13 Southeast Asian Artists Talk Empowerment on International Women’s Day

8 March 2018

To mark International Women's Day we asked 13 musicians from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines a few questions about being female in today's world. As well as in this article, their answers will appear throughout the day on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sharing their words on womanhood are Maudy Ayunda (Indonesia), Leanne Mamonong from Leanne and Naara (Philippines), Dato' Sri Siti Nurhaliza (Malaysia), Anggun (Indonesia), Cooky Chua (Philippines), Flying Ipis' Deng Garcia (Philippines), Rossa (Indonesia), Ella (Malaysia) and Fazura (Malaysia). Rounding out the group are four members of The Ransom Collective (Philippines): Jerms Peck, Muriel Gonzales, Lily Gonzales and Leah Halili. Here's what they told us:

What does "being a strong woman" mean to you?

Maudy Ayunda (Asia Spotlight artist): A strong woman is someone who thinks for herself, stays true to her principles, and lives by her rules.

Leanne: What makes a woman strong is her capability to fight and to keep an unwavering hope despite the hardships that surround her.

Dato' Sri Siti Nurhaliza: A strong woman is a wise woman who uses her advantage and credibility to inspire many people.

Dato' Sri Siti Nurhaliza

Anggun: To me it means to be in charge of my own happiness, my own destiny, to be comfortable in my own skin, to be in sync with my heart and my mind. A strong woman forgives and loves. A strong woman is free...

Cooky: A strong woman for me acknowledges her weaknesses, accepts and embraces them and does something about them.

Deng: It means getting to do whatever the f**k I want.

Jerms: Being a strong woman means being comfortable in your skin.

Muriel: Knowing that nothing binds you and just going for it.

Jerms and Muriel of The Ransom Collective (Asia Spotlight artist)

Lily: It is to act true to yourself and to encourage others to do the same.

Leah: Being a strong woman to me means that one is able to independently care for herself without relying too much on people.

Rossa (Asia Spotlight artist): For me being a strong woman is being the best mother I can be for my son, the best daughter I can be for my mum and a role model for Indonesian women.

Ella: Being a strong woman, to me, means being a woman who is driven to do her best in everything she does and take criticism as opportunity to improve.

Fazura: Being a strong woman means you can be compassionate and be kind, but also to know what you want and be able to say no to things that do not represent you.


Is there an inspirational female figure that you either looked up to growing up or currently look up to?

Maudy Ayunda: I actually find inspiration from the women I see in my day to day life: where their strength is apparent when doing simple things. My mother, my aunt, my cousins, my friends, my colleagues.

Leanne: I won't have to look very far because the strongest woman I know is my mother. She's been through a lot and I've seen her rise to every challenge. I can only wish to have her strength.

Dato' Sri Siti Nurhaliza: I admire Dato' Dr Jemilah Mahmood, a doctor who is not only devoted to her patients, but also contributing to life and even pursuing humanitarian missions in countries at war, distress or disaster.

Jerms: There are a lot of inspirational women in the world that I look up to, from women who have done phenomenal things to change the world to the women of the house who did their best to raise all these strong women.

Lily: I look up to my softball coach because she taught me how to be a well-rounded player – I learned the right skill, attitude, and mindset from her. She constantly sought to improve our status as a player and as a person, which showed how deeply she cared about our growth and our being.

For our young female fans, what advice can you give them to guide them along their journey to become strong women?

Leanne: It is important to understand that we offer something of significance to this world. Without it, a lot of things would be in chaos and there will be a lack of balance and meaning.

Leah: Don't be afraid to face challenges in life and remember that being being vulnerable is beautiful and can make you stronger.

Leah Halili

Fazura: If you believe in something, go for it! Stay kind. Stay compassionate. Always be positive.

Muriel: Most of what we know as norms are just arbitrarily defined social constructs. When you get past that thinking, you realize that the only thing telling you "you can't do it" is that voice in your head.

Rossa: Always be yourself and trust in your beliefs. Follow your heart, stay strong and stay grounded.

Ella: Believe that there's nothing you can't do. Never give up, always believe if one door is shut, there will be another 100 doors open for you.

Finally, change always starts with the smallest things. Can you suggest or give any advice on how everyone can help the movement towards gender disparity for us to progress?

Rossa: It's important for women to take care of, and stand up for, each other. The smallest gesture of support can mean so much.

Ella: Schools should be the starting place where gender equality is embraced. The children should grow up thinking they can do like others did regardless of their gender. And of course without losing each unique gender characteristic that we all have.


Maudy Ayunda: I think conversation is really key. It's important to start talking about these issues, acknowledge the problem – and be pragmatic yet positive in the outlook. I think feminism deserves respect as just a different word for "equality", and in order to stop any ridicule and misunderstanding – having conversations about it is important.

Dato' Sri Siti Nurhaliza: The saying goes, the hands that swing the cradle can shake the world and this is what we have to go on, as today's women have to move in tandem with community development.

Deng: I think it's just as important for us girls to help ourselves and stop playing the victim card all the time. Pay the bill, open your own door, drive yourself, earn your own money, do the work, change that light bulb, change that flattened tire, down that beer! I swear, we can do everything and anything.

Anggun: I believe more than ever that we need to strengthen our female solidarity by empowering each other and by defending woman's rights. Woman is the future of mankind.


With these rocking women (among many others) leading the way, the future looks brighter than it ever has for women and girls. Happy International Women's Day, everyone! Let's celebrate, but also keep our eyes set firmly on the continuing changes we need to see.


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