8 Malaysian women doing it better

March 8, 2021

Women hold up half the world, as the saying goes. In conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8, we take a look at some of our inspiring local icons.

Here’s who’s on our list:

Dato’ Nicol Ann David



With a 51-match win streak, 9 Asian Squash Championship wins, 8 World Open wins, 5 British Open wins, 151 months as a world top 10 player AND (deep breath) a 108-month long reign as world #1, it’s no wonder she was voted The World Games Greatest Athlete of All Time. Her consistent, top-class performance has made us all proud to be Malaysian and #doneclaim this racket-raising sportswoman.

Hanna Alkaf


(Photo: The Star)

Hanna blew our minds with her debut novel The Weight of Our Sky when it hit shelves in 2019. While this tale of May 13 was written for young adults, the rest of us, uh, *slightly* older adults were equally transfixed by her writing. TWOOS won the Freeman Book Award in Young Adult/High School Literature, and has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia (Di Situ Langit Dijunjung) as well as adapted into a webtoon. Her second novel, The Girl and Her Ghost, was a 2020 Kirkus Prize Finalist.

And that’s not all – Hanna is also part of the team spearheading two hashtags that will be familiar to Twitterjaya: #PulangUndi and #KitaJagaKita, crowdsourcing assistance to get Malaysians home to vote for GE14 and mutual aid/donations to help people struggling during the various MCOs. We salute her big Malaysian heart, and her dedication to telling unapologetically Malaysian stories on an international stage,

Lohappriya Manisegaran



Fly high, sis! Klang native Lohappriya is the first Malaysian Indian woman to become a Royal Malaysian Air Force pilot. She received her Flight Wings on 9 October 2020. She’s proof that hard work and determination can take you far – sometimes even up into the clouds. We wish her all the best! 

Farah Ann binti Abdul Hadi


(Photo: GenerationT)

A gymnast since the tender age of 3, Farah Ann has seen her share of ups and downs. A shoulder fracture in 2011 nearly made her quit the sport, and she took a break from competing in 2013. She roared back to win her first two gold medals at the 2015 SEA Games in team and floor exercise. What we’re really excited for now is to see her debut at the Tokyo Olympics as Malaysia’s third-ever qualifying gymnast. Others may have beef with her style or her record – we’re just excited to see her stand on the podium once more. 

Adele Lim 


(Picture: LA Times)

You may not know Adele on sight, but she’s behind a great many of your TV favourites from the 2000s and 2010s. She was also the co-screenwriter for the 2018 Crazy Rich Asians movie (starring our one and only Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh). While she was also working on the sequel, she left after finding out her white male co-writer was being paid 8-10 times what she was. Her most recent writing credit is on Disney’s Raya: The Last Dragon, which we’ll hopefully be able to catch in cinemas once restrictions are loosened. We salute her for taking a stand for her work and paycheque!

Qyira Yusri


(Image: Me.reka)

Qyira is one of the founders and current Education Director of UNDI 18, a social enterprise focused on voter education and engagement in youth-related public policy. It all began as a student movement pushing to lower the minimum voting age in Malaysia to 18 from 21. After 3 years of lobbying, working with fellow students and youth organizations, and uplifting the voices of young Malaysians, their efforts and hard work definitely paid off! A Constitutional Amendment lowering the voting age in Malaysia was passed unanimously in 2019. UNDI 18 has also launched the #111Initiative, a project aiming to secure 50% female representation in the Dewan Rakyat. These young guns are ready for change – their way.

Dr. Nur Amalina Che Bakri


(Picture: Malay Mail)

After scoring a record 17 A1s for SPM in 2004 (and raising the bar way, WAY high for the rest of us), soon-to-be-Doc Amalina went on to study medicine in the UK, where she still practices today. She more than proved her skills in 2019 as part of the surgical team that saved a 9-month old Malaysian baby by removing a rare 200g germ cell tumour from her jaw. In the face of criticism aimed at her looks and her voice, she continues to excel at her job and debunk medical misinformation wherever she sees it. Take a bow, doc. We think you’ve earned it.



(Image: Wikipedia)

Who’s never had a little “Crush” on her by now? Singer-songwriter-director Yuna aka Yunalis binti Mat Zara’ai started as a Myspace sensation and rose to become an award-winning, BET-nominated artist who continues to shine while being perfectly comfortable with her Malaysian roots and upbringing. Seven albums, four tours and various smash hits later, she’s found her niche to thrive. We love to see it. 

Turns out that when we walk our own paths with confidence and flair, we all do it better. And if these are just eight of the shining stars we have out there now, imagine how much brighter we could all be when we dedicate ourselves to equality – equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunities for all genders?

In 2021, the theme for International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge, reminding us all that the fight against discrimination begins with our actions. Join us in celebrating everything that makes the women in your lives unique, powerful and loved – and help them, and the rest of Malaysia, do it better!