Hazlina Abdul Halim is no stranger to being ahead in life: She was one of the youngest radio presenters in Singapore when she debuted at 19; one of the youngest television news presenters when she made the switch at 20; one of the youngest lecturers when she started teaching at 26; and one of the youngest newsroom editors when she returned to journalism at 29.
Last December, she took on the role of President of Persatuan Pemudi Islam Singapura (PPIS), 25th Board of Governance – again, at 36, she is the youngest woman ever in a presidency role. Also known as the Singapore Muslim Women’s Association, PPIS is a non-profit organisation that supports less-privileged Muslim women, children and families through a series of community programmes.
The responsibilities that come with the appointment are in addition to those of her day job: After cutting her teeth in the media industry for more than a decade, she is currently a public affairs advisor at the United States Embassy here. There is quite a bit on her plate, but she is determined to juggle it all so that she can give back.
Focus on giving back
After her media stints, Hazlina left for Australia to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and Political Science and a Masters’ in Film and Television. She took on a lecturer position at Temasek Polytechnic upon her return and, encouraged by Madam Rahayu Mahzam, now the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, joined PPIS as a member.
“I came back to Singapore with a burning desire to give back. I wanted to find an organisation I could connect with and contribute towards. At PPIS, we work to build resilient families that can become part of an inclusive community that supports women’s aspirations,” she explains.
She became a board member shortly after, and in 2016, was elected as vice president of the organisation, as well as vice-president of Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), the national coordinating body of women’s organisations in Singapore. This gave her the opportunity to attend Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) meetings, and also to speak on the needs of older women – and how they differ from those of their male counterparts – at the Seventh Working Session of the Open- Ended Working Group on Ageing at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
In her current role as the President of PPIS, she leads the Board of Governance in fulfilling their mission.
Her stepping stones
To say that Hazlina has had an exciting career trajectory would be an understatement. She started as a radio presenter for Ria 89.7FM, and then went on to present live TV programmes on Suria, Prime 12 (now defunct) and Channel 5, before becoming a news presenter on Suria. When she stopped lecturing altogether, she joined Channel News Asia’s Singapore Desk as its assignments editor, and resumed presenting the news on Suria. She also did a stint as a presenter on 938Live during that time.
She recalls with fondness the thrill of being in a fast paced newsroom environment, where no two days are the same, but her focus now is towards more meaningful engagements. Apart from her current appointments, she is a Director on the Board of the Singapore Business Federation Foundation and is involved in several ministerial committees.
“I have been most fortunate to have had supervisors and mentors who believed in my capabilities and were ever ready to share their experiences with me,” she says. She also credits her time as a student abroad for grooming her into the humble, independent and resourceful person she is now.
The balancing act
Good planning as well as family support have helped Hazlina manage all her roles. “My husband is my number one male ally, and he makes it all possible for me. He not only supports and encourages me to go onwards and upwards, but also assists me in fulfilling my responsibilities,” she says.
Still, she is not just perpetually forging ahead. In recent years, she has come to recognise the importance of slowing down.
“These days, everyone is a multi-hyphenate, and having a side hustle is the new norm. I’m discovering that one way to resolve the challenges that come with it is to practise mindfulness and be in the now. When everyone is present, communication is effective.”
She has also been practising “husnuzon”, an Islamic term for positive thinking, and making more of an effort to develop friendships and relationships.
But when not taking a breather to smell the roses, you can count on her to constantly inspire women to make the most of their talents.
“I believe life is about taking the opportunities that come your way, especially if it expands your skill sets and lets you be a better version of yourself. A lot can be done when we start young, and the time is now, so I urge young women to embrace leadership opportunities and to realise their full potential and aspirations.”
This story first appeared in the April 2021 issue of Her World.
PHOTOGRAPHY Vee Chin
ART DIRECTION Adeline Eng
HAIR Jimmy Yap
MAKEUP Angel Gwee, using Tom Ford Beauty
OUTFIT Hazlina’s own