Know your power
Low Ngai Yuen is out to empower young women and girls, to enable them to do their best.
KNOW your options, have the freedom to make choices and be treated with respect ... that’s what women empowerment means to WOMEN: girls founder Low Ngai Yuen.
“Although these are basic human rights, some women prefer to remain anonymous and invisible due to societal norms. Efforts must to be taken to remind women to be strong,” says Low.
“It’s all about ensuring women continuously have access to equal opportunities. Essentially, it’s all about being able to contribute with the best of our capabilities,” says Low, 40, who is also arts platform Kakiseni’s president.
In 2011, Low founded WOMEN: girls, a non-governmental organisation that empowers young women and girls. Through this initiative, Low wants to reiterate women’s importance in society and also encourage women and girls to forge their own identities.
“The organisation was set up to remind women and girls of their roles in society. They can play larger roles inn deciding how they can contribute towards nation building. From there, women can work towards protecting their basic rights to living life to the fullest,” says Low, a biology and chemistry graduate.
As a mother of four, Low makes it a point to teach her children the importance of living their dreams, being responsible and reaching for the stars.
“It is really about teaching my kids to be accountable to living a rewarding life. It is vital to encourage them to do their best at solving problems – from conceptualising ideas and making them happen. These dreams are without a single consideration of gender.”
WOMEN: girls is divided into four subsections: Ikal Mayang, Ibu Nakhoda Hidup, Young Changemakers and Kejar Kerja.
Ikal Mayang is a storytelling movement which aims to increase the share of women’s voices through filmmaking. Ibu Nakhoda Hidup is a programme that supports mothers to be entrepreneurs.
Young Changemakers recognises Malaysian youths’ contributions to society. Kejar Kerja is an apprenticeship programme for girls from the urban poor community who wants to pursue a career in the creative industry.
“Ibu Nakhoda Hidup, ongoing for three years, has helped build businesses for 14 mothers. The programme is all about enabling the mothers’ dream to go bigger.” sShe adds: “Ikal Mayang is about giving women and girls a voice on film and we’ve collected 65 different films to date.
“Young Changemakers is about showcasing young people’s amazing views of how they can make a difference. It’s all about enriching kids to be positive changemakers.”
Low says through these outreach programmes, the organisation can craft out different ways to reach out and communicate its dreams.
“We are supported by networks of people who understand our fights and concerns. Through our outreach programmes, we get to be on ground and understand what are some of the solutions needed to empower women and girls,” said Low, adding that they are working on #AkuNakUbah, a new programme which teaches youngsters to stand up to bullying on social media.
Anyone can support WOMEN:girls’ programmes. “Be a role model in your own space and start role modelling sessions within your network. Get men to be a part of it too. Volunteer with us as role models. We often make our callouts online – a quick search on WOMEN:girls, whether it’s on the world wide web or social media, will lead you to us.