Athena Holdings Malaysia
Commonwealth Point of Light 231. Anja Juliah
Anja Juliah, representing Malaysia, is a social entrepreneur and co-founder of ‘Athena Holdings’, an organisation that sells reusable eco-friendly sanitary products and invests the profits into programmes that teach girls living in rural areas of the country menstrual health and life skills.
After conducting research and discovering that thousands of Malaysian girls miss 60 days of school a year due to lack of menstrual products and education, Anja started her mission by partnering with local NGOs to identify girls aged 11 – 17 living in poor rural areas. Through her social enterprise, Anja educates girls on mensuration and provides reusable sanitary pads, helping girls continue with their studies whilst also reducing the number of single-use sanitary pads going to landfill. Anja has since extended the organisation’s work to support girls in indigenous communities in rural areas in the Sabah and Sarawak states in Borneo, benefitting at least 1,600 girls since 2016. In addition to this, Anja has also provided mentorship for women aspiring to become social entrepreneurs, and has previously conducted financial empowerment programmes for young housewives who had never worked before to teach them basic knowledge on entrepreneurship.
His Excellency Charles Hay, British High Commissioner to Malaysia, said:
“Education is the key to a better life. Thanks to the remarkable effort of educating girls in rural communities about menstrual health and providing reusable sanitary pads, Anja has helped ensure girls remain in schools and get the basic education that they need. I would also like to commend Anja Juliah for empowering young women through her coaching and mentoring work.”
“This award came as an absolute surprise for me. I am deeply humbled and honoured. This journey has never been about me at all. Exactly 10 years ago, I started teaching girls in rural Borneo about menstruation and sponsoring washable sanitary pads to them. As a result, the girls did not have to be absent from school. Education is their pathway to a better life. I am thankful to my family, friends and partners who have supported my mission to empowering girls and young women in Malaysia. I hope my work will enable girls to pursue their dreams, and inspire them to help others.”