As the World NGO Day is just days shy of March—let us also prep ourselves for the International Women’s Day, which falls on 8 March. With that, MIMS Today’s editorial desk has identified four outstanding women in healthcare who have made tremendous impact in NGOs—leading the way—as they spearhead greater efforts and press for progress.
1. Dr Fauziah Hasan
Dr Fauziah has been very actively involved in humanitarian activities, starting with Malaysian Medical Relief Society MERCY Malaysia, where she was a Treasurer from 2000 to 2006. She has participated in numerous missions—namely Kosovo (1999), Maluku Indonesia (2000), Afghanistan (2001 – 2003), Aceh (2005), Pakistan (2005) and Gaza (2009).
She was then active in Aqsa Syarif, a Malaysian humanitarian NGO in support of the Palestinians, which became an agency under the umbrella of Humanitarian Care Malaysia (MyCARE), in 2015. Dr Fauziah was Deputy Chairperson of Aqsa Syarif from 2010, and is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of MyCARE.
Since 2011, she has been the Advisor of Rose2Rose (R2R), another agency of MyCARE, which focuses on empowering women and children. She has led its campaign to care for the many unfortunate women and children in Palestine, Syria and Rohingya, and another mission to Gaza in 2012.
In 2016, her story made headlines as she was Malaysia's sole representative in the “Women's Boat to Gaza” (WBG) mission—where their humanitarian ship, Zaytouna-Oliva was illegally detained by the Israeli authorities.
She is currently a Consultant at Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital, Kuala Lumpur.
2. Dr Christina Ng Van Tze
Dr Christina Ng is the founder and president of EMPOWERED, The Cancer Advocacy Society of Malaysia.
Through her work in EMPOWERED, Dr Ng has been known for being passionate in fighting for under-resourced communities. She has been awarded for her continuous efforts in channeling equal access to life-saving colorectal screening and treatment programs for under-privileged Malaysians which has reached over 100,000 Malaysians who fit the criteria.
In 2007, Dr Ng launched her book entitled ‘My Journal’—with the aim to empower and educate patients on chemotherapy for cancer. The publication is available in four languages (English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil) to allow access to Malaysians from of various ethnic backgrounds. Over 10,000 copies have been freely distributed to government hospitals with cancer centres.
Then, Dr Ng launched a public awareness campaign in 2016—highlighting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer with active participation by the medical industry, other private industries, medical schools, oncology and genetic experts, as well as other NGOs.
Dr Ng is currently a Consultant Medical Oncologist at Onco Life Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
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3. Matron Fadzilah Abd Hamid
Matron Fadzilah is the full-time caregiver at Rumah Solehah—a shelter for HIV-positive women, who have been shunned by their families and society. Matron Fadzilah was among the first to set up the shelter on behalf of the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia back in 1998.
In the 20 years that the shelter has been operational, she has taken care of over 300 women with HIV—providing assistance, not only with their basic needs, but also helping them to find meaning again in their life. As one of the first shelters of its kind, it was not an easy start. With limited funds, the shelter was not well equipped initially. Nonetheless, throughout the years and with increasing awareness, the shelter has managed to stand on its own and are now taking in children with HIV as well.
Living in a shared home, the residents have their own problems, while fights and altercations are often inevitable. Matron Fadzilah took it upon herself to nurture, teach and discipline them with tough love. What presents as the ultimate challenge is that the residents come and go—so, the cycle will repeat whenever new residents move in.
Before running Rumah Solehah, Matron Fadzilah was a public health nurse where she worked in rural areas in Malaysia—teaching about health and nutrition. She also specialised in maternal and obstetric health—and treating patients sometimes meant having to hop on helicopters and sampans to get to them during an emergency. Matron Fadzilah’s 30 years of travelling state to state has eventually led her to realise that drug use was becoming a problem in rural communities—and along with it came a rise in HIV cases.
Matron Fadzilah jumped at the opportunity when the Ministry of Health (MOH) asked her to start a rehabilitation shelter for HIV-positive sex workers in Kuala Lumpur. She took up a counselling course in the UK in 1994, before returning to Malaysia to do some research on the life of the sex workers. However, the project was not approved by the parliament. Hence, she decided to start on her own—marking the humble beginnings of Rumah Solehah.
4. Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood
Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood is well known to be the founder of the Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MERCY Malaysia), where she was the president from 1999 to 2009. She was a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist before being involved in humanitarian work full time.
During a MERCY Malaysia mission in 2003, Dr Jemilah was shot in the hip while on the way to deliver medical supplies to a children’s hospital in Iraq. The bullet had gone through her friend, Dr Baba and a thick Reader's Digest book before hitting her hip. She then stitched herself up, left the bullet in, and got Dr Baba on the operating table—crying and wondering if she has made a grave mistake dragging her team from MERCY Malaysia through a war-torn country. Soon after, she performed an emergency C-section on a badly anaemic patient and successfully delivered a healthy baby boy—all while still having the bullet in her leg! In that mission, two people died, while two other doctors were injured.
From 2009 to 2011, Dr Jemilah was in charge of the humanitarian branch of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in New York City, where she directed her efforts toward reproductive health, gender-based violence, and emergency population data. In May 2014, Dr Jemilah was appointed to head the World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat at the United Nations Office, for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) headquarters in New York.
Since January 2016, Dr Jemilah has served as Under Secretary General for Partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). MIMS
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