The stories behind the talent; what drives our WOF S.E Asia winners?

On the 20th March 2018, the winners of the inaugural Women of the Future Awards, South East Asia, were announced at a high-profile event at the Hilton, Singapore. These awards marked the first step into the region for the thriving, and now global, Women of the Future Programme and an important opportunity to shine the spotlight on incredibly talented women and their phenomenal stories of success.

A mission critical to the region

Led by Pinky Lilani CBE DL, the Women of the Future programme is determined to uncover female talent and to celebrate it and in so doing, burst open the talent pipeline, empowering the next generation of female leaders.

Nine winners were announced at the star-studded ceremony and although from vastly different fields and industries, each of the winners shared a common belief in the importance of the Women of the Future Programme’s mission to South East Asia. In a region where female talent is so often unsung, the unique opportunity provided by these awards to showcase female trailblazers who are each facilitating positive global change, should not be underestimated. A wonderful example of this importance was given by Singer/Songwriter, Laura Mam from Cambodia.

Laura is Cambodia’s first independent pop star to gain recognition for her original music. She has founded her own artist management and music production company so as to help others also achieve their dreams in the music industry. What’s so remarkable about her story? Well, in a country which has experienced massive destruction to its culture due to war and genocide, finding a voice (in this case, quite literally), is a huge challenge. On receiving the Arts & Culture Award, Laura said: ‘I will take this award home and I will give it to the Cambodian people and say that you, and the rest of the world are listening to our voices.’

Stories of success worthy of the big screen

The stories of each of the 2018 winners deserve to be told on the big movie screen. From women leading subsea projects and wildlife conservationists to those who search for cancer cures, each of the 2018 nominees are making a significant difference to their community, region and the world, with their talent and passion.

A remarkable example of how it is possible for one woman to facilitate change for hundreds of thousands of people is the story of Community Spirit & Public Service Winner, Phyu Hninn Nyein.

Phyu leads the Farm Advisory Services team at Proximity Designs in Myanmar. With her team of 200, she has advised over 300,000 smallholders on climate-smart agriculture. Quoting Myanmar historian, Thant Myint-U, Phyu was able to give perspective to progress in her country – after 20 years of sanctions, 30 years of self-isolation, 50 years of authoritarian rule, 70 years of internal war and more than 100 years of colonisation, plus the impact of virtually no public spending over this time ‘progress on any front, even with maximum political will, will not be easy.’

In the words of Phyu: ‘When you see Myanmar in the news these days, it’s not pretty… there’s a lot of bad news, and sometimes I even wonder and have my own doubts about the progress of the country. At the same time, I also want to highlight that our country is not all extremists or radicals… as the news currently paints it. I would like to point out that there are a lot of good people, who are doing their best to move the country forward and I am really humble and very proud to be representing all of those people here tonight.’

Mentors celebrated, role models formed

So many of the 2018 nominees and winners credited mentors who have supported and uplifted them along the way, opening-up the road ahead. So many also remarked on how the Women of the Future Awards, South East Asia, has set up the stage for them to be role models and that they will now go back and ensure that they are empowering and inspiring those who will follow in their footsteps.

Winner of the Business category, Christina Gao, who leads Shell’s commitment to clean energy solutions by spearheading innovation in the transport sector, commented:

‘Women nowadays, we probably have to speak louder to be heard, jump higher to be seen, and sometimes all we need is a stage, a microphone, and a dose of courage to achieve that. So thank you for providing a platform and providing a microphone for women in this part of the world to stand up, to have a voice, to be seen, to be heard.’

Get involved with the Women of the Future Awards, South East Asia

If you would like to get involved with any aspect of the Women of the Future programme or the South East Asia Awards in particular, stay tuned here for all updates.

The Women of the Future Awards, South East Asia 2018 – THE WINNERS

Arts & Culture: Laura Mam, Singer/Songwriter, CEO and Founder, Baramey Production
Business: Christina Gao, Global Product Manager, Shell (Singapore)
Community Spirit & Public Service: Phyu Hninn Nyein, General Manager, Farm Advisory
Services, Proximity Designs (Myanmar)
Entrepreneur: Khai Lin Chua, Co-Founder and CFO, Fundnel (Singapore)
Media & Communications: Jessica Cheam, Managing Editor, Eco-Business (Singapore)
Professions: Mary Bounthalath, Trade Commissioner, Office of the Embassy of Canada
to Lao PDR (Laos)
Property, Infrastructure & Construction: An Nguyen, Director, Research & Consulting
Services, CBRE Vietnam (Vietnam)
Science, Technology & Digital: Chern Ein Oon, Senior Lecturer, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Social Entrepreneur: Cherrie Atilano, Social Entrepreneur & Founder/President, AGREA
Agricultural Systems International, Inc. (Philippines)

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