Posts Tagged ‘Role Model’

Sarasvathy gets Yayori Award for activitism

December 5th, 2011
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to by Email

Not many people will be familiar with the name “Sarasvathy” compared to “Ambiga”. If mention the word “Jerit”, probably a small segment can recognise the name. Congrats to Sarasvathy for the award.


WHEN she was told that she was suffering from liver cancer in early 2002, journalist and campaigner for the rights of Asian women Yayori Matsui used her remaining days to lay the foundation for her long-time dream, the Women’s Active Museum of War and Peace the world’s first to focus on violence against women.

Her “crazy” courage was of no surprise to those who knew her this is the woman who “charged” Japan’s Emperor Hirohito for the crimes against Japanese comfort women during World War Two in the symbolic Women’s International War Crimes Trial in 2000.

Matsui’s whole life was one big defiance of the patriarchal Japanese society as she sought to expose the truth about the oppressions and exploitations of Japan’s marginalised communities, especially women.

Fearless struggle: Sarasvathy, seen here with Prof Nakahara, has been honoured for the challenges she faced working in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.

It is in recognition of that passion and courage that an annual women’s human rights award named after the late Yayori Matsui is given out to a woman activist who best embodies her spirit since 2005.

And this year, the Yayori Award has been won for the first time by a Malaysian woman, M. Sarasvathy, 58, who has been championing the rights of disadvantaged communities in Perak for the last 40 years.

Touched by the international recognition, Sarasvathy says she is humbled to even be thought of in the same league as Matsui.

“When I read about who she was, what she was fighting for and how she was fighting, I felt so honoured. Her life story is truly inspiring,” says Sarasvathy before she left for the award ceremony that was held in Japan yesterday.

According to Prof Emeritus Michiko Nakahara, a member of the selection committee for the Yayori Award, Sarasvathy was chosen out of 20 nominees because of the challenges she faced working in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.

Crucially, she adds, the Yayori Award is not only for Sarasvathy, but for all Malaysian women.

“It is from all Japanese women we would like to send warm encouraging messages of sisterhood to all women in Malaysia who struggle for equality, freedom and justice.”

Sarasvathy is known for her tireless work with any group that she feels is being oppressed from women workers to urban settlers and farmers.

She does not hesitate to speak out against injustice even defying authorities and tempting arrest.

And her work really does cut across race and religion. Showing support at the event organised by local women movements Friends of Women and the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (Jag) to celebrate Sarasvathy’s win was Cheng Sau Ying from Kampung Pinang in Pusing, Perak.

“We did not get a good compensation from the developer who took over our land, and my friend suggested that we ask Sarasvathy to help negotiate. She helped us without charge and now she has even become a good friend,” says Cheng.

Like Matsui, Sarasvathy got her calling early; at the age of 17, she started helping a few factory workers who were being exploited by their employer to fight for better wages. She later co-founded mass movements Alaigal and Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit).

Sarasvathy says she faced a lot of opposition from her mother for her work at first.

“My mother is very traditional, so she was not happy that I was doing this. She even locked me up to get me to stop because she said it would be difficult for me to get married.”

After meeting some of the women that she has worked with, however, her mother slowly changed her mind.

“She said that since she can’t change me, it’s better that she leave me be. Now, she even joins me,” she says, dedicating her Yayori Award to all the unsung heroes dedicating their lives to make the world a better place.


Ambiga awarded Chevalier de Legion d’Honneur

September 27th, 2011
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to by Email

Congratulations to Datuk Ambiga for her second award in recent times.  It serves as a motivation to the younger generation.


Recognising her dedication to human rights and the rule of law, France has awarded Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan with its highest honour, the Chevalier de Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour).

French Ambassador to Malaysia Marc Barety presented the award to the former Bar Council president in a ceremony at his residence on Friday.

Ambiga dedicated the award to those who had supported her efforts.

“The award is meant to honour people from different fields and is not specific to a human rights movement,” she said.

In 2009, Ambiga was honoured by the United States with the prestigious Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage award in conjunction with International Women’s Day



Barety appends the award to Ambiga’s (left) dress during the conferment ceremony at the French Residence in Kuala Lumpur, September 23, 2011. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — Resplendent in a black-and-gold sari, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan was tonight conferred France’s highest honour, the Chevalier de Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour).

As he pinned the distinctive five-pointed medal on her sari, France’s ambassador to Malaysia, Marc Barety, said the award was to recognise Ambiga’s dedication to human rights and to boost the rule of law in Malaysia.

Ambiga joins an exclusive club of some 20 to 25 Malaysians conferred the French award. Among them were the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, airline maverick Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Ipoh-born Hollywood actress Datuk Michelle Yeoh, Barety said.

Yeoh was recognised in 2007 for her contribution to film and the media.

Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Zeti Aziz was another recipient this year, but was unable to attend the award ceremony, Barety said. He added that a separate award ceremony would be arranged for her at a later date.

“Ambiga is the right person to get it,” Barety told reporters, adding the latest announcements on political transformation by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak after the Bersih 2.0 street rally on July 9 demanding free and fair elections proved the merit of her fight.

He noted the leadership of the then president of the Malaysian Bar in a 2008 forum on Orang Asli issues, jointly organised by the French embassy and the European Union, as having contributed strongly to the nomination of Ambiga.

The order of the Legion of Honour is a merit-based award and there are only 55,000 recipients worldwide at any one time.

“I think it reflects well on Malaysia’s civil society,” Ambiga said in her acceptance speech, with a nod to Najib’s latest pledge to repeal the Internal Security Act and other security laws that allowed for preventive detention.

“It really shows how important civil society is; they are the eyes and ears of the rakyat,” Ambiga said, vowing to continue her charge to improve the rule of law.






Usha Gopalan a woman in the scrap metal industry

July 18th, 2011
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to by Email


ARMED with a passion for sales and marketing and a degree in Mass Communication, Usha Gopalan ventured into an industry where few women would go into — starting her own scrap metal company.

“What I like about sales and marketing, is the challenges I have to deal with, like approaching companies to try to get a tender and communicating with different people of different levels,” said the 39-year-old graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang.

The owner of Empire Tradelines Sdn Bhd said her firm deals with “100% scrap metal”, mainly with oil and gas companies.

“Scrap metal is a very competitive business that depends on volume, so it is challenging having to juggle the price and service war,” said Usha, adding that there are over 2,000 big and small companies involved in the industry alone.

No easy task: Usha is inspecting some beams and channels at a client’s workplace.

“I was the only female in the business when I ventured into scrap metal five years ago.

“The biggest challenge I had to deal with was perception. The initial years were tough, but I was determined to break into the male-dominated industry,” she added.

Usha said the nature of her job is physically demanding — something that requires on-site visits and walking in the hot sun — which is not something most women would jump into.

“I was lucky I had industry veterans to serve as my mentor.

“The people in the scrap metal industry are harder to convince compared with outsiders.

“As somebody different who stood out, my ‘disadvantage’ as a woman opened up opportunities.

“That gave me an edge as clients who were initially surprised were willing to try out my company’s services,” she said, revealing that she still receives mixed reactions from people within the industry.

Summarising what she does, Usha said she would buy high quality scrap metal that would then be sold to smelters in Malaysia or India.

“The metal, which is either melted or used in its original condition, is used for fabrication purposes, usually as materials in the construction and transportation industries.

“Scrap metal is a relatively recession-proof industry, as there will always be waste,” she said.

Usha is proud that Empire Tradelines has grown from a team of two to a company of six, all of whom are women.

“None of us had any background in scrap metal, but I believe that women are as equally capable as men. Women are focused, hardworking and particularly good with follow-ups.

“When I started off, I was negotiating with 50 tonnes (50,000kg) per deal. Now I am handling 2,000 tonnes (2mil kg) per deal,” she said.

Usha’s Kuala Lumpur-based office presently deals with both Malaysian and foreign companies in Perth, Melbourne and Fiji.

Usha Gopalan

“In terms of future plans, I hope to work with other industries that have scrap metal like construction and electronics, and expand my business internationally by venturing into the Middle East.

“The challenges and profits I make are what continue to excite and drive me in what I do,” she said.

Usha expressed hope in seeing more women in the scrap metal industry.

“Women would be able to offer a fresh perspective.

“I believe that their meticulousness and determination to be able to execute their job are what make women more competent,” she said.

The mother of two girls credits her success to her husband Quentin Andre Louis and family’s support.

“I owe a lot to his understanding and support, without whom I would not be able to do what I am doing today.

“I would also like to pursue my first love for aeroplanes,” said Usha who spent a one-year stint as an air stewardess and is now working towards earning her private pilot’s licence.

“Aviation is another male-dominated industry with a lot of opportunities.

“I have been fascinated with aeroplanes since young, and my dream is to own my own hangar and single-engine planes one day,” she said.

Ganeson the crusader of dogs and cats

June 22nd, 2011
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to by Email

I think I’ve seen this guy in action near Bandar Bukit Puchong 2’s new agama school area. There were two people who were feeding the dogs under the highway. Really respect this guy!


V. Ganeson is not only a big man, he also has an equally big heart.

For five years, he has been on a crusade to rescue and protect stray dogs and cats in and around Kuala Lumpur.

The former Kuala Lumpur City Hall employee has long witnessed acts of cruelty perpetrated against these animals.

Happy moment: Ganeson’s four-legged family members never stop showing excitement whenever he visits them at the farm.

Determined to help the defenceless animals, he gave up his job to execute his noble wish, which has also earned him some solace.

“The animals also take care of me by providing unconditional friendship,” he said.

Several kind-hearted souls who have heard of his crusade have come to his aid, allowing him to keep the dogs and cats at their construction sites and on vacant land.

“A few have even offered to put them up in the basement of their unoccupied buildings,” said the father of two who lives in Kinrara, Puchong, with his factory worker wife A. Pushpawati.

He added that they had two dogs at home that his wife was very fond of.

Currently, Ganeson looks out for some 50 dogs and 10 cats in Kuala Lumpur and about 200 dogs and 20 cats outside the Klang Valley.

“I have rented a plot of land just outside Kuala Lumpur for RM1,000 a month. It has a small house on it,” he said, adding that he visited the farm once or twice weekly. A worker tends to the animals during his absence.

Beloved pooch: Pushpawati feeding one of the two dogs at their home in Kinrara, Puchong.

Ganeson said health officers from various authorities had visited his canine sanctuary and were impressed by his good work there.

“They told me if everyone could take care of their own pets and not dump them, there would not be a problem with strays,” he said.

Soon after quitting his job, Ganeson began buying and selling used cars to feed and shelter his four-legged family.

“At first, it was just a few dogs and I could manage on my salary but now I need around RM15,000 a month,” he said, adding that there were desperate times when he was short of money to feed the dogs and cats.

The details of his expenses are written down meticulously in a scrapbook, which he keeps in his car.

He buys three 10kg packets of rice at RM18 per pack daily for one meal in the day, and for dinner they are fed 25kg of pet food, which costs him RM90 per 18kg pack.

“Then there are the toiletries, medical costs and salaries and provisions for my two workers,” he said, waving to a wolf-like dog he had recently picked up from Old Klang Road.

House of healing: One of Ganeson’s dogs being treated at the UPM animal hospital in Serdang.

Faddy came running, leaving its half-eaten meal, leapt and hugged Geneson, almost throwing him off balance by its weight.

He had seen the frail-looking dog outside a house on many occasions and found out that the owner had sold the property and abandoned the dog.

A few months later, Faddy was taken ill and admitted to the Universiti Putra Malaysia animal hospital in Serdang.

“I spent almost RM760 to treat the dog which, according to the vet, was suffering from leukemia,” he said, adding that it had made a wonderful recovery.

On his ride back home to Puchong, Ganeson also stops daily at several locations to feed stray dogs and cats.

“This is good food. I buy rice and some powdered mutton and feed them,” he said when asked if the food was leftovers picked up from restaurants and hotels.

“People say I am mad for spending so much money on dogs. Several people even called me up after a newspaper published my story and poked fun at what I was doing.

“My obsession has brought me a world of good which money cannot buy,” he said.

“I am at peace with myself, I have no worries, no debts and my two sons are respectable members of society.

“I learnt to forgive and forget just like my dogs.

“Even if you beat them, accidentally step on their paw or yell at them for some minor transgression for a moment they look at you all sad-eyed but then five minutes later, they are all happy and act like nothing happened,” he added.

Recalling the day some five years ago that made him dedicate his life to the care and protection of stray dogs, Ganeson pointed to Chinna, a mongrel and said: “This is the fellow that changed everything for me.”

“He was just an abandoned puppy hiding out in the crevices of chunks of boulders and rubble at an abandoned building in Brickfields.

“I used to park there daily to avoid paying parking charges and return late in the evening to collect my car.

“I used to buy this fellow buns and other stuff whenever I came to fetch my car,” he said.

This relationship had been going on for several months when one day he left the car overnight and came to collect it the next morning.

“This puppy refused to eat the bun I bought but kept on barking and running around my car which was parked on a slope,” he said.

Ganeson sometimes encountered problems starting the car and had parked on a slope to make it easier if he needed to push-start the car.

“I tried to shoo him away but he kept on barking,” he said, adding that when he had checked to see if anything was amiss, he had noticed that several bolts had been loosened from one of his tyres.

After tightening the bolts, he took the dirty, rash-covered puppy to a pet shop for some medication before taking it home and giving it a proper bath.

The next day, as he pulled out his wallet to pay for a drink at a stall, he found the pet shop receipt with six numbers on it staring at him.

He walked next door to a gaming shop and bought the six-digit number and the following day he struck RM100,000.

Soon it dawned on him that there was more to life than accumulating money, buying a big house and fancy cars.

For him, there is no turning back in his selfless endeavour in caring and protecting stray dogs and cats.

Along the way he has met many kind souls, including a woman who contributes five packets of pet food monthly.

“Besides, officers from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) come around regularly to provide free treatment and medicine for my dogs,” he said.

Ganeson believes he can build a dog and cat sanctuary for unwanted dogs and cats with support from the public.

He can be reached at 010-2866114.



Selvaraj gets soccer scholarship

June 14th, 2011
|  Subscribe in a reader | Subscribe to by Email

Congrats to Selvaraj and hopes he goes on to become a top footballer.


LANKY G. Selvaraj is an ambitious youngster who wants to excel in football.

He is on course to make his dream a reality after he was offered a sponsorship to join the ECM-Libra Royal Selangor Club (RSC) Junior Soccer Scholarship programme.

As a recipient of the scholarship, worth about RM5,000 a year, Selvaraj will get the chance to be part of the RSC junior development programme.

Selvaraj, a Form Four student at SMK Pandan Indah, said he was looking forward to improving his skills.

Good start: Beng Choon (left) handing over the sponsorship to Dr Radhakrishan (third from right) and RSC Junior Soccer Development programme chairman Jimi Low (right). With them are Muhammad Amirul Muqriz (front row), Selvaraj and Mohamad Hafizi.

“I have been playing football for almost five years and have represented my school in many competitions.

“Now I will be able to attend organised training programmes. I want to make use of the opportunities available,’’ said Selvaraj, who is a resident at a charity home. He is the second child in a family of five boys and two girls.

About two months ago, he was a participant in a carnival organised by RSC.

Selvaraj displayed his skills as a striker and the RSC officials were impressed with his talents.

ECM Libra Foundation trustee Lim Beng Choon said they would be contributing RM50,000 as scholarship for 10 recipients.

“We have identified three deserving players — Selvaraj, Muhammad Amirul Muqriz and Mohammad Hafizi. There are seven vacant spots. Once the recipients have been identified, they will also join the RSC junior development programme,’’ said Beng Choon.

Muhammad Amirul is eight years old while Mohammad Hafizi is 13. How did the partnership between RCS and ECM Libra Foundation materialise?

“When we met the representatives of the RSC Soccer section, we were impressed with the RSC’s initiatives at grassroots. We were interested in sponsoring 10 underprivileged children.

“Things progressed positively, allowing the ECM Libra Foundation to further realise the goal to help deserving underprivileged children,’’ said Beng Choon.

RSC vice-president Dr S. Radha-krishnan said they were pleased with the partnership with ECM Libra Foundation.

“The partnership is an outstanding initiative dedicated towards the betterment of the community,’’ said Radhakrishnan.