In the theme of love this Christmas season, we would like to share the story of Terrena and Kaiden. Their love transcends gender and inspired all of us, to love.
We have come a long way as women. With access to education, the freedom to build our careers, enjoy a bustling social life and create the life we dream, some would say we have it good.
Yet, it is important to know that it wasn’t always this way.
Without the women who have fought for our rights, we would not be where we are.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 each year, we look to the women who have and who continue to drive change in helping women reach their full potential. Today, we highlight 6 (of many) Malaysian women who we would like to thank for their contributions to women’s rights:
1. Ivy Josiah
As one of the pioneer volunteers and former president and executive director of the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), Josiah has been actively involved in the fight for women’s rights.
Established in 1982, WAO was one of the first organisations in Malaysia dedicated to helping women and children faced with violence. Josiah grew the organisation from a team of five to 20 employees, and played a key role in promoting WAO’s protection services, advocating for law and policy reforms and in educating the public on violence against women. She was also a member of the National Taskforce investigating sexual abuse allegations of indigenous women in Sarawak.
She believes in fighting for the rights of others, having shared that she gets “very angry when there is injustice”, which drives her to take a stand and act.
Today, she is no longer employed by WAO but continues to volunteer for the organisation, while balancing being in the committee of HAKAM (National Human Rights Society), PROHAM (The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights), and Bersih.
2. YBhg. Dato’ Ramani Gurusamy
As deputy president of the National Council of Women’s Organisation (NCWO), Ramani is a veteran fighter for women’s rights and development in Malaysia.
With focus on professional, social and community work to promote women empowerment, Ramani fought for giving women equal pay, medical, housing and other benefits in the 1960s.
She has been in the NCWO for more than 20 years now and has contributed in forming its many programmes, including the National Policy on Women and Action Plan.
She stresses the importance of young women to be involved in driving further progress in women’s rights. She told The Star:
“We need young, fresh blood in the women’s movement. We need your excitement, your passion and your commitment. So, prepare yourself to get into the movement. Get the leadership skills you need, and you probably already have them. Get into an organisation. Now, with the Internet, you can see what an organisation is all about. See what are the issues that interest you and get involved. We need you.”
3. Toh Puan Umasundari Sambanthan
You may know her as the wife of the late Tun V.T. Sambanthan, but Toh Puan herself is well known as an activist and social worker, raising the status of women, especially in rural areas.
A woman who values the power of education, she graduated with First Class Honors from the University of Madras, where she majored in Chemistry. She then continued her Master’s Degree at the Presidency College, Chennai.
In the 1950s, she was actively involved in fighting for women’s rights, and was involved in spreading awareness of the benefits of Malayan citizenship to rural women. She was also one of the founders and formal president of the NCWO and today, she continues to hold the position as general-secretary of the Sri Ramakrishna Sarada Society, which she co-founded in 1960.
4. Shamsiah Fakeh
Not many have heard of Shamsiah Fakeh. An independence fighter and feminist of the 1950’s, she was the leader of Malaysia's first nationalist women organization, the infamous Angkatan Wanita Sedar (AWAS) and also a prominent Malay leader of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).
Having fought persistently right into the jungles of Malaya, she has survived poverty, war and imprisonment. In her autobiography Memoir Shamsiah Fakeh: Dari AWAS Ke Rejimen Ke-10, Shamsiah writes: “I was merely a woman fighting the British for my country’s independence and the emancipation of women.”
5. Low Ngai Yuen
A mother of four young children, a successful entrepreneur and an advocate for women empowerment, one might think, “Where does she find the time?”
As with the other women on this list, she knows the difference women can make in this world, if only given the opportunity. From 3R TV to film direction and production, and to being the Marketing and Communications Director of the Malaysia and Singapore arm of Carrefour S.A, Low has done much to show that women can and should have the courage to achieve their goals and define their happiness.
Today, she is the president of Kakiseni, a not-for-profit performing arts platform, as well as the president and founder of WOMEN:girls, an organisation with a vision to help women realise their potential as role models and inspire girls to achieve their dreams.
When asked whether women can have it all, Low shares that one should always define ‘all’ in her own way and not in the expectation of others.
And her motto? Do what is right, not what is easy.
6. Maria Chin Abdullah
Familiar to many, Maria is a leading figure in the Bersih movements.
As a feminist and a human rights activist, Maria is a lawyer by profession and a prominent voice for women’s rights in Malaysia. She has been a key fighter for Malaysian women's rights for three decades, helping set up AWAM in 1985 and co-founding Empower, a non-governmental organisation that encourages women and young people to participate in politics and to campaign for civil liberties.
We have come a long way as women, but we are not there yet.
Whether it is calling out on unfair treatment, volunteering your time at an NGO, donating to help a young girl go to school, it is now up to us.
SHARE this with the women in your lives and make equality a reality.
This week’s #WonderWomanWednesday takes us to the calm, wooden interiors of La Juiceria Superfoods, where we were greeted with a fridge full of cold-pressed juices and the warm smile of the woman behind it all, Anabelle Co-Martinent.
Anabelle in the Madolen Bridal Gown in Burgundy
Having moved to Kuala Lumpur as a Chinese-Filipino expat in 2006 with her then newlywed husband, Anabelle has since become not only the founder of one of the most successful cold-pressed juice and health food stores in Malaysia, but also, a mother of 2 beautiful children.
Today, as we tell of La Juiceria’s founding story, we share Anabelle’s many words of wisdom and advice for mothers, and aspiring entrepreneurs alike.
A Newborn Baby, And A Newborn Business
It started in September 2013, when Anabelle was heavily pregnant with her second child. Months into her health journey, Anabelle discovered the simple act of eating better gave her more energy. With this, a vision to bring healthy eating in a convenient way to Malaysians was formed.
As her pregnancy came to an end, Anabelle created the first La Juiceria logo and juice formulas, with plans to start a business after her son’s delivery.
“I didn’t know how I was going to do it,” she recalled.
“I was alone, a foreigner and I had always been in corporate.”
These thoughts could have very well stopped Anabelle from pursuing her business, but with a nagging feeling inside her, she knew she had to do it.
Anabelle in the 3-Way Remy Shift Dress in Black
In the week of her son’s birth, Anaballe ordered organic vegetables online and from a conversation with the delivery guy, she had found her first business partner. He brought on his best friend and together, the three became the first of the La Juiceria team, which has since grown to close to a 100 members, operating an online store, 12 juice bars and two health food cafes.
On Entrepreneurship: Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
This is a statement Anabelle stands strong by.
With a newborn baby in her arms and a determination to make this business a reality, Anabelle set on to build the La Juiceria website. From photoshoots using her own camera to writing product descriptions while breastfeeding, to replying customers in the middle of the night, Anabelle, together with her team, made it happen.
Having worked as a producer for BFM before founding La Juiceria, Anabelle had interviewed over 100 entrepreneurs, all of whom shared a common story:
“It is a hard climb at the beginning but it so fulfilling when you get there.”
Despite the innevitable hard work, loneliness and setbacks of the entrepreneurial journey, Anabelle encourages us to go for it.
“You live once. People fear of many things but if you have the heart, find the right time and do it. Of course, don’t just jump in. There’s a reality behind it and you have to be able to sustain and survive. So if you are able to sustain for a year, take a year to try it out. If you fail, you fail. You learn. It’s a life experience.”
On Motherhood: Nothing Compares To Being A Mother
Despite her many achievements in her career and entrepreneurial journey, Anabelle shared that no number of awards and no number of new outlets can compare to being a mother.
“Being a mother is the most rewarding, miraculous thing a woman can ever have and that’s a blessing. It’s something money can’t buy. It’s something that can never be replaced,” she expressed.
Anabelle with her family at her daughter's 7th birthday party
Having met so many mothers, from mothers with young children to mothers with children all grown up and who have left home, the most important thing that Anabelle’s learned is, “Don’t lose yourself in the process.”
We know of many women, including our own mothers, perhaps, who have taken a step back for their children, moving from “power meetings to power laundry” and in so doing, losing direction.
“You have to plan something for yourself,” Anabelle emphasised.
“Keep yourself abreast with what’s happening and what you want to do in life because there will come a time when your children will grow up and leave home.”
Whether it is part-time, charity work, baking, sewing or starting an online business, Anabelle urges mothers to keep busy, doing something not just for the family, but for themselves.
On Balancing It All: You Have To Be The Best Of Yourself
“Wake up early, fill up calendars, have discipline. If you want to achieve many things, it is not impossible. Just keep going every day and when you look back, you’ll go ‘WOW! I’ve done that’ and now, you can reach even more people and make an even bigger difference.”
Working in the health food industry, Anabelle too has to find time to maintain physical health and fitness. She exercises and chooses healthy as often as she can and despite her love of chocolates and desserts (as every other woman out there), she said, “If you eat right, it is easy to stay in shape.”
Anabelle's favourite item on the La Juiceria Superfoods menu is the
Soft Boiled Kampung Egg (with Avocado)!
In balancing all of being a wife, a mother, handling her business and staying fit, Anabelle shared, “You just do it. You just make it happen.”
We Need More Women Entrepreneurs
"Men are everywhere, at the top of the ladder, dominating entrepreneurship awards, because women always take a step back when they have children," she said.
More than telling us, Anabelle has shown that just as she can, you can do it. You can be a mother. You can be an entrepreneur.
“Deciding to do it is already a first move. Whether you are successful or you fail, you take it as a life experience.”
To mothers, women and all dreamers, do something today.
“If I want to do something, I’ll always put 110% in whatever I do,” Nadiah said.
Deceived by her petite body size, we wouldn’t have discovered Diah’s big dreams until we’ve spoken to her. Be that as it may, she doesn’t call those as her dreams, but plans instead. She has this belief that if one fails to plan, he or she plans to fail.
Raised up in a family with multicultural background, Diah learns to value differences from an early age. She also knows the importance to be in harmony as well as in unity with those around her. Her big-heart and passion to help others has led her to pursue a medical career. She has recently graduated as a doctor from a medical school in the United Kingdom (UK). This coming July, she’ll be going back to the UK to serve as a trainee doctor for two years before deciding on which route she’ll take to be a specialist.
Apart from focusing on her medical career, Diah has another 10-years plan which is to embark on a business idea that no one sees possible, but herself. Unlike any other old folks’ home that can be seen mushrooming everywhere in Malaysia, she plans on starting up a place that the elderly would feel at home. The concept is similar to replicating their home without affecting the 3 important aspects in anyone’s life – quality, privacy, and independence.
“Each and every one of us is independent with most self-care skills. We don’t become less independent as we grow older. When some might have difficulties in it, we still have to ask them to at least try to feed themselves, bathe themselves, and clothe themselves.” Diah stated. Despite knowing that she’ll need a proper big land for this business idea to materialize, she vows to persevere on it. As for now, she is currently on a path to motivate and inspire others to live healthily.
Diah is pretty devoted to fitness even though her first intention was just to relieve stress. She started off her fitness journey in 2013 by jogging for about 20 to 30 minutes a day. Back then, her weight was not consistent and would often fluctuate. When she came upon Kayla Itsines’s fitness guide, she became more discipline to stay on track with her health goals. “Nothing comes easy but determination and discipline will get you there.” Diah admits.
Once she saw the results appearing on her body, it slowly becomes an addiction for her to workout. This is when she pushes herself further to go to gym and try out weightlifting. “I think in this world, anything you want to do is always self-motivation. If you’re not motivated to do it, whoever asks you to do it, you won’t do it,” says Diah.
Her instagram account, @fmebydr, was started not even a year ago. Albeit that, the attention that the account has gathered up till now is astonishing, nearly 2000 followers from all over the world!
Through this online community, she does not only feel motivated by everyone else’s progress, advices, tips and tricks, she also gets to incite others with her posts that consists of appetizing dishes, from breakfast, lunch, snacks to dinner, together with its recipes.
She showed that meal prep and clean eating is not a challenge. Her generosity in sharing her knowledge has given her a chance to be the ambassador of a well-being product.
LEFT: IRA by Twenty3 Bridesmaids Collection; RIGHT: MOVE by Twenty3 (Launching Soon)
At this point of her life, she is trying and doing her best in every career path – medical, business, and fitness. As time passes by, she’ll soon discover which will work the best for her.“Try to love yourself more now because you’ll love it even more in the future. If you don’t love yourself more now, you wouldn’t even want to make yourself better. If you start loving yourself, then you will do whatever it takes to improve yourself. It’s always the positive vibes that we need to foster.” - Nadiah.
3 reasons why Eleanor Roosevelt is the original #GirlBoss #WonderWomanWednesday
International Women’s Day 2016 may have passed, but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop celebrating and promoting the cause of women everywhere! Tea by Twenty3, our basic line of quirky graphic tees that aim to inspire self-reflection, is all about empowering women to unabashedly celebrate themselves and indulge in the self-love that they deserve.
So what's with the name "Tea"?
Tea isn't just a play on "t-shirt", or a random word we picked out to christen our new line of basics. Our graphic designers wanted their work to have a name that would adequately convey the sense of strength, confidence, and femininity that they've imbued into their designs.
So we decided it was only appropriate for this collection to pay homage to a woman who we think is an absolute boss: Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor, the First Lady of the United States of America from 1933 to 1945 and a firm advocate for causes she believed in, has said lots of cool things, including, apparently, this gem:
"A woman is like a tea bag --- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water."
We can't describe Eleanor as anything less than a force of nature.
1. She broke new ground in issues like equal rights for women. During the war, she was one of the first to push for factory jobs to be given to women, in an era where women were expected to stay home and act demure.
“If I were of a debutante age I would go into a factory–any factory where I could learn a skill and be useful.”
Following the war, she was heavily involved in the drafting of the New Deal, in which she advocated for women higher wages and more white-collar jobs. She chaired the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, and was a prolific and highly influential newspaper columnist advancing the cause of women everywhere.
2. She fought for underrepresented racial minorities. She was one of the only voices in the White House to argue for equal benefits for all races under the New Deal, and refusing to acquiesce to demands for racial segregation (she once placed a chair in the center aisle of a public meeting that adopted racially-segregated seating). She broke precedent by inviting hundreds of African-American guests to the White House, when parts of the country were still segregated and racial tensions were high.
3. She played an instrumental role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even after the death of her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, her stature in the global civil rights movement was such that she was elected the first chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Following her death, the UN posthumously awarded her one of its first Human Rights Prizesin 1968 in recognition of her work.
In an era when women had far less opportunity to be seen and heard than they do today, Eleanor resolutely pushed through glass ceilings and tried to help others do the same. We're proud to honour Eleanor's inspirational life in Tea by Twenty3. To Eleanor, and other women like her, this one's for you.