Education & Community

Leading the Women’s Right Movement in Malaysia
Tun Fatimah is synonymous with women’s leadership and the women’s rights movement in Malaysia. As a girl, Tun Fatimah received her early education at a boy’s school in Parit Kurma, because there weren’t any schools for girls where she lived at the time.

Tun Fatimah began her political career in 1947, as a Treasurer in the ladies’ movement ‘Kaum Ibu’ within the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) at the Kampung Nong Chik branch. It was at her initiation, the women’s wing was renamed to ‘Wanita UMNO’ to attract younger educated women. 

In her 16-year leadership of Wanita UMNO from 1956 to 1972, Tun Fatimah dedicated herself to promoting women's participation in politics and empowering them to have a significant voice in society.

A person holding a cat

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With Sugar, one of her eight cats.

Empowering women’s voice and participation in politics
As the Member of Parliament for her constituency for 15 years, Tun Fatimah encouraged the development of education in the community as it mirrored her belief in education as the basis for development.
Tun Fatimah initiated Malaysia’s National Women’s Day celebrations in 1962 and founded the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO). She advocated for women’s rights as the organisation’s President for 24 years.
Tun Fatimah has also held positions in several institutions and has received many accolades and recognition for her work such as The Most Outstanding Woman in the Fifth Women in Malaysian History Series from the National Archives and the Islamic Women’s Action Organisation (PERTIWI).
A group of women walking down the street

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 Tun Fatimah (fifth from left) leading the National Women's Day committee during the celebration in Kota Bharu, Kelantan in 1973

A Firm Believer That Knowledge is Power
Although she did not have the opportunity to further her studies, Tun Fatimah is a great believer in education as the basis of development and fought for progress in that area.
In 1995, she was Pro Chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and in 2000, was awarded an honorary doctorate in Education.
A fighter for women
By leveraging on her political position, she advocated for the recognition of the ministry’s professional staff and championed women's rights.
“What drove me was realisation and awareness of the plight of women. They’re as qualified and educated but did not have an equal position. I could not ignore the issue and had to fight for the cause. The push to do this has to come from you. If people encourage you but you don’t have the will, nothing will be achieved,” she says.
Tun Fatimah was the nation’s first woman Cabinet Minister, holding the welfare portfolio from 1969 to 1973. In 2003, she was bestowed the Seri Setia Mahkota (SSM) award which carries the title “Tun” by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

An old person writing on a book

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 Tun Fatimah writes daily in her journal.
The information in this award recipient's profile is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the time the award was presented. Any subsequent changes, updates, or developments in the individual's life or achievements may not be reflected in this profile.
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