Zeti Aziz

Governor of the Central Bank of Malaysia

At the height of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, Dr. Zeti became the Governor of the Central Bank. She provided crucial guidance and argued for policy reforms that spared Malaysia from severe economic damage and transformed its financial sector. As the first woman Governor of the Bank, she has won international recognition for her leadership and intellect. She seeks to promote sustainable development in Malaysia that maintains Islamic values while attracting international capital. Zeti has played a significant role in introducing common standards for Islamic finance across the Muslim world. She is committed to making sure that economic growth proceeds in a way that embraces Islamic principles of compassion and cooperation. She has moved through her career (from her first assignment as an economic analyst at a banking research center to becoming Deputy Manager at the Central Bank) with a clear expectation that hard work and merit would be rewarded without gender bias. Lifelong exposure to a mother who was a career journalist and authored books on Malay culture may have helped to convince her that she would be judged on her merits

Central Bank of Malaysia | Bank Negara Malaysia

Dahlia Rosly

Director General of the Department of Town and Country Planning, Ministry of Local Government

In her current role as Director-General of the Department of Town and Country Planning, Dr. Dahlia Rosly supports participatory planning and the integration of social impact assessment into planning. She first started working on sustainability at the national, regional and local scales over 30 years ago, and knows from this experience the value of engaging people in the planning process. Her role in the Ministry gives her an opportunity to raise concerns about the impact of large-scale development projects. She has introduced ideas such as “new urbanism” for improved traffic control, reduced emissions and “smart growth.” As far as implementing sustainable development is concerned, she knows that implementation will require the assistance of a great many people who don’t think of themselves as planners or developers.

Department of Town and Country Planning

Cheryl Yeoh

CEO of Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC)

When MaGIC was launched in the spring of 2014 by Prime Minister Abdul Razak and President Barack Obama, Cheryl became its first CEO. She earned her status as a successful entrepreneur during twelve years in Silicon Valley where she founded two start-ups: CityPockets and Reclip. The latter was acquired by Walmart Labs. Cheryl’s mission is to spur entrepreneurial activities in Malaysia and beyond. To support local startups, MaGIC has created an innovation space in Cyberjaya. They bring together a critical mass of individual entrepreneurs, creating what they call an “entrepreneurial ecosystem.” They facilitate mentoring, skill and knowledgesharing as well as providing resources to those who merit assistance. Cheryl is the driving force behind MaGIC’s effort to build a vibrant community, empowering entrepreneurs to create something sustainable.

Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) | Cheryl Yeoh: Starup War Stories: An Entrepreneur's Journey

Yasmin Mahmood

CEO of Multimedia Development Corporation

In a career spanning thirty years, Yasmin worked her way up the corporate ladder in several multinational companies. She was General Manager at both Hewlett Packard and Dell Malaysia, Managing Director at Microsoft, and Executive Director at YTL Communications where she spearheaded a project to bring ICT to 10,000 schools in remote areas. As CEO, Yasmin is currently leading MDeC. She manages the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) aimed at boosting the ICT industry in the country and developing Cyberjaya as a global technology and innovation hub. In addition, MDeC oversees the Malaysian National Digital Economy Initiative which seeks to transform the nation into a digital economy by 2020. There goal is to encourage Malaysians—including the bottom 40% of the income pyramid—to become producers, not just consumers, of technology. Yasmin also champions women’s participation in the tech industry. In 2009, she was recognized as the Association of Computer and Multimedia Industry Malaysia (PIKOM) ICT “Personality of the Year” for her tireless efforts to promote gender equality.

Multimedia Development Corporation | MSC Malaysia

Mangaleswary Kumarasamy

Legal advisor to the Deputy Chief Minister of Penang/ Vice Chair of the women’s wing of the Democratic Action Party; Board member of Penang Women’s Development Corporation; Advisor to the Special Committee on Tamil Schools in Penang

More than a decade ago, Mangaleswary began devoting all her “free time” outside her private law practice to giving the local Tamil community, and other marginalized groups, a voice in the struggles over land use that threatened their homes, their places of worship and their livelihoods. The Tamil inherited the legacy of landlessness from the British who brought Indians to work in the rubber and tin plantations more than a hundred years ago. Tamil primary schools are just one focus in the pursuit of fairness in land allocation. As an active DAP party member, with an insider’s perspective, she now serves as advisor to Penang’s Chief Minister. She has been able to boost empowerment and advance the agendas of these communities.

Democratic Action Party | Penang Women’s Development Corporation

YB Chong Eng

Assemblyperson in Penang State; Chair of Penang Women’s Development Centre; Former Member of Malaysian Parliament (1999-2013)

Growing up as one of eleven children of rubber tappers in a Chinese village, YB Chong realized she needed an education to be more than a rubber tapper herself. With the help of an older brother, she became the first girl from her village to complete a university education. Her subsequent career in the Democratic Action Party led her to become the first woman member of the Malaysian Parliament from an opposition party. She pursued legislation in support of women’s empowerment and gender rights. Currently, she advocates for these and other social justice concerns in the Penang State Assembly and as Chair of the Penang Women’s Development Centre. This state agency recently launched their “Go Orange” campaign aimed at preventing violence against women while combining a strong commitment to environmental concerns, creating affordable housing and democratizing the public budgeting process.

Penang State Government | Penang Women’s Development Corporation | Malaysian Parliament

Maimunah Jaffar

Head of Planning and Compliance, Iskandar Regional Development Authority in Johor Bahru (IRDA)

Maimunah has been at the forefront of sustainable development in Malaysia since 2007 when she joined the IRDA. Although she was trained and worked as an architect and urban designer in the United States, her focus at IRDA has been on introducing the idea that sustainability requires balancing economic growth, environmental protection and social well-being. She is responsible for a project called the Johor Bahru Transformation. They are trying to increase Johor’s livability by improving public transit, reducing crime and developing industrial clusters. She is also revising the Comprehensive Development Plan, incorporating low carbon development goals and making climate change a priority in the region.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority | Johor Bahru Comprehensive Development Plan

Safrina Ibrahim

Former Associate, Social Development, Iskandar Regional Development Authority in Johor Bahru

Safrina brought her academic interest in social change to her work at the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) where she served as an Associate in their Social Development office. She was responsible for conceptualizing and operationalizing social development programs in villages likely to be severely impacted by large-scale regional economic development plans. She has helped empower villagers seeking selfgenerated employment. She speaks of the three possible paths for villagers in the Iskandar region: they can view themselves as victims, as passive observers, or as participants in the growth stimulated by industrial development. Her focus is on getting them to adopt the third mindset. She is convinced that they have a role in and an opportunity for gain from social and economic change.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority

Halimah Hassan

Director General of the Department of Environment (DOE), Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment

During her thirty-year career at the DOE, Halimah has been committed to raising environmental sustainability to the top of the development agenda in Malaysia. She has been outspoken about the link between disasters and unbalanced ecosystems impacted by development. She is focused on quality-of-life issues, especially social concerns, when economic policy decisions must be made. She highlights the importance of engaging young people in appreciating the environment and understanding their role as its protector.

Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment | Department of Environment

Sharifah Hapsah

President of the National Council of Women’s Organization (NCWO)

Dr. Sharifah Hapsah is a well-known public intellectual and prolific columnist focusing on education, health and gender issues. She began her career as a medical doctor and professor. She became the first female Vice Chancellor of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). During her time at UKM (2006–2013), she successfully merged her role as Vice-Chancellor with her impressive social activism as President of the National Council of Women’s Organization (NCWO). She is committed to the inclusion of women in decision-making at every level and strives to incorporate social sustainability as a pillar of Malaysia’s development efforts. Not satisfied with merely the appearance of addressing women’s issues, she leads NCWO in its call to the government to make certain that implementation reaches women of all income and ethnic groups. She wants to be certain that engagement in development activities means more than providing factory jobs for women. She wants them to realize opportunities to grow and develop according to their own wishes and talents.

National Council of Women’s Organization, Malaysia | National Council of Women’s Organization

Shuhana Shamsuddin

Associate Professor, Razak School of Engineering and Advanced Technology, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)

Professor Shamsuddin’s career has been dedicated to advocating for urban sustainability in Malaysia. She has published extensively on historic preservation, livability, public safety as well as urban and environmental design. In particular, she is committed to demonstrating the importance of historic areas of the city. These have been the primary sites for her research and teaching. Working in Kuala Lumpur’s Kampong Bahru neighborhood, she has supported the community’s effort to defend their homes and land threatened by high-rise development schemes. To her students, she tells the “Tale of Two Cities” one for the poor and the other for the rich. She has played an important part in giving a voice to the less powerful in the discourse about how development will occur and who it will benefit.

Razak School of Engineering and Advanced Technology | Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

Nisha Faizal

Co-founder and lead facilitator of Ecocentric Transitions

Driven by a no-nonsense focus on empowering individuals and communities, Nisha Faizal is co-founder and lead facilitator of a social enterprise offering hands-on environmental education to students of all ages. With her partner Lymun Loo, both professionally trained engineers, she founded Ecocentric Transitions in 2010. Their organization builds hard and soft skills and facilitates collaboration in order to raise environmental empathy and transform behavior. Nisha offers consulting services, experiential activities and service learning on food security, sustainable living practices, environmental education and waste management. She is especially attentive to the sustainability of her facilitative efforts. She works from the initial moments of each partnership to set the groundwork for social impacts that will last long after she is gone.

Ecocentric Transitions

Rakmi Rahman

Envirosource Technical Advisor for green products; formerly Professor in Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), the National University of Malaysia

During the thirty years Dr. Rakmi was a Professor in Chemical and Environmental Engineering at UKM, she pioneered solutions to waste management and water treatment problems. Her research interests span industrial wastewater recycling and oil removal systems to river basin management and aquifer recovery. She applies what she knows to controversial projects, such as one seeking to protect threatened sea grass beds in Johor. With NGO help and extensive internet/media attention, she was able to have an artificial island removed so the sea grass could be restored. Now retired from academia, Rakmi serves as technical advisor to Envirosource, a company that supplies eco-friendly waste management, water treatment and resource recovery technologies.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia | Envirosource

June Low

Public health educator, TV Popek Popek

June's training as a lawyer prepared her to make an aggressive case for comprehensive sex education in Malaysia. She has taken on this cause with great energy and imagination, using a variety of methods to deliver her message. To address the lack of appropriate education and access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, June runs community-based sex-ed workshops, gives talks, and hosts a sex-ed webshow. The show, called "Popek Popek," is produced in collaboration with PopTeeVee, a local online media network. It is presented in Bahasa Malaysia to reach the widest possible audience, and offers viewers an open platform to ask questions about sexual health. She believes she can empower young people by giving them greater awareness of and knowledge about their bodies so they can make informed decisions. The show, the first of its kind in the country, has been very well received. June recently received the endorsement of the United Nations Population Fund.

Popek Popek - Apa Itu Dara? | Popek Popek - Macam Mana Nak Pakai Kondom? | Popek Popek - Malu-Malu Kemaluan | Popek Popek - Popek Popek - Apa itu Seks? | Popek Popek - Malu-Malu Kemaluan | PopTeeVee

Li Kheng Phng

Co-founder of Kechara Forest Retreat for sustainable tourism and leadership training

The Kechara Forest Retreat is an hour’s ride and a world apart from the intensity of Kuala Lumpur. In the lush green 35 acre site there is a meditation camp and a sustainable eco-retreat. Here, Li Kheng teaches universal spiritual principles like patience, tolerance, mindfulness, and compassion to youth groups seeking leadership training. She offers support to practitioners of sustainable living and to followers of the retreat’s founding Buddhist guide. The retreat reflects her deep commitment to sustainability which imbues every detail of its design. This follows ten hectic years spent building global operations for a commercial enterprise with the brand name “Coffee Beans.” Her entrepreneurial ambitions, whether marketing a company or creating a spiritual retreat, follow in the footsteps of her high profile and dynamic mother, Mei Peng, who inherited a rubber plantation and became a very successful housing construction mogul.

Kechara Forest Retreat

Marina Mahatir

Columnist (The Star), TV personality and popular Malay activist

Marina is a human rights activist, prolific writer, and TV producer committed to gender empowerment, the prevention of HIV and reimagining Islamic democracy. Through her blog, her weekly column, Musings, and her decade-long award-winning television program “3R”—Respect, Relax and Respond—she unabashedly speaks out on culturally taboo topics and seeks to educate the public. She has raised funds to repair a catholic cemetery in Kuantan, generated awareness about urban injustices (in a variety of gender-related court cases) and openly discussed the need to overhaul the current education system in Malaysia. Marina is currently an out-spoken member of the Board of Sisters in Islam, a Malaysian-based civil society organization that advocates for justice and equality for Muslim women. In recognition of her social activism, she was named the UN Person of the Year by the United Nations in Malaysia in 2010 and listed on WomenDeliver.org’s list of 100 Most Inspiring People Delivering for Girls and Women in 2011. She is the daughter of former Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir Mohammad.

The Star | Marina Mahathir's Column | 3R: Respek, Relaks Respon | Sisters in Islam

Ellynita Lamin

Developmental Strategist and Founder, Social Enterprise Alliance; disaster relief organizer

Ellynita Lamin’s compassion and sensitivity to human suffering are immediately apparent when she speaks about her work. A business and developmental strategist by training, she made her first foray into disaster relief in 2004. Cutting short her travels, she flew to Aceh on the western coast of Indonesia where a magnitude 9.2 earthquake led to a tsunami that killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands homeless. From 2006–2011 Ellynita continued her volunteer work while serving as Vice President of Strategic Development and Marketing in the Technology Investment Agency under Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance. In 2010, she founded the Social Enterprise Alliance of Malaysia which is building a network of social entrepreneurs and organizations across Southeast Asia devoted to facilitating social change in underserved communities. Through conferences, workshops and research on topics ranging from design thinking to lean startups, the Alliance is supporting sustainable social change.

Social Enterprise Alliance | Ministry of Finance

Jemilah Mahmood

Chief, United Nations World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat; President of Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MERCY Malaysia)

Beginning as a doctor involved in disaster response, Jemilah Mahmood broadened the scope of her medical efforts to address comprehensive risk management and humanitarian relief. In 1999, she founded the Malaysian Medical Relief Society, also called MERCY Malaysia. It is one of the most recognized humanitarian organizations in the Global South and works in numerous countries to provide emergency relief, health and dental care, and water, sanitation and hygiene programs. Her engagement in disaster preparedness led her to ask how to build communities strong enough to continue on when humanitarian groups leave. Having begun her career as Doctor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, she is deeply committed to women’s issues and engaging women as change agents. In recognition of her many accomplishments, Dr. Mahmood was appointed by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to lead the 2016 United Nations World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat. She is bringing together a range of government, private and civil society organizations to redefine humanitarian assistance.

United Nations World Humanitarian Summit | Malaysian Medical Relief Society

Zuraidah Atan

Founder and Chairperson of Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa Student Volunteer Foundation (YSS), a disaster relief organization

Zuraidah believes that by empowering low-income youth to do community development in disaster-prone areas in Malaysia and elsewhere Southeast Asia, she can equip them with leadership skills they will not otherwise develop in the education system. Through her volunteer organization YSS, which operates in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, she provides opportunities for young people to gain confidence and internalize the organizational and professional standards required to assist disadvantaged communities. Prior to her work with the Ministry of Education, Zuraidah spent twenty-five years in the banking industry. She also ran her own decade-long legal practice. Her varied professional capabilities equips her to serve in voluntary roles such as advisor to the National Cancer Society of Malaysia.

Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa Student Volunteer Foundation | National Cancer Society of Malaysia

Irina Safitri Zen

Head of the Office of Campus Sustainability, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Johor Bahru

Dr. Irina works with students and faculty at UTM to develop a campus culture focusing on healthy living, environmental stewardship and a commitment to sustainability in campus governance and operations. She is leading the effort to make UTM a low carbon campus. Under her guidance, the university has improved its global ranking (UI GreenMetric University Global Ranking) from 139th in 2012 to 86th in 2014. At UTM she teaches environmental studies and sustainability assessment. She has been involved in related research on Malaysia’s ‘No Plastic Bag Campaign’ and the development of indicators of environmental awareness that will inform the national government’s Environmental Performance Index. Dr. Irina has extended her focus on sustainable development by networking with other sustainability advocates in Malaysia and the broader Asia Pacific region.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia


Putrajaya has been the administrative center of the federal government of Malaysia since 1995.

Located 25 km south of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya was planned and built around the concept of the “garden city,” seeking to balance the inclusion of open space, protected wetlands, government offices and neighborhood housing. Putrajaya is the product of strong land use planning, carefully designed transportation systems, and numerous public amenities. Environmental management in Putrajaya focuses on cultivating man-made wetlands to purify the water supply and manage storm water, while providing habitat for birds and fish that enrich the area’s biodiversity. Subsidies encourage over 30,000 people, primarily those who work for the government, to reside in the city. Putrajaya is one of Southeast Asia’s largest development projects, costing over $US 8 billion to build. Along with nearby Cyberjaya, another of Malaysia’s planned cities—built in 1997 to house and stimulate the nation’s information technology sector—Putrajaya provides important an important test of the idea that a planned city can be added to an existing metropolitan fabric.

research questions

What lessons can be drawn from Malaysia’s effort to add a planned capitol city (Putrajaya) to an existing metropolitan fabric?


George Town, the second largest city in Malaysia, has a metropolitan population of over 2 million.

It is the capitol of the state of Penang, which includes Penang Island and Sebarang Pri on the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Penang has few natural resources, and thus relies on manufacturing and tourism driven by George Town’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Local investments in aquaculture and historic preservation present opportunities to address national food security issues and protect the intangible heritage of Malaysia. Because Penang was historically a free port, the island has developed into an ethnically and racially diverse community, with 42% ethnic Chinese, 41% Malay, and 10% Indian Malaysian residents. The Penang state government and local municipal councils are currently led by the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a center-left political party rooted in the large Chinese-Malaysian community in Penang and a minority party in the national parliament. The political and ethnic differences among Penang, its surrounding states, and the national government present a challenge setting to implement public policy. And, the area’s recent real estate boom poses serious obstacles to water quality and solid waste management. Nevertheless, civil society engagement (especially in participatory budgeting) may help Penang meet its sustainable development goals.

research questions

Does the UNESCO “World Heritage City” designation in Penang help to preserve the intangible heritage of Malaysia?

How has the involvement of civil society (through the Penang Women’s Development Corporation’s “participatory budgeting process” for example) shaped sustainable development decisions in Penang?

Johor Bahru

Located at the southernmost boundary of peninsular Malaysia, Johor Baharu (JB) sits just across the narrow Straits of Johor from Singapore.

JB is a common entry point into Malaysia for tourists and businesspeople, and an affordable alternative to Singapore where the cost of living is much higher. For the past decade, JB has worked hard to enhance its international reputation: embarking on ambitious plans to expand its ports, attract foreign real estate investment, and develop its shoreline through massive land reclamation projects. Many of these waterfront-oriented projects threaten the viability of coastal ecosystems services, particularly those provided by mangrove forests, and are at times incompatible with regional sustainable development goals. Some policies are already in place to ensure that rural fishery-dependent villages on the outskirts of the city benefit from new development, but tensions remain high between regional development goals and the needs of Malaysians dependent on shrinking and deteriorating coastal ecosystems for their livelihoods.

Ecosystem Services on the Coast of Johor

research questions

How are large-scale real estate reclamation projects on the Singapore and Malaysia sides of the Straits of Johor likely toimpact the coastal ecosystem services provided by tropical seascapes?

Is private sector expansion of Iskandar’s port complex compatible with regional sustainable development goals?

How does mangrove protection and development along the Iskandar coastline fit with plans for continued development of waterfront property?

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the largest city, federal capital and the preeminent economic and cultural center of Malaysia.

Seated at the heart of a 6.9 million person metropolitan area, the city is a nexus of rapid development and modernization. In many ways it epitomizes the tension between tradition and globalization affecting many world cities: alleys are lined with street-food stalls and peaked-roof Malay houses lie in the shadow of the futuristic Petronas Towers and a modern financial district. Increasing numbers of indoor shopping malls shift the way that people use public spaces; new development projects threaten both cultural heritage and community ownership in existing neighborhoods; the automobile-dense urban core leads to high traffic mortality rates; “squatter management” policies sometimes over-shadow the need for affordable housing; and river revitalization remains a challenge. The city’s rapid change and the pace of globalization raise many questions about the sustainability of the current growth rate and how the benefits of development are being distributed.

research questions

How can Kampung Bahru be developed in ways that preserve local heritage and ensure continued land ownership by the current owners?

How can river revitalization in KL simultaneously achieve environmental, economic and social benefits?

How has the continued development of indoor malls altered patterns of social interaction in public spaces in Malaysia?

What attitudes or perceptions discourage KL residents from using public transportation, and what can be done to reduce traffic mortality rates in Malaysia?

Social Entrepreneurs

Female Social Entrepreneurs in Malaysia

The women we recognize here as “social entrepreneurs” have spurred micro-level reforms that have, in turn, fueled broader institutional changes in Malaysia. These innovators are working on a wide range of topics, from transportation safety to sex education. Most of them have left lucrative professional careers to pursue causes as organizers or volunteers. Their efforts show that changing policy at the national or regional level is not enough; widespread action by risk-takers on the ground is essential to the realization of sustainability goals. Fighting for the rights of disadvantaged groups and using the media to lift up voices for change are also important to achieving sustainable development. Ensuring the integrity and well-being of the social fabric is as essential as encouraging economic investment.
Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Master of City Planning 2015 graduate Ellen Chen examined the role of Malaysian women social entrepreneurs in her video thesis. She investigated the proposition offered by political economists that nations can grow their economy more rapidly if they are willing to break with past institutional patterns. Ellen’s research suggests that this has been difficult in Malaysia, especially with regards to women’s roles. The state-influenced system of education continues to promote Islam’s gender-specific norms of virtuous behavior. While Malaysia has embarked on an aggressive effort to promote economic growth and launched multiple programs to encourage female entrepreneurship, there is still a prominent cultural aversion to risk-taking. Trying to meet ambitious development targets while protecting traditional cultural norms is extremely difficult. In short, Ellen found stories of successful female social entrepreneurs as well as reasons to be concerned that national efforts to promote female entrepreneurship have not yet addressed important cultural obstacles that still need to be overcome. The complete set of interviews that formed the basis of the video portion of Ellen’s thesis may be viewed on here.


Founder and Chairperson of Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa Student Volunteer Foundation (YSS), a disaster relief organization

Sarawak is home to more than 40 sub-ethnic groups, with indigenous Iban making up 30% of the population. Sarawak’s tropical landscape of jungles, mountains, rivers, and coastline contrasts starkly with the vast array of extractive economic development sites located throughout the state. Industries in the region rely on Borneo’s natural abundance to sustain logging, mining, palm oil production, and river damming for hydroelectric power and water catchment. Beyond the direct environmental impact of these industrial activities, periodic flooding poses serious challenges. Indigenous tribes are scattered throughout the countryside and struggle to maintain land ownership in the face of ongoing development pressures and the government’s acquisition of land for public projects. Large-scale development activities are often planned and carried out with little involvement of people who may be affected and, in many cases, displaced. Indigenous tribes and native rights groups are actively organizing to assert their land claims and promote locally- and culturally inclusive economic development plans.

research questions

How have indigenous villages organized to protect their viability in the face of displacement pressures in Sarawak?

Female Faces in Sustainable Places: Malaysian Women Promoting Sustainable Development

This exhibition explores the ways in which women policymakers and social entrepreneurs are contributing to sustainable development in Malaysia.

Why Malaysia?

Malaysia, a country of 30 million people, is much farther along in crafting sustainable development policies than many other countries It is in the process of transforming itself from a developing to a developed nation. At the same time, it is trying to find ways to balance environmental protection, social well-being and economic growth.

Women's Roles

Women in Malaysia play key roles in formulating and implementing sustainable development policies. At the highest levels of government and in the private sector, female leaders and managers are defining what sustainability means. At the community level, "unsung heroines" from many kinds of backgrounds are bringing sustainability to life, often through social entrepreneurship of various kinds.

Learning In, and Learning From, Malaysia

This exhibition documents the work of the MIT-UTM Malaysia Sustainable Cities Program (MSCP)- a five-year collaboration between the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) and the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM). With support from the Malaysian Ministry if Education, the MSCP documents and assesses sustainable city development efforts in Malaysia. Each year, an interdisciplinary group of international scholars from G-77 nations is invited to spend one semester in Malaysia and one at MIT. They conduct primary research on pressing sustainable development topics in Malaysia and then work at MIT to transform their findings into online instructional materials for use in the global South. Each January, MIT graduate students travel to Malaysia to help develop research questions and learn from and with their Malaysian counterparts. MSCP is increasing our understanding of Malaysia as a predominatly Islamic but multicultural society. In the process we are learning abut the role of women as change agents in Malaysia's major cities and chanllenging some of the current sterotypes about the impact of Islam on women's freedom, autonomy, professionalism and power.

This website is a digital representation of the physical exhibit, currently on display at MIT's Wolk Gallery. Click here to enter.

Ecosystem Services on the Coast of Johor

Malaysia’s mangrove forests are intrinsically tied to human wellbeing, providing habitat for valuable fisheries along with protection from storms and flooding. Despite their enormous value, they continue to disappear at a rapid rate. The FAO warns that mangrove ecosystems may even face extinction in the near future. Development policies that encourage deforestation to make way for export-oriented aquaculture (like shrimp farms), coastal residences and port complexes are the culprits. Local residents are hardest hit. Their livelihoods and sustenance are destroyed when mangrove forests in and around their village are eliminated. Mangrove forests enhance water quality, act as sinks for carbon dioxide, support nutrient cycling and serve as wildlife habitat. They hold dense populations of fish stocks that meet commercial and subsistence needs. They yield a wood-based fuel and construction material that local people can harvest in sustainable quantities. Finally, they can generate significant ecotourism revenue. By one reliable estimate, Malaysian mangrove forests provide multiple ecosystem services worth as much as $7,000 per hectare, making them some of the most valuable in the world. The Malaysian government has been trying to protect the sprawling Sungai Pulai Estuary system in the Iskandar region near Johor Bahru. This mangrove ecosystem was designated as a protected site under the Ramsar Convention—an international agreement aimed at protecting wetlands of global importance. However, less than a mile away, a port complex known as Tanjung Pelepas is on a fast track to becoming the world’s quickest growing port. Can the government of Malaysia protect its Ramsar sites, while simultaneously encouraging rapid development in the immediately adjacent area?
DUSP PhD candidate Ms. Kelly Heber Dunning has spent several years studying coastal ecosystems in Malaysia and Indonesia as part of MSCP. Her dissertation explores the advantages and disadvantages of locally-oriented vs. nationally-oriented efforts to protect and restore coastal ecosystem services.