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Aishah's Life: Politics, journalism and advocacy

Aishah's Life: Politics, journalism and advocacy
KUALA LUMPUR: National advocate of women affairs, Tan Sri Aishah Ghani died due to old age at the Gleneagles Hospital in Kuala Lumpur today. She was 90 years old.

Born in 1923 at Kampung Sungai Serai, Hulu Langat in Selangor, this iron-willed lady went through a colourful life following her broad involvements in politics, journalism and struggle for women.
She received her early education at Sekolah Melayu Bukit Raya, Cheras, furthering her studies at Sekolah Arab Diniah Puteri, Sumatera from 1936 to 1939 followed by Kolej Latihan Guru Tinggi, Padang in 1940, where she started to know about politics in the light of Malaya being colonised at that time.

On her return to Malaya in 1943, Aishah felt the bitterness of Japanese oppression, when Malaya was invaded by Japan, and vowed to fight for independence by joining the Malayan Malay National Organisation (PKMM) which was set up at the end of 1945.
At PKMM, she became a journalist with Pelita Malaya, the official newspaper of PKMM, with the aim of encouraging women to join politics other than creating awareness among them about independence.

Aishah left PKMM after several months, as she did not agree with the Melayu Raya Concept which the party advocated, despite being promoted as the head of PKMM's Angkatan Wanita Sedar.

She then married Abdul Aziz Abu Hassan and created history when she became the first woman announcer at Radio Malaya, which had just been set up.

They had four children, namely, Datuk Astamam, Zarim, Shairudin dan Mariati.

Her determination for national independence had never wavered and she returned to politics by joining Pasar Pudu Umno branch before becoming a member at Umno Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur in 1949.

Her outspokenness and courage in upholding women issues enabled Aishah to be picked as a permanent member of Umno's Kaum Ibu at Umno Malaya's general conference, Penang in 1950. She held the post until 1954.

But, she still wanted to deepen her knowledge in journalism and politics. Towards this end, she continued her studies at Regent Street Polytechnic in England on April 1955.

Upon her return in 1959, she became active again in the Kuala Lumpur Umno division and also became a journalist with Berita Harian.

In the first general election in 1959, Aishah contested the Setapak Parliamentary seat as a candidate for Alliance but lost.

The setback did not hinder her from being active in Umno and in 1960, and she was picked to be vice-chairman of Umno Malaya Kaum Ibu Movement.

She once again created history when she was appointed the first woman Senator in Dewan Negara in 1962.

Following the appointment, she resigned from her post in Berita Harian when picked as a member of the Umno supreme council in 1963 and was actively fighting for the rights and welfare of women including in education, economy and politics.

During the period, she also represented Malaysia as the first woman to attend the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

From 1967 to 1972, Aishah was Malaysian representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

She was also the Selangor Umno Wanita Movement secretary between 1960 and 1972.

After 12 years of holding the post of Umno Kaum Ibu Movement vice-chief, Aishah was picked as the Umno Wanita Movement chief at the Umno Wanita delegates meeting in 1972.

Aishah's stature continued to be on the rise when she became the second woman to be appointed as Social Welfare Minister in March, 1973, replacing Tun Fatimah Hashim.

She was responsible for the setting up of the National Welfare Foundation, Rehabilitation Institute for Handicapped in Bangi and created a uniform Islamic Family Law during her tenure.She was a Cabinet minister for 11 years.

The following year, she was appointed as Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation chairman until 1997 and was appointed as Tun Abdul Razak Foundation committee member and chairman of Darsaadah Women Protection Centre.

Her struggle to uphold and protect women's right in the country led to the formation of PERTIWI which fought for the rights of Muslim women in 1967. She was also the chairman for Women Aid Centre and Koperasi Jaya Murni Wanita Berhad since their setting up in 1975.

Furthermore, she was also picked to represent Malaysia in the Afro-Asian Group Unity Committee in Algiers, Algeria and the Asian Women Seminar in Berlin and the Conference of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations.

Her contributions and deeds were also appreciated when she was also named Selangor Women Icon 1996, Selangor Senior Citizen Icon 2002, Maal Hijrah Icon for Selangor 2002, received Selangor Independence Fighter Award and Mutiara Pertiwi Award from Puteri UMNO.

Aishah also wrote her memoir titled "Aishah Ghani Memoir of a Fighter' in 1992.