by: Dayana Batrisyia
Conflicting instructions from ground control. That’s what they had told her when they explained the news of the crash, the Double Six tragedy as they called it, the crash that killed her family.
Toh Puan Rahimah Stephens lets the tears roll down her cheeks in silence as she recalls what the authorities have told her.
The devastating call, the grotesque way they had to tell her that her family’s bodies were no longer recognizable, and the horror of seeing the plane split in half. The eleven people who’s corpses were disfigured and broken beyond any attempt of mending.
It was nothing short of a traumatic tragedy, one that had thrown her life into a rabbit hole.
This was what the world of politics and travel had brought. But she was not one to lose, even to the fate of her loved ones.
Toh Puan lifts her head, and watches the ripples in the water as she contemplates how she was meant to sustain the rest of her life. She had to do it for ‘them’. ‘Them’ is her remaining children, Affendi, Asgari, Faridah and Fauziah. ‘Them’ also the people of Sabah, the women and the children of Sabah.
She had to not only endure, but fight. She would not lose both her blood and chosen family. So she fought with all her might and threw herself into the delicate world of politics. She represented Kiulu as her first large step in actively entering Sabahan politics through an election. Fighting and speak for the people, and later on became the first woman in the State Legislative Assembly of 1976.
Toh Puan did not stop there, in terms of her fight as well as in terms of her service.
She was an unstoppable force and even stepped up. She moves forward to provide her voice for the people by being Sabah’s Minister of Welfare. The first female minister in Sabah in 1976. She continues with the seat until Berjaya loses the state election in 1985, and later on focuses her life towards her remaining family.
Toh Puan sadly left the world on March 14th, 2022 due to a heart attack.
One of the significant, life-altering women in Sabahan history was Toh Puan Rahimah. Her work, battles, and voice should be remembered for all of time.
Musa Aman, the 14th Chief Minister stated, “I had the privilege of knowing this classy lady who was very comfortable in telling me her concerns and wishes for Sabah. At the end of each conversation, she would say Take care of Sabah, Musa.”
Image by Lyn Ong via https://poskod.my/features/women-made-malaysia/.
*The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Good Society IIUM