Over the past year, the pandemic has impacted everyone’s livelihoods. From being forced to a year long confinement in our homes, to the huge shift from physical platforms to online modes of communication such as Zoom and Google Meets, a lot of things have taken place and without realising it, we’re at the end of August.
However, if there’s one thing that Malaysians are known for, it’s their spirit of togetherness despite trying times. The recent movements in the country are a clear reflection of our Malaysian spirit and this makes this Merdeka all the more special. In reference to the undying spirit of Malaysians, here are 10 national heroes across a diverse range of fields sharing one similar theme — determination and perseverance!
Muhammad Shah Firdaus Shahrom
This racing cyclist needs no introduction! His latest performance in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics speaks volumes — managing to race through the keirin quarter-finals despite suffering from an injury from a fall in the first round itself. Muhammad Shah was clearly in pain throughout the quarter finals but he persevered and gave us an unforgettable performance. Previously, he competed in the Australian Track National Championship in the keirin event, defeating his fellow comrade, Azizulhasni Awang to clinch first place!
Farah Ann Abdul Hadi
Who could possibly forget this 27-year-old artistic gymnast who gave a stellar performance in the Tokyo Olympics? Farah Ann has been facing deep pressure from various individuals ever since news of her achievements came to light. Most of these disgusting comments come from religious groups who seem to take a special interest in her attire — a leotard that’s approved by the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG)! But her determination and strength definitely keeps her haters at bay.
Yes, the actor who played Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians, is also a Malaysian! Hailing from the small town of Betong, Sarawak, Golding’s mother is a native-born Sarawakian of Indigenous Iban Dayak ancestry and his father is a British. Golding lived for almost 5 years in Terengganu before moving to Surrey, England when he was eight, with his family. When he was 21, he came back to Kuala Lumpur to pursue on-camera roles after working as a hairdresser on Sloanne Street in London for a few years. Fun fact, Golding has also acted in the renowned Malay film, Pisau Cukur as Iskandar Tan Sri Murad!
This Malaysian born, Manhattan based actress landed a recurring role on the popular American crime series, Gotham in the year 2018. She might be unheard of on Malaysian soil, but her achievement definitely speaks for itself! Based on characters from DC’s Batman comics, Gotham is an ongoing television series where the focus is towards the journey of Bruce Wayne towards becoming the Dark Knight. In this role, Shiva plays the role of Lelia, the female contingent of the League of Shadows, a powerful group of assassins. Growing up, performing was always a major part of Shiva’s life. Her parents exposed her to music, travelling and the arts — encouraging her to be involved with Indian classical singing and dance.
Science & Technology
Dr Chan Yoke Fun
In the year 2020, Dr Chan Yoke Fun, the Head of the Department of Medical Microbiology at Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine was announced as the winner of the ASEAN -US Science Prize for Women 2020. Her research focused on developing a vaccine to combat a virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease and brain infection diseases in children. She has worked with local experts to raise awareness about the dangers and prevention of the virus in her community and beyond.
Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman
Being a prominent infectious diseases expert and a highly respected voice both locally and internationally for her work in HIV/AIDS research and advocacy, earns Dr Adeeba a special place in the Hall of Fame. Not only that, in April 2021, she was appointed a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Science Council, a select group that advises on scientific and technological advances impacting public health globally. Apart from this impressive feat, her achievements actually date all the way back to 2007 where she established Malaysia’s own dedicated HIV research centre and she’s also the first Asian to serve as the president of the International AIDS Society (IAS)!
Qyira Yusri and Tharma Pillai
This power couple needs no introduction to the world of activism! The co-founders of Undi18 have indeed taken the nation by storm when the Undi18 bill got passed under a unanimous vote in the Parliament. However, their job is far from over. Just when everything was deemed to be going on smoothly, the implementation of lowering the current voting age to 18 was delayed by the current Perikatan Nasional government leading to several protests and demands led by these incredible individuals in a bid to implement the Undi18 bill just in time for the next elections. As a result, these individuals were listed as honourees on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List!
Ain Husniza is a child rights activist who was recently hit with a RM1 million defamation suit by her ex-PJK teacher. Her viral TikTok video addressed the male teacher’s comments as the topic of sexual harassment was being discussed. The class has been talking about laws that protect minors from sexual abuse and harassment and the teacher stated, “If you want to rape someone, make sure they are above 18.”
According to Ain, the girls were quiet but the boys were laughing like it was funny to joke about raping someone. Following this, the education ministry stated that the teacher had been transferred to the state education department. Ain was also bullied and harassed by her classmates and schoolmates who claimed that she was tarnishing the school’s name. Albeit the challenges faced, she strives to make schools a safer place via her advocacy work.
This esteemed author’s second fiction, The Girl and the Ghost was a finalist for the well-coveted American Kirkus Prize under the Young Reader’s Literature Category in the year 2020. That novel was a story about a little girl who inherits a dark spirit from a grandmother she never knew and turns it into a friend and companion she never had. Earlier, that year, her debut novel, The Weight of Our Sky bagged the Freeman Book Awards for the Young Adult/High School Literature category!
This New York based entrepreneur has been listed in Forbes’ 2019 edition of the 30 under 30 List under the category of Retail and E-Commerce! Kimberly has developed a non-toxic skincare line for children — Evereden. According to Forbes website, the list includes the brashest entrepreneurs across the US and Canada. Her company formulates body washes, shampoos, sunscreens and diaper creams that are effective and safe for babies’ fragile skin. Kimberly has also received a whopping US$2 million offer for her products, which have received accolades from big names such as Bobbi Brown and Vogue.
Regardless of their achievements, we are extremely proud of them and hopefully, make their mark in various other ventures. Let’s keep cheering them on while displaying the true Malaysian spirit of togetherness!