Prior to the 14th Malaysian general election (GE14), you probably only knew Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah as PKR interim leader Anwar Ibrahim’s wife.
As of last Thursday (10th May), history was made when she became the first ever female Deputy Prime Minister in Malaysia. Ever since Wan Azizah was thrust into the political limelight, she has been a strong advocate for women empowerment. In celebration of her newly appointed role, here are several fun facts about this inspiring lady.
1. Her early years
- Date of birth: 3rd December 1952
- Born in Singapore but grew up in Alor Setar, Kedah
- Has a Peranakan grandfather
- Attended Tunku Kurshiah College in Seremban
- Later studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Wan Azizah worked for more than a decade as a doctor in a government hospital before leaving to do voluntary work when her husband Anwar Ibrahim became Deputy Prime Minister back in 1993.
2. High achievements during studies
Before graduating as a qualified ophthalmologist from Dublin’s Royal College of Surgeons, she was the recipient of the MacNaughton Jones gold medal in 1977. In a male white dominated world of medicine in Ireland, the foreign female student became the first Malaysian to receive such a prestigious award!
3. A mother and a grandmother
These women. Their years of strength, leadership, persistence, courage, forgiveness, loyalty, patience & wisdom. Against all odds & enemies, behind scenes & in spotlight. We are in debt to you & women throughout #Malaysia for victory today, @drwanazizah & @n_izzah
— Selamatkan Malaysia (@SelamatkanMY) May 9, 2018
This supermom has 6 children and a total of 9 grandchildren. In a previous interview with The Sun, her eldest daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar shared that despite her hectic career in politics, her mum has always been there for the family. “Her parents are still alive, and she is a doting daughter. She’s always there when her parents need her. (The same) goes with her children,” said Nurul.
4. Her political career
RASMI: Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail dilantik sebagai Timbalan Perdana Menteri Malaysia pic.twitter.com/SYgP89RHbw
— Dr Wan Azizah Ismail (@drwanazizah) May 12, 2018
Wan Azizah’s ambition was never to become a politician, let alone Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister. But when Anwar was sentenced to jail in 1998 and again in 2015, she stepped up to aid her husband. During the GE14, her parliamentary candidacy in Pandan brought home a landslide victory with 64,733 votes (61%).
5. Second female in Malaysia’s history to lead a political party
Yep, according to writer Saba Kash there was only one other Malaysian woman to lead a political party. Ms Ganga Nayar was the first president of the Malaysian Workers’ Party back in 1987.
Oh, and in case you’re unaware, Wan Azizah is also an active Instagrammer.
“With more women participating in decision making roles, particularly politics, we could be a force to be reckoned with,” the 65-year-old was quoted as saying.
We couldn’t agree more ;)