This Young Activist Is Giving Malaysian Youths A Voice In Politics

By Chong Jinn Xiung

Qyira Yusri, co-founder and education director of Undi18, discusses leading a youth movement to successfully reduce the minimum voting age in Malaysia

Tatler Asia
Qyira Yusri
Cover  Qyira Yusri. Photo: Imran Sulaiman

In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.

Qyira Yusri has always been passionate about politics. As a student, she would find every opportunity to discuss the topic with others, be it her friends, classmates or lecturers.

After returning from studying overseas, she wanted to help her peers find their own political voice as well. So in 2016, she started the youth movement Undi18 with her friend Tharma Pillai in hope of amending Article 119 (1) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution and reducing the minimum voting age in the country from 21 to 18 years old.

"In most countries, the minimum voting age is below 21 years old, and there are even a few that allow 16-year-olds to vote," says Qyira. "So it makes no sense that Malaysian youths are deemed less experienced or rational than others to vote. 

In her own words, Qyira shares more on how Undi18 has changed the dynamics of the country's electorate and why she hopes it encourages more youth representation in the halls of power.

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Tatler Asia
Qyira Yusri
Above  Qyira Yusri. Photo: Imran Sulaiman

Democratic empowerment begins with the young. That's why we are investing in millions of Malaysian youth for the future of our nation.

It is important that young people get to vote. Voting is one way we can make our voices heard and hold our elected representatives accountable. By casting a vote, it sends a message to our politicians on the kinds of leaders and policies we want in place.

Undi18 has finally achieved its objective despite many delays. The day the High Court ordered the election commission and government to lower Malaysia's voting age from 21 to 18 years old by 31 December 2021—and my feelings of joy and relief about it—will remain etched in my mind. It's about time we give the youth of Malaysia the right to vote.

My main motivation is my mother. I grew up watching her work very hard to champion the welfare and equal treatment of her students as a government teacher. She gave me my first insight into what it means to fight for others and to serve the community.

It's not a privilege to be able to vote, it's a right and responsibility for all Malaysians. During our next election, I hope young people will go to the ballot box and vote with their hearts and minds. I hope they understand the impact of their vote. 

Undi18 is now a social enterprise that engages all sides of the political divide, in order to promote youth-centric agenda and democratic reforms. Through our programmes, we encourage youths to push for causes they care about. Our current focus areas are increasing youth representation in politics, developing civic education modules and creating a fairer democracy.

See other honourees from the Education category of the Gen.T List 2021.

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