority in the field of astrophysics in Malaysia, she's also one of the best in the world. She graduated from the University of Otago with a PhD in Physics, becoming the first woman to do so ever since the university was founded in 1869. 

One of the first things she did for Malaysia was to create a curriculum for astrophysics for the universities. Dr. Mazlan also helped develop the national planetarium of Malaysia, and was instrumental in sending our first Angkasawan - Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor - to space. 

Image via IISD

The thing that makes Dr. Mazlan super awesome is that she was appointed as the Director of the United Nations Office For Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) not just once, but twice! Being in this position means that she not only needs to coordinate space laws for different countries, but also to prevent risky collisions and near-earth asteroids.

Dr. Mazlan has since retired from her post as Director UNOOSA. Being one of the few female astrophysicists in the world, Dr. Mazlan said that she was never favoured or discriminated because of her gender. "My father always taught me that I could do anything I wanted. I was always the only girl in the class, things like that. I am lucky in that my prime minister gave me so much leeway and so many opportunities." 

4. Chan Su Ling, World No. 9 jiu-jitsu fighter

Su Ling's dream is to become the first Malaysian woman to win a medal at the World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships. For that, she has been training tirelessly for seven years. 

Her day begins at 7am, where she'll first head to the gym to do some cardio exercises before heading to work. After work, Su Ling heads to the gym again for jiu-jitsu training for four hours

Su Ling has participated in many jiu-jitsu competitions in the region. One of her achievements include a bronze medal from the Philippines National Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championships. In 2014, she was ranked World No. 9 in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and even managed to enter the quarter-finals of the World Championships.

Unfortunately, she was defeated in that round. Refusing to give up, Su Ling vows to return to the Championships and win a medal for Malaysia. 

5. Datuk Yvonne Chia, Malaysia's first female bank CEO

In 1996, Yvonne created history by becoming the first female bank Chief Executive Officer in Malaysia. She has been in the banking industry for at least 30 years, starting her career in the marketing division of the Bank of America. 

Yvonne initially joined RHB as a General Manager after her 18-year service in the Bank of America. A few years later, she was appointed as the CEO of the bank. During that time, she also became the first Malaysian woman to be awarded the CEO Eagle Pin

Image via Silverlake

When asked about her experience being a female leader in a male-dominated industry, Yvonne said that instead of perceiving it from the standpoint of gender, she chose to prove herself as "a right candidate for the job". This led to her success as CEO of two large Malaysian banks. 

6. Major Patricia Yapp, Asia's first female MiG-29 fighter pilot

Image via OneApps

Major Patricia has always wanted to be a pilot, but her father didn't agree with that career choice. She was studying Law in Kuala Lumpur when she applied to join the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), but she kept this a secret from her family until she passed the first selection process.

She passed her flight training and obtained the call sign 'Foxy'. Major Patricia was so good at her job that she was promoted to lead pilot of the Smokey Bandits Squadron based in Kuantan. That was when she became the first ever Asian female pilot to fly the MiG-29

Image via OneApps

Right now, Major Patricia serves as a flight instructor, training future fighter pilots for the RMAF. She's also happily married to a fellow fighter pilot and has two beautiful children.

Major Patricia has gone through the same training as her male colleagues, and given the same opportunities to excel. In a recent interview, she said, "It is all about your interests and commitment, and most of all, God’s blessing that will help you to succeed."

7. Tan Sri Dr. Robaayah Zambahari, former CEO of the National Heart Institute

Image via IJN

Dr. Roobayah is known as one of the best female cardiologists in the country. The former CEO of the National Heart Institute (IJN) has been working as a doctor for more than four decades, but she has no plans of retiring yet. 

The sociable and friendly doctor first started to be interested in cardiology when she was in medical school. She eventually joined the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital to specialise in that area. 

Dr. Robaayah has also been credited for improving Malaysia's healthcare standard. She's also one of the founders of IJN, which provides the best and latest treatments for heart patients. 

Despite being 65 years old this year, Dr. Robaayah shows no sign of slowing down and continues to work about 10 hours a day at IJN. When asked if she's ever thought of retiring, the cardiologist said that she hoped to work till she's 70 before leaving the industry. 

Inspired to work towards your dream goals like these women? AIA believes that you should be empowered to take charge of your life, career, and health.

The A-Life Lady360 is a plan which provides women with life insurance benefits and other features designed specially for women, so you can pursue your dreams and maintain an equally healthy lifestyle at the same time.

AIA spoke to three powerful women - Alia Bastamam, Aida Munirah, and Hui Mathews - on the challenges they've faced in their journey to achieve their goals. Watch the inspiring video here:

You can also find out more the A-Life Lady360 here

Read about these inspiring women:

You may be interested in: