By: Supriya Sivabalan
In conjunction with International Women’s Day, we celebrate the strength and vigour of females and their power. Today’s progressive world has allowed us to break the stigma of stay-at-home wives and dominant husbands as we shine the light on the incredible talents of women and what they can do. This International Women’s Day we are grateful to the females who have consistently fought to shatter the patriarchal system that has been in place for many years. Indeed, this fight is not in vain as some of today’s world leaders, voices and influencers are firm and dedicated women - not afraid to speak up for the better good and for what they genuinely believe in.
Source: Women Who Love Tech
These women include those who are strong advocates of sustainability to ensure a world in which both people and the ecosystems we depend on can flourish. Championing sustainability has slowly gained traction as the “in thing” as of late and we at Biji Biji are glad to see more people normalizing alternative sustainable elements. However, this “trend” was made possible through those who continuously pushed for sustainability since the beginning - especially those who have a big following. Female influencers who have taken this global mission of sustainability into their own hands and made more and more people realize how important it is for the public to start conscious consumption and recycling habits should be honoured and commemorated.
Here are 5 Malaysian women who we admire who have taken on and advocated the journey to sustainability!
Melissa Tan and her sustainable metal straw set! Source: Malaysian Tatler
Known not just for her gorgeous features but her strong mind and spirit, Melissa Tan a Malaysian model who has her very own website that provides easy-to-read articles on sustainability is an eco-warrior who is on her journey to a zero-waste lifestyle. Melissa began her journey after meeting Claire Sancelot, the force behind the Hive Bulk Foods, Malaysian bulk organic store (girl power!) where she first learnt about going zero-waste. Having always been an eco-loving girl who jumps at the opportunity to reuse, reduce and recycle everything in sight, Melissa was in awe of the concept of zero-waste and instantly decided to adopt it. She was excited with the fact that “we can refuse the creation of trash in the first place, and avoid it altogether,” Melissa told Cleo in an exclusive interview regarding her zero-waste journey.
Since then, Melissa has made a conscious effort to incorporate the zero-waste mindset into everything she does. She tries her best to turn down unsustainable gifts she receives from everyone alike. Although it can get awkward trying to turn them down gently for the greater good, Melissa is firm in her beliefs. Melissa advises everyone looking to embark on the zero-waste journey to “start small and keep building - refuse that straw, refuse that bag, use a reusable container or bottle.” Melissa makes an effort to reduce her carbon impact by avoiding meat in meals, discouraging fast fashion, shopping second-hand and tries borrowing before buying.
Deborah Henry at the Tatler Malaysia Event. Source: Deborah's Instagram
Crowned Miss Universe Malaysia in 2011, Deborah Priya Henry is also a Malaysian TV Host actually left her modelling career to champion the lives of refugee children in Malaysia. She actually began her work with the refugee community since she was 19. Deborah holds a degree in Political Science and is a huge advocate for human rights and sustainable development with a long-term goal to eradicate poverty. In 2009, Deborah actually co-founded the Fugee School (previously known as Safe School) which provides education opportunities for refugee children and asylum seekers to realize this passion of hers.
She also founded Fugeelah, a social enterprise that revolves around a unique accessory line in honour of refugee children who are in-need of education. Fugeelah’s initial intention was to raise funds for free education of refugee children and youth at the Fugee School and has now grown into a self-sustaining lifestyle brand. Deborah mentions that Fugeelah is a sustainable business that provides jobs, training and financial sustainability. In fact, Biji Biji’s CEO, Ambika Sangaran, first learned about refugees in Malaysia when she volunteered as a teacher at Deborah’s Fugee School that was called Safe School back in 2010. That was when Ambika saw first-hand the plight of refugee kids, thus contributing to her passion in helping underprivileged communities today.
In addition to that, Deborah has participated in many events that champion sustainability including YTL Sustainability Earth Hour. Truly a busy bee who never stops hustling, Deborah has made continuous efforts in her humanitarian work and we truly applaud her for that!
Tengku Datin Paduka Setia Zatashah
All smiles from gorgeous Tengku Zatashah! Source: Tengku Zatashah's Instagram
She is the second daughter of Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, the current and ninth Sultan of Selangor, and a member of the Selangor royal family, Tengku Zatashah is known for far more than her family ties. Understanding her influence and large following, Tengku Zatashah uses her platform to advocate positive change including sustainability and female career development. The royal patron mentioned that in 2015, she had an eye-opener when the Ministry of Energy, Science Technology, Environment & Climate Change invited her to launch the Malaysia Roadmap toward Zero Use Plastic 2018-2030. Since then, she began to consciously notice the problem of plastic pollution and began her #sayno2plastic campaign on her social media platforms.
Tengku Zatashah’s effort is clearly leaving a positive impact as more people are tagging her on Instagram about plastic pollution and is using her hashtag! While there are many environmental issues that we currently face, Tengku Zatashah has set her focus on reducing single-use plastic and waste (food). She is also a Sharksavers Malaysia ambassador who actively campaigns against shark fin soup and is looking into the fact that there is no legislation against the turtle trade and turtle egg consumption in Malaysia.
Yeo Bee Yin
Ever-gorgeous: Malaysia’s ex-Minister of Energy, Science, Technology and Climate Change (MESTECC). Source: The Edge Markets
Malaysia’s Green Queen, Yeo Bee Yin, who was the recently relieved Minister of Energy, Science, Technology and Climate Change (MESTECC) has done so much during her tenure as minister in adopting sustainable elements to Malaysia. Following her famous quote, “Malaysia will not be the dumping ground of the world” in the Netflix documentary “Broken” that highlights Malaysia’s plastic dumping problem, Yeo Bee Yin has made serious efforts to refuse foreign trash from entering the country.
The ex-minister also set-up a pollution monitoring system in Pasir Gudang Johor in 2019, following the incident where 4000 people there experienced breathing difficulties. Since it was discovered that the main contributors to the unfortunate incident were due to gases released by chemical industries in the area, Yeo Bee Yin took immediate action. In addition to that, Malaysia’s green queen also regulated Lynas, a rare-earth processing company that raised concerns on radioactive waste and dealt with the yearly haze in a very diplomatic manner!
Seri Mizani donning a stunning outfit! Source: Female Magazine Malaysia
Seri Mizani is a sustainable influencer who intends to make an impact while looking her best! Her mom, who is a maximalist and Vanessa Hudgens circa 2011 are the biggest influencers to her personal style. She is always pushing for conscious consumerism through mindful shopping and loves the occasional trip to the thrift store!
Bestowing herself the title of “Nurturer of Nature” on Instagram, the stunning 22-year-old has an #ecoseries story on her Instagram highlights where she promotes and educates the public on the sustainable lifestyle and mindset and shares various projects that relate to sustainability with her following. Check out #serivingecoseries for more eco-friendly content from this young advocate on sustainability! Seri is all about upcycling (just like us in Biji Biji!) and fine-tuning her clothes into something new and versatile. She makes an effort to DIY these days and tries her best to stop spending too much unnecessarily - especially on unsustainable and unethical fashion brands.