Know your power

Low Ngai Yuen is out to em­power young women and girls, to en­able them to do their best.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Woman - By SHEELA CHANDRAN stAr2@thes­

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.

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