PUTRAJAYA: Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz was named "Tokoh Ma'al Hijrah 1432H" at the national-level Ma'al Hijrah celebration at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here Tuesday.
Zeti, 63, is the first woman ever named as the recipient of the "Tokoh Ma'al Hijrah" award in the celebration's history of 24 years.
She received a cash prize of RM100,000, a medal, plaque and a certificate.
Interestingly, Zeti's father, Royal Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz Ungku Abdul Hamid was also named recipient of the award 11 years ago.
Speaking to reporters after receiving the award, she said she had never imagined receiving such an honour.
"I am very grateful and this will be an encouragement and inspiration for me to continue to work hard," said the holder of a doctorate degree in Finance and International Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, in the United States.
Apart from numerous awards she received in Malaysia, Zeti had also received international recognition when she was selected as a member of the United Nations Commission of Experts to suggest the direction of world monetary and financial system.
Zeti also chaired the Executives' Meeting of East Asia-Pacific Central Banks (EMEAP) task force to formulate the master plan of financial cooperation between central banks.
Under Zeti's leadership, the Islamic financial system had been prominently visible in Malaysia and contributed to a competitive, diverse, comprehensive and inclusive financial system.
In a decade, Zeti had also made Malaysia the world's largest sukuk market, increased Islamic banking assets by three-fold to 21 per cent, and enabled over 100 domestic and international Islamic financial institutions operating in Malaysia.
At the international level, Zeti also contributed to the global acceptance of Islamic finance, including by leading an international team in the preparation of a report on Financial Stability and Islamic Finance, as well as chairing the Islamic Financial Services Board, an international agency for setting prudent monetary policy for Islamic financial institutions worldwide.
Sharing her success, Zeti said she spent most of her time reading, especially about financial, economic, leadership development and self-improvement.
She said that it was important to instill curiosity in one's quest for knowledge.
She also said that gender issue had never arisen throughout her career, adding that she believed that there were also many more women capable of achieving the same level of success.
Meanwhile, her father Ungku Abdul Aziz, 88, was proud of his only child's achievement as the first woman to receive the award.
When asked about how he taught Zeti, he said his daughter had always been given the freedom to choose whatever she wanted to pursue.
"I always gave her freedom. She could choose the subjects she wanted and where she wanted to do her PhD. I discussed it without forcing or influencing her and ultimately she made the final decision," he said.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said Zeti deserved the award based on her contributions in the development of the financial system and national economy, including the Islamic financial system.
This was especially evident in times of economic recession, he said, saying that apart from national leaders, Zeti was among those who provided ideas and contributed towards the recovery of the national economy.
"The country is not only proud of her contributions, but is also happy to give her this award in hopes that our women share the joy of this recognition for Zeti," he added.
Besides at the national level, several individuals were also awarded the Tokoh Ma'al Hijrah at the state level, including National Mosque Grand Imam Tan Sri Shaikh Ismail Muhamad in Terengganu, former Pahang Syarie Judge Chief Datuk Abdul Hamid Abdul Rahman (Pahang), independent preacher Datuk Nawawi Ahmad (Melaka), Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and Ridhuan Foo Abdullah (Kelantan), religious figure and politician Datuk Dr Haron Din (Selangor) and International Islamic University Malaysia architecture lecturer Prof Dr Ismawi Zen (Sarawak). - Bernama