'You Malay girl, gahmen will make sure you do well': MP Mariam Jafaar opens up about turning judgemental comments into her fuel

PHOTO: Instagram/1mariamjaafar

She may be Sembawang GRC MP now, but Mariam Jaafar once rejected multiple government scholarship offers to prove herself in the private sector.

The 44-year-old took to Instagram today (Sept 15) to take part in the #ThisLittleGirlIsMe social media campaign, where she shared some of the key experiences that shaped her to be the woman she is today.

In her heartfelt post, accompanied by a picture of herself donning the iconic Raffles Girls Primary School pinafore on her first day of school, Mariam shared that as she grew up, she gradually became more aware of her minority status.

She also felt "a little upset" that she was viewed as "a bit unusual".

She was even once told, "You Malay girl what, if you join gahmen, gahmen will make sure you do well."

It was just an offhand comment, Mariam said, but it prompted her to reject a number of government scholarships.

Instead, she took up a private sector scholarship and was determined to prove her mettle.

"And alhamdulillah, she does," Mariam said in her Instagram caption.

Mariam and her classmates from Havard. PHOTO: Instagram/1mariamjaafar

After grinding hard and graduating from Harvard Business School, she moved on to become a partner in a consulting firm.

Even though she had clinched her dream job, Mariam admitted that things weren't always smooth sailing and she did "cry a couple of times in the bathroom" when work got overwhelming.

Eventually, she went on to become an MP, which she personally found an "irony".

As she shared in her introduction video on the People's Action Party's YouTube page, going into politics was never part of her plan.

While this wasn't how Mariam expected her life to turn out, she seems to have no regrets. She shared that it's comments like "Kalau dia boleh, maybe kita pun boleh," which translates to "If she can do it, maybe we can too," that make it all worth it.

To end off her post, Mariam left an inspiring message dedicated to all the little girls out there: "Challenge yourselves, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, be kind and helpful to others, and most importantly, be you."

PHOTO: Instagram/1mariamjaafar

Launched on Monday (Sept 13), the #ThisLittleGirlIsMe campaign by charity Inspiring Girls International aims to get women to share their personal stories in hopes of inspiring young girls everywhere.

Prominent women such as fellow politicians Tin Pei Ling, Gan Siow Huang and Indranee Rajah have also come out to share their own anecdotes.

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To read more stories, you can check out the #ThisLittleGirlIsMe hashtag on Instagram and Facebook.

melissateo@asiaone.com