Royal plan to ‘future-proof people’

Congratulations: Her Majesty and Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan (third and second from left, respectively) being flanked by Tengku Puteri Ilyana (far left) and Tengku Puteri Ilisha Ameera (far right). – IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

WITH future-proofing people as her vision, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s eldest princess Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan Al-Sultan Abdullah has set her sights on delivering literacy and mental health advocacy programmes nationwide “student by student, school by school, university by university, and state by state”.

“I would like to build a world where our youth are supported to become the very best versions of themselves, so they are able to contribute to society and become even better parents to their children,” she said in her speech as the latest honorary graduate of Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM).

On Nov 17, the varsity awarded Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan an honorary degree of “Doctor of the University”, in recognition of her role as an inspirational, purpose-driven leader committed to championing mental health in Malaysia and beyond.

She received the award from HWUM pro-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood at the varsity’s graduation ceremony, which saw over 100 of its students from the School of Social Sciences; School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure & Society; School of Engineering & Physical Sciences; School of Mathematical & Computer Sciences; and Edinburgh Business School receiving their academic scrolls.

Also gracing the ceremony were Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Ilisha Ameera and Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Ilyana.

In her acceptance speech, Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan said the conferment is a win for her mental health advocacy.

“I’m a gamechanger. My purpose is to push boundaries to affect genuine change for my loved ones and my country. This is also my approach to mental health.

“Pushing boundaries to affect genuine change is a given and a must, particularly when mental health is still stigmatised, prejudiced and discriminated against,” she said.

She added that a positive impact on mental health today is an investment in future generations.

“If we push the mental health agenda forward now, we take actionable steps towards breaking negative cycles and habits, and their transmission between generations.”

To date, the Green Ribbon Group (GRG), of which she is the founder and president, has, through its literacy and advocacy programmes, impacted 200 students across six universities in three states and 130 students across four secondary schools in Hulu Langat, Selangor.

“With a target of 480 students across the board, we are on our way to demonstrating how mental health can be improved in education,” she said, while crediting the varsity with being instrumental in developing the programmes.

She also paid homage to Her Majesty for her exemplary work at the Tunku Azizah Fertility Foundation.

Expressing her aspiration to follow in Her Majesty’s footsteps in supporting women in their journey to motherhood, Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan said maternal mental health will be an upcoming chapter in her advocacy.

In his speech, HWUM provost and chief executive officer Prof Mushtak Al-Atabi said the varsity honours graduates and all individuals who have made outstanding contributions in areas of particular relevance to the varsity’s values and purpose.

“Just like Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan, we believe the purpose of education is not only to develop world-class professionals, but also to help individuals, societies and the world flourish through building purpose-driven leaders who will shape a more positive, prosperous and inclusive future,” he said.

He added that the varsity had forged a strategic partnership with the GRG.

“One of the outcomes of the partnership is the Green Ribbon Effective Agent Training (GREAT) project. It’s an advocacy training programme to enable our students to become mental health ambassadors on our campus,” he said.

Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan had served as the royal patron of the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association, the international patron of the World Mental Health Day 2020-2021, and the World Federation for Mental Health representative to the United Nations last year.

She had also led the first-ever Malaysian delegation to the 23rd World Federation for Mental Health Congress in Westminster, London, in the United Kingdom, this year.

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