By, Lina Hendrawati
Optimistic, street-smart, and extroverted. These are the three words that best describe former Miss Malaysia (1982) who is now an activist for women’s development. Residing in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, her voice is louder than ever.
Datin Jeanette Tambakau (56), who was born in Ipoh, has a big heart towards the community. Many of her achievements include volunteering, mentoring, as well as working with the marginalized community, and doing successful fundraisings. The major turning point of her life is when she moved to the big city just when she was 18 and start working. Her humble beginning is the aspect that drove her to help others.
Growing up, Jeanette holds a close relationship with her family. She is also a wild girl when she was younger. As she came from a big family, her siblings and her had to make their own amusement. As a result, growing up, she loves to do sports like hiking, biking, as well as artsy activities like writing letters to pen pals all over the world. Recalling her childhood, one of her favorite places as a girl was anywhere, she could ride and roller-skate fast, anywhere that could give her the thrills.
Still walking down the memory lane, Jeanette revealed that as a girl, her major turning point was her transition from primary to secondary school. She recalled the time where she had to walk to school for two miles every day, passing through a railway. Remembering her childhood, she also mentioned that her role model growing up is her mother. Being a single mother of twelve children while running a family business single-handedly, her perseverance is what inspires her. Jeanette then said that it was also because of her mother that she was exposed to the world of entrepreneurship, that led her to gain interest when she was young.
“Our lives and fates are not written. It is not fixed and it is up to us to change for the better. There is nothing we women cannot achieve if we put our hearts in it, get out of our comfort zone and learn new things.” – Datin Jeannette Tambakau (Lee, 2017).
Being an entrepreneur, and a mother herself, she has lots of things that she has gained throughout her lives. One of the greatest learning that she could pinpoint is that she understands that everyone experiences the good and bad of life. She values the value of learning, let it be about ourselves, skills, and more. She said that one could never stop learning, as life is a journey. One of the many things that she long to have in life is for unending contentment, unbroken peace, love, and joy.
With so many ups and downs in life, Jeanette chose to embrace changes that come in her way. She views it as the new competitive edge. Whilst doing life, she has her family, close friends, and mentor who support her in her emotional and moral support. Knowing how life is at this point in life, she is content with how her life has been. When asked about one thing that she could change from her past, she did not want to change any. She believes that whoever she is today, has been because of the good and bad experiences that she had gone through in her life. She believes that her past has led her to her current life and has inspired her to walk to a beautiful future. But if she could give an advice to her younger self, she would remind herself that every life experiences will not be wasted, and can help propel you to what God has destined you to be.
As one of the many voices of women empowerment in Malaysia, Jeanette believes that power depends on personal traits and values, such as honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. She believes that the power that anyone has can be highly influence anyone who admires and respects them. She also found success with integrity. She chose not to compromise ethics for success. She believes that success and ethics can and must co-exist to be truly successful. Otherwise, problems occur.
“It’s seeing my children become independent and an individual person. As parents, my husband and I believe that our children have to find their own way of life and understand what they want. It’s fulfilling.” – Interview with Bandusena, 2019.
Aside from being a woman, a role that she is carrying right now is her role as a mother. This experience of her has made her even stronger and shaped her to who she is today. As a mother of four, she intends to encourage her children that nothing is impossible, and that they can do anything that they set their mind to do. She recalled her first-time giving birth to her firstborn, Adam, one of the happies memories she has.
Having a compassionate heart, her biggest flaw is that it’s hard for her to say ‘no’ sometimes. This has led her to be stressed and burnout. But she has come to the understanding that in order to give and receive unconditional love with others, one must first give and receive unconditional love to self.
“There is no tool for development which is more powerful than empowerment of women.” – Jeanette said during her farewell speech for SWEPA. (Jeanette Tambakau, 2015).
Being an ambitious person, Jeanette believes that we are like chameleons; we take moral characters from those who are around us. She chose to surround herself with ambitious people. She knows that she couldn’t change the people around her, but she can choose people who influence her in a meaningful way.
Although ambitious, she is also a realist. She believes of what her gut feelings told her. If she feels that she couldn’t do something, then she’ll accept the fact that she couldn’t. There are four things that could hold her back from being curious, which will also hold her success back. These four things are fear, assumptions, technology, and environment. She believes that if she could recognize the things she fears, she will adjust the voice in her head that came with incorrect assumptions, and realize that the impacts that she experiences in life is based on her decisions.
Although Jeanette is resilient, adventurous, and a team player, she also enjoys a private time in a rainy day, where she could just curl up and get lost in a book with a nice cup of tea or red wine, and her dog as a companion.
“If you don’t allow yourself to have some ‘me’ time sometimes, overtime accumulation will bring a person down. Emotionally, we need to love and value ourselves and do things that we love to do that will keep us sane.” – Interview for Parents Avenue, 2019.
Being a voice of empowerment, a mother, and a woman, Jeanette has reached and inspire a lot of people in believing that life is set with the decisions in our lives. To conclude, she left us with a good analogy on her view of life;
“If we look at the pictures of some people, we can’t see their struggles. Sometimes, to could appear that people have a lot of advantages. I might appear that I had it easy in life too. Look at life like a river; it might seem intimidating and overwhelming, and we might create a dialogue in our heads that tells us we can’t do it, or if it’s too hard. This is just our perception. We have all either met or read about people who manage to get out of tough situations, but what get us through is our mindset. Believe in yourself, desire for something better. It is normal to feel sad and overwhelmed at times. However, successful people pull themselves up and work on developing that inner monologue in their minds. They create a goal and a measurable way to achieve that goal. Look at failure as an opportunity to learn. Our negative experiences allow us to appreciate the positive ones even more.” – Interview with MOM, 2020.
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