7 Things to know about Malaysia’s first female Deputy Prime Minister

Wan to watch


By Rachel Au

7 Things to know about Malaysia’s first female Deputy Prime Minister

You’ve seen it all over social media. You’ve joined in on the discussions. You’ve awaited the GE14 results till the wee hours of the morning. The May 13 incident haunts Malaysia’s past. Today, May 9 (and 10) presents Malaysia’s future. It’s a day that will go down in history for many reasons and one of them is the announcement of Malaysia’s upcoming first female Deputy Prime Minister—Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah

As strong advocates of women empowerment, this is hugely incredible and incredibly huge. It’s the stepping stone towards a day when we will welcome our first female Prime Minister. Until then, we’ve rounded up some of the things you should know about Wan Azizah that makes her such an inspirational woman. 




1. A quick background

Wan Azizah was born on December 3, 1952 in Singapore but grew up in Kedah. She went on to pursue her tertiary education at Tunku Kurshiah College in Seremban before furthering her studies in medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. There, she was awarded a gold medal in obstetrics and gynaecology and later graduated as a qualified ophthalmologist. She worked in a government hospital for 14 years until her husband Anwar Ibrahim was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister in 1993 and thus decided to shift to voluntary work instead, namely with the National Cancer Council. Side note: Wan Azizah has a Peranakan grandfather but identifies as a Malay Muslim. 


2. She is also a mother and grandmother

While she has been prominent in the political scene, many tend to forget that Wan Azizah is also a mother (of six children) and grandmother (to nine grandchildren). In an interview with The Sun, her eldest daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar said Wan Azizah never neglected her family despite her busy political career. “Her parents are still alive, and she is a doting daughter. She’s always there when her parents need her. [The same] goes with her children,” said Nurul. 




3. She’s strong and devoted

Fate is a funny thing. Wan Azizah never set out to be a politician but her story took a turn when Anwar was arrested and then sentenced to jail in 1999. Yet, instead of abandoning her husband, she did everything she could to help him. She led the Reformasi movement, the civil rights NGO Social Justice Movement (ADIL), and then established Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKN) all in the same year, which saw her elected as the party president. Note that she did all these while raising her kids. 


4. Her journey in politics

“I am the wife of a politician. I am not a politician. But what happened, the tragedy that happened to our family gave us all the potential to be together in this fight,” she said in her keynote address at the “Three-cornered fights: A win for Pakatan Harapan” forum in 2017. She added that it’s the people who share a common goal of wanting a better Malaysia that makes her continue on in this fight. 

In 1999 when her party first competed in the elections, she led them to win five seats in the Parliament and was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Permatang Pauh. She retained the seat in both the 2004 and 2008 general elections. In that latter year, she resigned her position to make way for Anwar who had won the subsequent by-election. However, she returned in 2014, following Anwar’s five-year prison sentence, and was elected as the Selangor state legislative assembly member for Kajang. In 2015, she managed to retain the Dewan Rakyat seat of Permatang Pauh for Pakatan Rakyat. 




5. She has a good sense of humour

Elections are always a serious issue but even then, Wan Azizah manages to be candid. While some of her posts on Instagram are inspiring, others could easily pull out a chuckle. After all, Nurul did mention to The Sun that, “She has a great sense of humour and she always makes us laugh. She could have her own stand up comedy show.”


6. She doesn’t let what others say affect her determination

Things have never been easy being the president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat as well as being Anwar’s wife. There have been speculations and dismissals about her role but Wan Azizah was unwavering in the face of it all. For example, Pakatan Harapan announced earlier this year that Dr Mahathir would be Prime Minister with Wan Azizah taking on the role as his deputy should the coalition win the 14th general elections. One of the responses to the latter was that she was just there to “keep the seat warm” for her husband. She was not perturbed by the gender discrimination. “I’m not a seat warmer. A seat warmer is like a hot water bottle. I think I’m more than that,” she said. She added that more female representation would be good. 




7. She believes in the power of women

Earlier in January 2018, she herself had said, “We have many qualified candidates. A female can be prime minister. What’s wrong with that?” At another event in the same month, she said, “With more women participating in decision making roles, particularly politics, we could be a force to be reckoned with.” We find that hard to disagree with, don’t you? 

Explore More