She helped set up a fledgling movement to look into the problems of Muslim women in 1990 that has become synonymous with Muslim feminism. Sisters In Islam (SIS) covers such issues as legal rights, polygamy and domestic and sexual violence within marriage. As its executive director for many years, Zainah was the face and spokesperson of SIS. SIS has opened public space for debate and is at the forefront on efforts to amend the Islamic Family Law. It has espoused equality and justice for women, discussed dress and modesty, the right to guardianship, women as judges, fundamental liberties in Islam, and apostasy and freedom of religion.
In 2008, after two decades, Zainah handed the mantle over to Marina Chin Abdullah, who took over as senior programme manager. Zainah remains on the board of SIS.
She concurrently serves as project director for Musawah, the SIS-initiated global movement for justice and equality in the Muslim family.
With Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, she is one of two Malaysians in “Women Deliver 100” , a list of the 100 most inspiring people who have improved the lives of girls and women worldwide by New York-based advocacy group Women Deliver.
Sharifah Amani Syed Zainal Rashid Al- Yahya was discovered at 17 when she was cast by filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad in her film Sepet. The film went on to be a phenomenal success and Sharifah Amani went on to become Yasmin’s favourite actress: she was the lead in two other of Yasmin’s movies, Gubra (2006) and Muallaf (2008) and a cameo in Mukhsin (2006).
Sharifah Amani won the Most Promising Actress award for Sepet at the 2005 Festival Film Malaysia and Best Actress award for Gubra at the same festival the following year.
She has appeared in numerous local movies since such as Gol And Gincu, Possessed, Puaka Tebing Biru and 1957: Hati Malaya.
Sharifah made her directorial debut with Sangkar, a short film which was part of the HerStory Films Project which brought together five women artistes to make five short films that explore various issues regarding women.
MARION D’ CRUZ
Dancer, choreographer and teacher, D’Cruz’s career has spanned 30 years. She is one of the five founding members of Five Arts Centre and is now its executive producer.
She is a graduate in Performing Arts and Dance from Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. She has studied and performed classical, modern and contemporary dance in Malaysia, Indonesia, London and New York.
In 1983 she formed Marion D’Cruz and Dancers and is recognised as one of the pioneers of contemporary dance in Malaysia.
Ithaini Mohamed Taib, better known as Anita Sarawak, is one of the country’s biggest names in show business and often dubbed the Queen of Malaysian Entertainment.
Born in Singapore, she comes from showbiz stock, her father was the late actor, producer and director Datuk S. Roomai Noor aka Datuk Mohamed Taib Salleh, a legend on the silver screen from Temerloh, Pahang. Her mother was actress Ramlah Abdullah aka Siput Sarawak.
She started singing in her teens and became famous in the 1970s, known for her showmanship.
Today she is a diva extraordinaire, a star of international proportions. She has appeared in entertainment programmes on Singapore’s Mediacorp and Suria networks which included Phua Chu Kang, Bersama Anita and Mahligai Kita.
The seemingly ageless Anita has successfully carved out an identity as a great entertainer of this generation.
MEJAR PATRICIA YAPP SYAU YIN
Malaysian’s first and only female MiG fighter pilot graduated with honours from the RMAF College in Alor Star in 1997.
Operating under a call-sign of “Foxy”, she is an operational and tactical lead pilot with the No 17/19 “Smokey Bandits” Squadron in Kuantan that flies the MiG-29N Fulcrum air superiority jets.
Yapp is married to fellow air force pilot Captain S. Thayala Kumar Ravi Varman.
With over 20 albums to her name, this rock star continues to thrill fans by being in the business for 25 years.
Ella or Norzila Aminuddin earned the title “Ratu Rock” in the 1990s, and she is one of the few female rock stars in Malaysia.
She has had three platinum-selling albums, and is one of the best-selling female artistes in Malaysia. She was the first Malaysian to record a full album in the USA, titled ELLA USA, and has worked with famed guitarist Slash for her ninth album.
In 1998, Ella was chosen to sing Standing in the Eyes of the World, the theme song for the Commonwealth Games which were held in Kuala Lumpur.
DATUK SOSILAWATI LAWIYA
AGE: 47 (DIED AUG 30, 2010)
She had built up a sizeable cosmetic empire but remained relatively unknown until her shocking murder last year.
While the initial report of her disappearance with her lawyer, financial adviser and driver garnered little interest, the case rapidly developed into a major crime story that gripped the nation.
When their murders were confirmed and gruesome details unfolded of how they were bludgeoned, their remains burnt and their ashes scattered over a river near Ladang Gadong in Tanjung Sepat, near Banting, the story went international.
A lawyer, N. Pathmanabhan, 41, and three others are charged with the murders and awaiting trial.
Soo’s first acting break was as an extra in Gorgeous, a 1999 Jackie Chan movie starring Shu Qi. She later got a part in an Aaron Kwok musical special. These were preparatory roles for her now successful acting career.
Her breakthrough role was in the film The 3rd Generation where she acted opposite pop singer Nicholas Teo and won the Most Promising Actress award at the 2006 Malaysian film awards. She also collaborated with Teo on the theme song for the movie.
She has also acted on stage and on TV. In 2008, she starred in an ABS-CBN soap opera with Filipino actors Jericho Rosales, Cristine Reyes and Christopher de Leon called Kahit Isang Saglit that was aired worldwide.
The show later earned an International Emmy Award nomination. Thanks to the TV series, Soo is a megastar in the Philippines.
In the 1980s, Francissca Peter was The Voice with her powerful vocals. With 20 number one hits, Francissca and her then singing partner, Royston Sta Maria (they were known as Roy & Fran) were the singing sensation of their time.
Among her most popular hits were Sekadar Di Pinggiran, Kerana Terpaksa and Aku Kehilanganmu.
This accomplished actress is known not just for her work in television and movies, but also on stage, where she has done plays and comedy shows.
Over the years, Ida has worked with some of the biggest directors in the local film industry, including Yasmin Ahmad, Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba and Datuk Yusof Haslam.
Among the numerous awards she’s received are: the 1992 Anugerah Skrin TV3 Best Actress award for Anak Angkat, 1998 Malaysian Film Festival (MFF) Best Actress award for Layar Lara and the 2005 MFF award for Best Supporting Actress for Sepet.
In 2008, Ida tried her hand at reality television when she and her friend Tania Khan were selected to participate in The Amazing Race Asia, Season 3, where they finished in third place.
Despite suffering a serious spinal injury from a fall at her home in 2009 which has confined her to a wheelchair, Ida continues to remain active in the entertainment and arts fields.
As a lyricist, Habsah has penned songs for some of the biggest names in the local music scene, including Sudirman, Noorkumalasari and Zaiton Sameon.
In 1984, she became the first local lyricist to receive the Gold Disc award from WEA Recording Company (now Warner Music) for writing the most number of hit songs.
She was also the first woman to win in the Best Lyricist category in the 1987 Muzik muzik competition.
Some of Habsah’s award-winning songs include Menaruh Harapan, Kukehilangan Mu and Merisik Khabar. She also dabbles in screenwriting and film producing; most recently, she wrote and produced Qaisy & Laila in 2005.
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