Southeast Asia’s empowered women in spotlight

FFI Asia

Women can shatter the glass ceiling. They can overcome the glass cliff. These are invisible barriers that hinder women from succeeding in their professions, but they are not impossible to surmount.

It is refreshing to look at Southeast Asia where societal norms continue to influence the status of women, but where women have also shown that they can conquer obstacles and break stereotypes. 

#FemaleForwardInternational presents stories of five women rising above tides and hierarchies: a young girl in Indonesia unintimidated by age and gender, creatively turning waste into artistic products; a feisty lady unsilenced by threats in Malaysia, challenging archaic Islamic laws, a relentless journalist and educator in Myanmar, nurturing minds to counter disinformation; a human rights defender in the Philippines, slaying dragons in local politics; and a compassionate businesswoman in Vietnam, building her company with pillars of kindness.

Their achievements show how organizations, businesses, and communities thrive when women take on bigger roles. While the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 indicates that it will take 99.5 years to achieve gender parity – an impossible feat in this lifetime – this does not discount investing in infrastructures that would ensure that the next generation of women can have more opportunities to realize their potential. It is important to look at policies that would create space towards empowerment.

Certainly, there is no limit to what women can accomplish. They can step forward and up.

Visit for more details.

Vania Santoso

In Indonesia, a young girl can be intimidated by nasty sexist comments that could prevent her to pursue her dreams. Sociopreneur Vania Santoso demonstrates that age and gender don’t have to be hurdles if one is determined – and creative!

Read her story here.

Azareena Abdul Aziz

In Malaysia, with a predominantly Islam population, discrimination towards women are rooted in archaic laws. Azareena Abdul Aziz of Sisters in Islam unwaveringly fights towards fair treatment of women.

Read her story here.

Phyu Phyu Thi

In Myanmar where disinformation is pervasive, journalists’ role is undermined. Media literacy advocate Phyu Phyu Thi holds the line, and finds avenues for “edutainment” so truth can never be compromised.

Read her story here.

Kaka Bag-ao

In the Philippines, women tend to be benchwarmers for a political position that their father or brother vacated, until the men are eligible to run again. Dinagat Islands Governor Kaka Bag-ao proves she can topple this system through her leadership anchored on people’s participation.

Read her story here.

Bui Thi Suu

In Vietnam, where manufacturing industries are growing, and where half of the employees are women, there exists a wage gap. Business executive Bui Thi Suu installs a mechanism where women are hired and rewarded for their credentials and not because of their gender.

Read her story here.

Strong Women

Read more stories of Strong Women here.