Kokila Vaani breaks barrier as first woman Selangor Bar chairman

Her ascent to leadership during the times of the Covid-19 pandemic stood as a testament to her unwavering dedication and vision for change.

22 Mar 2024 11:05am
Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo
Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo

SHAH ALAM - In a remarkable journey marked by resilience, determination, and a commitment to break barriers, Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo has emerged as a trailblazer in Malaysia's legal fraternity.

As the youngest and first woman chairman of the Selangor Bar, her ascent to leadership during the times of the Covid-19 pandemic stood as a testament to her unwavering dedication and vision for change.

Reflecting on her journey, Kokila shared insights into the challenges and triumphs that shaped her path to leadership.

"The journey has been an unexpected ride," she began, recounting her years of service within various Selangor Bar committees before stepping into the role of chairman.

However, it was during the peak of the pandemic that she made history, facing skepticism and resistance from some quarters of the legal community.

"Many told me not to take on this job during the pandemic but I saw it as an opportunity to carve my own vision for Selangor Bar amidst uncertainty," she told Sinar Daily.

Central to Kokila's journey is the profound influence of her mother, a senior legal professional and single mother who instilled in her the values of resilience and hard work.

"Her simplicity yet stern discipline inspired me to be the woman that I am," Kokila said, highlighting the importance of familial support in her career.

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However, Kokila's path to leadership was not without its hurdles.

She faced stiff competition during her campaign for chairman, navigating through multi-cornered fights and smear campaigns aimed at discrediting her leadership.

Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo
Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo

"The most pointless remarks encroached into my personal life," she lamented, emphasising the need to rise above petty politics and focus on meaningful change.

Despite the challenges, Kokila's tenure as chairman witnessed a series of impactful initiatives aimed at empowering Selangor Bar members and serving the community.

Among her notable achievements was the prioritisation of Covid-19 vaccinations for all members, ensuring their safety and well-being during the pandemic.

"The vaccination prioritisation made a huge difference for my members," she noted proudly, stressing the importance of advocating for their welfare.

Furthermore, Kokila secured RM3 million grant from the Selangor State government to provide legal aid for underserved communities, demonstrating her commitment to access to justice.

"I believe in serving my members tirelessly," she affirmed, highlighting the importance of pro bono work and community engagement.

Beyond her role at the Selangor Bar, Kokila is passionately involved in advocating for child rights reforms in Malaysia.

As the chairman of the Bar Council Child's Rights Committee, she has been at the forefront of legislative changes aimed at enhancing protections for children across the country.

"It has been a very busy year for child’s rights laws and we applaud the government for it but there is still a lot to be done. We are also looking into the Childs Commissioners' Bill which is going to be tabled soon," she said.

In her advice to young lawyers aspiring to make a difference, Kokila emphasised the importance of adopting the right attitude and prioritising learning over financial gain.

"I would really urge the young lawyers or pupils to adopt the right attitude. I have interviewed many people for hiring purposes and I noticed the lack of a proper attitude today.

"Therefore, always keep prioritise learning in your most formative years and do not ever feel that this is a time you need to make money.

"Law practice is very subjective and you will only learn as you do more," she said, urging young lawyers to seize every opportunity for growth and development.

As she looks ahead to the future, Kokila remains committed to her mission of driving positive change and breaking down barriers in the legal profession.

"Breaking the Selangor Bar system to be the first woman to helm in the course of my leadership will have to say that we are definitely progressing. Like I said I am the first but I certainly will not be the last.

"More lawyers should come forward to represent impecunious clients pro bono," she declared, echoing her belief in the power of meritocracy and perseverance.

Kokila's journey serves as a source of inspiration for aspiring leaders and advocates, embodying the values of resilience, integrity, and unwavering dedication to justice.

With her pioneering spirit and commitment to making a meaningful impact, Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo continues to redefine what it means to be a leader in the Malaysian Bar.