Many of us dream of a better, brighter future for Malaysians everywhere, but few have lived, breathed and pursued this ideal like Dato' Shahira Ahmed Bazari. A firm believer of the role of education in alleviating poverty, Yayasan Hasanah's managing director isn't afraid to keep her ear to the ground and do what's necessary to bring long-term impact to the nation's most underserved communities.
Shahira was instrumental in setting up Yayasan Hasanah, a grant-making foundation that brings corporations, civil society organisations, charities and other changemakers together to execute initiatives that create positive change in the nation. Its commitment to deliver long-term and sustainable impact in Malaysia can be seen in its key efforts in education, community development, environment, arts and public spaces, as well as knowledge and research. Since 2020, the foundation has amplified its efforts to help people whose livelihoods and lives have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
"Working at a foundation where we are able to make a difference in people’s lives every day is indeed a privileged opportunity for me," says Shahira. "Since our inception, Hasanah has assisted more than a million lives in Malaysia, alongside humanitarian relief initiatives."
Read on to learn what motivates this inspiring leader and mother of three today.
Tell us about the childhood moments that helped shape who you are today.
I grew up in a big family of seven siblings. My dad is an ardent reader of philosophy and sufism, and we have an extensive library at home. He loves to drink black coffee at night and as he did, he would sit us all down and tell us stories, sharing words of wisdom and advice.
Looking back, these are the most precious moments to me. Many values I hold dear today were from those night chats with dad. He taught us to always be kind and at the same time, to have a visionary mindset. Despite his strict demeanour, he was a very charitable person and a firm believer of the importance of education. Like him, I too believe that good education is a pivotal turning point and a foundation for every individual to reach their full potential.
What was your career like before Yayasan Hasanah?
I began my corporate journey, working in a private think tank where I led socio-political research and advocacy work for three years before joining Procter & Gamble, leading their public affairs function in Malaysia and Singapore. In 2006, I joined Khazanah Nasional where I worked in the managing director’s office for nine years. Yayasan Hasanah, the Foundation of Khazanah Nasional, was set up in 2015, and I was honoured to be part of the team that developed the strategy towards its formation.