Seven women who fought for freedom in Malaysia

31 Aug 2023 08:00am
Photo - Bernama
Photo - Bernama

Across history, women have assumed essential roles that extend beyond their domestic responsibilities. Their invaluable contributions have served as cornerstones within movements striving for freedom and societal advancement.

Although frequently cast in the shadows, these women have left enduring marks across diverse spheres, encompassing politics, revolution, social equity, and even armed defiance, standing steadfastly at the forefront.

In honour of Malaysia’s Independence Day, here is a list of seven women freedom fighters in this country whose enduring contributions continue to shape our history.

1: Puan Sri Janaky Athi Nahappan – A Defiant Warrior

Puan Sri Janaky Athi Nahappan, known as 'Janaky Thevar,' fearlessly challenged British colonial rule. At just 17, she left her comfortable life in Kuala Lumpur to join the Indian National Army (INA), fighting against the British along the Indian-Burmese border. Janaky was among the pioneering women who enlisted in the all-female Rhani of Jhansi Regiment within the INA. Her rapid rise led to her becoming a Captain and Second in Command.

Janaky's fight didn't end with Merdeka. She directed her efforts towards social justice, becoming an early advocate against child marriage in Malaysia. In 1972, she participated in a government commission tasked with reviewing marriage laws based on UN conventions before becoming a senator in the Malaysian Parliament.

2: Khadijah Sidek – A Progressive Visionary

Khadijah Sidek, born in West Sumatra, emerged as a rare woman nationalist and politician in 1954. Her journey began with her involvement in the paramilitary women's division of the anti-Dutch revolutionary army during World War II. Khadijah's advocacy extended to empowering under-educated women, earning her a distinct place in history.

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3: Suriani Abdullah / Eng Ming Ching – A Spirited Advocate

While controversies surround the role of communists in the fight for independence, the fervent efforts of Eng Ming Ching (Suriani Abdullah) are undeniable. Her commitment to change was evident in her affiliation with the Malaysian Communist Party (MCP).

4: Siti Rahmah Kassim – Sacrificing for Freedom

Siti Rahmah Kassim's dedication to independence was evident when she selflessly donated her golden bangle to support the Merdeka movement. Her active participation in protests against the Malayan Union marked the beginning of her political journey.

5: Sybil Kathigasu – Unsung Heroine

Sybil Kathigasu's bravery during World War II made her a heroic figure in Malaysia. She served as a nurse and was known as 'Malaysia's Florence Nightingale.'

Tan Sri Datin Paduka Seri Dr Aishah Ghani – A Trailblazer

Tan Sri Datin Paduka Seri Dr Aishah Ghani was one of Malaysia's early female politicians, advocating for women's rights and education.

7: Tan Sri Devaki Krishnan – A Local Champion

Tan Sri Devaki Krishnan was the first woman elected to public office in Malaysia. Her accomplishments, including being a member of the Malayan Indian Congress, played a significant role in shaping the nation's political landscape.

These women's remarkable stories serve as a testament to their pivotal roles in Malaysia's journey towards freedom and progress.

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