Kuali Hitam

Warisan Zurinah Hassan

The Emergence and Involvement of Women Writers in Malaysia.

The Emergence and Involvement of Women Writers in Malaysia.
The Emergence and Involvement of Women Writers in Malaysia.

Khadijah Hashim (novelist), Siti Zaleha M Hashim (poet) and Zurinah Hassan, with Norhayati Ab.Rahman. 
The emergence and involvement  of women writers can be traced to the
pioneering figures, Ibu Zain, Kamariah Saadon, Jahlelawati and later  Adibah Amin, Zaharah Nawawi and Khadijah
Hashim,  Ibu Zain
or Hajah Zainon Sulaiman, (1903-1989)  who was a teacher with English education is
remembered as an advocater of education for girls through her writings in Majalah Guru or Bulan Melayu, . Bulan Melayu
was the first women’s magazine in Malaysia, initiated by Ibu Zain herself  and it played an important role in creating
awareness amongst women on the importance of education.
writings in modern fictions began in 1934, with the production of a short story
Kesedihan Perkahwinan Paksa (The
Misery of Forced Marriage) by Hafsah, published in a magazine, Pengasuh. Later in the same year, a
fiction entitled Waktu Isyak Menangkap
written by Siti Nurmah, was published. However, novels written by
women writers surfaced much later, that is, as late as 1941, about 15 years
after the first novel written by a man writer.
Poetry is concerned, Women have been involved in poetry writing since 1930 with
the emergence of a poem in a newspaper Lidah
by  Hasnah Brahim, and later,
on May 7, 1936,  Zainun Nasir published
her poem entitled “Women Must Wake Up”,  
in the magazine Al-Hikmah.
Other names detected before 1940 were Perawan Kampung, Kalthum Awang dan Wok
The presence of women poets became more
noticeable after 1945 following the end of Japanese occupation. Several names
that appeared were Mariam Abdul Ghani, Fatimah Othman, Wanita Kampung, Hafsah
Perak,  Siti Aishah,Kamariah Johor and
Normah Kamarudin. These were followed by names that later became important in
Malaysian literature, Ibu Zain, Salmi Manja and Anis Sabirin.. Poems by Salmi
Manja and Anis Sabirin were  included in
an  anthology  Puisi
Melayu Baru
(The New Malay Poetry (1942-1960) compiled by Ali Haji Ahmad,
1966, together with important Malaysian poets Masuri S.N., Tongkat Warrant,
A.Samad Said, Noor S.I., M.Ghazali, A.S.Amin, Kassim Ahmad, Suhaimi Haji Muhammad,
Nahmar Jamil and Jihati Abadi. 
            The earliest short story written by
a woman was recorded as Kecelakaan Pemalas by Nor Ibrahim published in Pengasuh
February 1920.  Followed by Azizah who
wrote Doktor Mahmud in Mastika Mach 1947. Other names to emerge after 1948
included Kalsom Haji Saadon, Adibah Amin, Salmi Manja, Hamidah Hassan and
Hamsiah Muslim.  According to Norhayati
Ab Rahman women writers in the early 1930s attempted to apply specific features
in highlighting real-life experiences of women, i.e., in displaying the
emotions of joys and sorrows, and in expressing their desires and dislikes. The
features that were more noticeable in these novels were the experiences of the
women whose lives are subjected to the customs and values which confine and
oppress them. The writers showed that generally women at that time were still
not free to realize their own dreams and visions as they were still bound by
their domestic roles, the influence of men and societal values.  Hence, although the writers tried to voice
their demands for the rights and status of women, their voice and bravery at
that time were still drowned by the dominance of patriarchy. 
            More women poets appeared in the mid-sixties. They
were  Maimoonah Haji Omar, Rahimah M.Y,
Noraini Shahrin, Azizah Shahrin, Halimah Haji Ahmad, Aina M, Maznah Ali who
became regular contributor in  weekly
newspapers such as Utusan Zaman, Mingguan Malaysia and Berita Minggu and
monthly magazines  Mastika and Dewan
Masyarakat .It was in the early seventies that Zurinah Hassan, Siti Zainon
Ismail and Zaihasra dominated the literary scene.
But the work of women writers
were generally not given due attention and criticism. There were hardly any
write up, review or essay that examines their work in literary magazines or
academic journals.
Public opinion about the
inferiority of women writer’s works began to change in the early 1970s. This
change was brought  about by the
Malaysian Literary Prize  established in
1971. The literary world seemed surprised when 
several  women writers appear as
winners. And this proved that women work should not be underestimated.
In 1982, Dewan Bahasa dan
Pustaka (DBP) published an anthology  of
poems by women poets. The anthology, entitled Kembang Melati was compiled  by Suhaimi Haji Muhammad and Pyan Hussein. It
includes works of seven poetess  Salmi
Manja, Anis Sabirin, Maimoonah Haji Omar, Zurinah Hassan, Muhammad Nor Aini
Muhammad, Siti Zainon Ismail and Zaihasra. To date Kembang Melati is the only
anthology of women poetry. published by DBP. This was followed by Mustika Diri
(DBP, 1994) compiled by  Ahmad Kamal
Abdullah and Siti Asiah Murad. Mustika Diri 
include writing from all genres 
namely poetry, short stories, plays and literary essays. and is an
important documentation on the development of women writers in
Malaysia,.Included in Mustika Diri are Habsah Hassan, Hasnah Ibrahim,  Khadijah Hashim, Mahaya Mohd Yassin, Maimon
Rahman, Mariam Omar, Maznah Ali, Norzeha Kasbi , Radziah M.Zin ,  Rogayah A.Hamid, Sairah Haji Antin, Salmi
Manja,  Siti Zainon Ismail, Siti Zaleha
M.Hashim,  Zaiton Ajamain, Zakiah Bahari,
Zanariah Wan Abdul Rahman and  Zurinah
Hassan. As can be seen many names are not as actively involved as before.
Up to 2017, six women writers
have been chosen recipient of South East Asia Write Award ( SEA Write Award).
They are Adibah Amin, Zaharah Nawawi, Khadijah Hashim, Siti Zainon Ismail,
Zurinah Hassan and Azmah Nordin.
Other women writers  of importance are  Siti Zaleha M Hashim, Zaiton Ajmain, Salmiah
Ismail, Nisah Harun, Mawar Shafie, Amelia Hashim, Aminah Mokhtar, Ana Balqis,
Rosmiaty Shaari, Rositah Ibrahim, Rosani Hiplee, Azridah Ps Abadi, Hazama
Harun, Kathirina Susanna Tati, Norgadis Labuan, Raihani Mohd.Saaid.Nor Zaiton
Hanafi, Zaiton Ahmad, Zaleha Ahmat, Che Soo Ismail,  Raja Rajeswari Seetha Raman, Ramlah Rashid,
Dayana Chacooo, Dayangku Mastura, Hani Salwa, Nissa’ Yusof, Ainunl Muaiyanah
Sulaiman.Rabiatul Adawiyah Abdul Samad, Norazimah Abu Bakar and Teratai Abadi.
More poetry books are published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and Institute of
Malaysian Translation and Books (ITBM). More names appear as winners of
literary prizes. The prestigious prize at the national level is Hadiah Sastera
Perdana.  There are also literary prizes
at state level, with the states of Johor, Sabah, Terengganu and Perak being
more regular and active. Besides, Utusan Melayu also offer yearly prize known
as Hadiah Sastera Kumpulan Utusan (HSKU). This give promising environment for
the development of women in writing and intellectualism. 

writers make women’s experiences their assets or important bases in the
construction of their literary works. Textual meanings that are produced by
women writers are not only related to their individual personal needs and
wants, but instead reflect the situation and condition of the society that
produced it. At the same time, these texts highlight the existence of literary
products or art as the socio-cultural documents of Malay society, which can be
adopted in drafting the development of a literary institution and society, now
or in the future.
Three women writers from Brunei. Hjh Rohaidah, Norsiah Ghapar and Hjh Shaharah. 

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