Dr Anjhula Mya Singh Bais calls it as she sees it. Formerly the youngest chair of Amnesty International Malaysia and recently appointed as the chairperson of Amnesty’s international board–the first Indian and first person in Malaysia to acquire such a position–she doesn’t mince words when discussing issues of global importance.
But beyond the realm of rhetoric, this internationally-acclaimed trauma psychologist lives to serve, as evident in her activism and her work counselling suicidal frontliners in Malaysia while herself recovering from Covid-19 in early 2021.
At the core, Anjhula cares more about people than living up to people’s expectations—perhaps this is the secret to her success as a leader, along with an ever-present willingness to learn from others.
The daughter of an aristocratic family from Banswara in Rajasthan, this former Vogue supermodel and certified mental health practitioner speaks with Tatler about her definition of success and her role at Amnesty International.
For me, the brilliance of the mind and spirituality, anchored in rich cultural traditions is what defines success.— Dr Anjhula Mya Singh Bais
What do you find most exciting about your role as the chair of Amnesty's International Board?
I'm most excited about the influence that Amnesty International has in shaping policy and decisions in the global arena on some of the most pressing issues in world history. Amnesty International is a Noble Peace Prize winner and the largest human rights organisation in the world. In my role as chairperson of its international board, I speak to a variety of stakeholders, from the chairs of our local Amnesty offices worldwide to donors, funders, government officials, diplomats, and business leaders. I believe human rights is every person's issue. A lot of what I do requires a considered analysis of tons of documents and making tough human rights decisions about reports and issues in Ukraine or Hong Kong, for example.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work at Amnesty International?
I sit on a board with very talented people. We have a retired senior media exec, an ex-diplomat, a feminist leader, a United Nations officer, an emergency doctor, a former telecoms chief, an activist who is on a dictator’s hit list, a lawyer and women empowerment coach and more. They are experts with deep knowledge and I learn from them every day.