“My mother’s dedication to these children had taught me a lot about life and service for others whilst seeing my father settling disputes on a daily basis subconsciously taught me the basics of mediation and hence sparked immense interest in resolving conflicts within me. I used to think that becoming a politician was the only way of making this a day job”
Intan grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and moved to London to further her studies at the age of 16, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. She then went on to do her A levels, read Law, and attended bar school in London. Living independently in a foreign country at a young age had taught her pragmatic life skills but growing up with two loving parents, taught her the significance between service, and leadership which had greatly inspired her take on mediation later in her life. She stated, “I have always had this naive mindset that ‘when I grow up I am going to make a difference in the world’… my quote was always ‘I am going to take over the world.’”
Her father’s first election in the state of Pahang in Malaysia was when she was only 6 months old and he retired two decades later. Thus, his work in politics and business had profoundly influenced her personality and view of the world as her father’s political duties often involve resolving conflicts by way of informal mediation between his constituents which also includes the indigenous community. Her mother, on the other hand, had always championed and advocated for the empowerment of women, often going to rural areas to inspire women and children through her motivational speeches alongside running her own orphanage serving underprivileged children which later became their extended family and now work internationally in Japan, England, and London.
In law school, she took part in various student societies such as Model UN, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and at bar school, under the membership of The Honourable Society of The Inner Temple at the time, she had actively participated in pro bono projects such as legal clinic helplines and the police liaison scheme which saw her accompany police officers to different crime scenes in London. This experience had also sparked a personal ambition to train mediation skills to the police force in Malaysia.
Outside of academia, she had also followed in her mother’s footsteps in becoming a member of societies that advocate for the betterment of women in third world countries such as the Olave Baden Powell Society and the Associated Countries of the Women of the World. Her involvement with the refugee community became more profound since moving home when she became a volunteer speech and drama teacher at the Ideas Academy, a refugee learning center in Kuala Lumpur. She hopes that through her next project, she could make the best the Associated Countries of the Women of the World. use of mediation to make the current climate of things less dire for them and for mediation to play a role in bettering the education system in Malaysia. This was improved after being invited to join a “Teach for Malaysia” program where a participant is sent to one of the lowest-performing schools in the rural areas in the country to teach for a day.
Engaging with MBBI
She had pursued the mediation training in London and became a formally accredited mediator in civil and commercial matters. She stated, “nobody brought up mediation until bar school when I was really introduced to the model” She then returned to Malaysia and briefly sought work experience at the Attorney General Chambers. After tirelessly trying to an opportunity in Malaysia where mediation is a very little known entity, she was invited to join the young practitioners’ group at the Asian International Arbitration Center.
She became a mediation committee member for young practitioners. Through this platform, she got to engage in several public speaking events and forums to raise awareness about mediation and ADR in local universities. To this day, she is still in contact with students that she has somewhat impacted and is an inspirational ambassador of ‘mediation mentorship’ especially for those entering the field as she felt that she struggled for so long due to the lack of genuine mentorship.
Intan attended the “World Islamic Economic Conference” in Malaysia and the theme of engaging in Mediation Beyond Borders International had arrived at this event when she was introduced to MBBI. This connection, two years later, got her engaged with the MBBI Congress in Bali where she discovered that there is more to mediation that settling a dispute out of court and that informal mediation is being practiced all over the world. This had sparked a very active friendship with other MBBI members that had taught her more about informal mediation and what currently do with it in their countries.
Her understanding of this field of work became more prevalent after accepting a special invitation from her beloved mentor, the renowned international mediator and MBBI SouthEast Asia Representative, Shadia Marhaban to attend and speak at the UNDP’s women’s insider mediation platform in Davao where she saw what informal mediation could do to improve the lives of the women living in conflict areas.
COVID, Peace, and Mediation
During the pandemic, she was able to organize a virtual community mediation project after being inspired by a town hall organized by MBBI. She stated, “the first mediation session was about connecting people in the society and was among entrepreneurs and friends; the second session connected NGOs. In fact, we had NGOs representing those serving the homeless community, representatives of Rotary, Teach for Malaysia, Imagined Malaysia, and people representing the NGO Built for Tomorrow.” Her project sought to link NGOs with large scale cooperation that could help out the NGOs via their resources of networks, logistics, and funding. She further stated, “The preceding sessions centered on Malaysian medical doctors talking about the coronavirus, about what they are doing differently where they are. This was such a breakthrough as they ended up exchanging intel from their PPEs to how they were handling COVID patients to discussing drugs testing advances.”
There was also a fruitful mental health perspective session to discuss the negative effects of the lockdown on individuals quarantining at home. Intan now plans on continuing to foster the relationships between these NGOs including those doing work with refugees and mentoring young professionals within the mediation community and she hopes to nourish and grow this project further in the near future. This project of hers will also soon be published in an accessible broader platform.
This project took some time and discipline to organize and taught her a lot about leadership. Though Intan considers herself a leader, she attributes her father as a key leader in her life. She stated, “the most successful leaders have this innate authenticity and charisma. They place such importance on the people they are leading. They are always self-aware and I have always felt that this is a key characteristic of a leader.”
She has also emphasized this informal sense of mediation and leadership. She stated, “leadership on social media is often taken for granted. If we are talking about influencers, they should realize that they are leading a pack, their followers. Thus, the messages that they are putting out on their Instagram accounts, should entail a sense of accountability and responsibility.” For her, this is leading in this day and age. She continues to be an inspirational self-motivated genuine leader and has recently been appointed the Malaysian representative for MBBI!
Article by Elizabeth Gamarra, MBBI Writer