Three Malaysian women shine in Forbes' 50 Over 50: Asia List

17 Jan 2024 02:07pm
Photo courtesy of forbesmagazine
Photo courtesy of forbesmagazine

SINGAPORE - Three Malaysian women have made it to the just-launched Forbes‘ 50 Over 50: Asia 2024 list, which features 50 inspirational women across Asia-Pacific who prove that the years after 50 are the new golden age.

They are Tan Sri Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, executive director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat; Ambiga Sreenevasan, an attorney; and Tunku Mona Riza Tunku Khalid, a film director and founder of Current Pictures.

According to Forbes, the women of the third annual 50 Over 50: Asia list hail from 14 countries and territories and more than two dozen work sectors.

Their influence spans fashion, pharma, finance, and beyond.

Briefly, Forbes said that Sta Maria, 65, who was appointed the executive director of the APEC Secretariat in 2019, is the first woman to lead the 21-member inter-governmental economic advisory body.

Before promoting the whole region, she spent a decade shaping Malaysia's contributions to the global economy, serving as deputy secretary-general, and then secretary-general and lead trade negotiator for the country's International Trade and Industry Ministry.

She has also represented the region at the World Economic Forum and previously was a non-executive director for RHB Bank.

On Sreenevasan, 67, Forbes said this past year, the prominent Malaysian lawyer and human rights advocate earned the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Medal of Honor and the Gandhi Memorial Trust Public Service Award.

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As the second female president of the Malaysian Bar Council, she orchestrated the influential "March for Justice" and chaired Bersih 2.0, advocating for free and fair elections, it said.

A founding member of the Women’s Aid Organisation, she now serves as President of the Pure Life Society, a charitable home for orphans and the underprivileged.

She holds a law degree from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom.

As for Tunku Mona Riza, 57, Forbes said she won Most Promising Director for "Redha” at the Malaysia Film Festival 2017.

Inspired by a true story, the film depicts the challenges of raising an autistic child and was selected as the country’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.

Tunku Mona Riza established her production house, Current Pictures, in 1999.

Her 2023 film, "Rain Town,” is Malaysia's first Chinese-language film by a Malay female director.

Premiering in February 2024, it was screened at last year’s Vancouver Asian Film Festival and the International Film Festival of India in Goa.

Meanwhile, the eldest on the list was 112-year-old environmentalist from India, Saalumarada Thimmakka who is lovingly referred to as the "mother of trees.”

Diagnosed with infertility at 40, a humble initiative to build a legacy with her husband grew into planting over 8,000 trees in India, including 385 banyan trees lining the highway between Hulikal and Kudur.

Thimmakka's environmental dedication earned her India's National Citizens Award in 1995 and a Certificate of Honour from the World Book of Records in 2022.

Despite widespread recognition, she lived in poverty until the Karnataka State government built her a house in 2014.

Other on the list are Indonesian actor Christine Hakim.

Known as the Grand Dame of Indonesian cinema, Christine, 67, celebrated 50 years in film in 2023, adorned with nine Citra Awards and a Festival Film Indonesia (FFI) Lifetime Award in 2016.

Notable roles include "Eat Pray Love" (2010), "Perempuan Tanah Jahanam" (2019), and her latest appearance in episode 2 of the HBO series "The Last of Us" (2023).

She has contributed to the Cannes Film Festival as a jury member and assumed the role of FFI Ambassador in 2023.

Beyond the silver screen, Hakim served as Indonesia's goodwill ambassador for UNESCO from 2008 to 2020.

The full list can be found on and in the February/March issue of Forbes Asia. - BERNAMA