International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. In conjunction with that, Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) would like to honour the women we’ve had the pleasure of working with throughout our journey in advancing the Islamic Tourism space in Malaysia. We’ve worked with many great women in our time, and though we can’t feature them all here, know that we support them wholeheartedly towards their professional and personal goals. 

To further inspire us all on this journey of life, we’ve invited some of these women to share their success stories with us. Here, they reveal the highs of their lives and what motivates them to keep going through tough times. We hope that this spotlight on the women we’ve worked with – and whom we have utmost respect for – will inspire us all on our journey forward!

For this IWD blog series, we’re excited to speak with Hajah Safinah Haji Yaakob, CEO and founder of Future Forest International Sdn Bhd. Her journey in supporting rural women by providing a platform for them to earn a sustainable income through herbal farming is simply inspiring.  She puts her expertise to work for them, resulting in a favourable impact on society and sustainable tourism. With her passion, ITC is proud to have her on board to promote the sustainability and green impact agenda through Islamic Tourism. 

Hajah Safinah Haji Yaakob
CEO and founder of Future Forest International Sdn Bhd

ITC: Can you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a little bit about yourself – personal, family and business-wise?

Hajah Safinah: I am a single mother with five children. I was born in Perak, the sixth of eight siblings. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. At the age of 20, I started selling some of my designs to a printing and advertising agency. Since then, I never looked back and I set up my own design house. In 1995, I set up an accredited 4A’s Advertising and PR agency. I am now a hands-on creative designer and creative director in sustainable branding.

ITC: What’s your most recent accomplishment in your personal life that you’ve been most proud of? Why was this achievement special to you?

Hajah Safinah: I’ve always been passionate about empowering women. Much of my work has been in helping women in rural areas use herb cultivation and farming as a means to gain sustainable income. I feel that with my background and love for herbs and natural wellness traditions, this is where I can be of most help, creating positive impact to societies by encouraging healthy lifestyles and herb use.

Knowing this is already enough for me, but my work  in forest and herbal medicinal plant education in rural areas received the attention of several international agencies. Recently, I was awarded the ASEAN Women Network (AWEN) award in Bangkok for Best Performance Women in Empowering Women. I also received the Global SDG’S Woman Ambassador Award by Gaza University and Universiti Tun Hussein Onn. 

ITC: What’s your most recent accomplishment, career/business-wise, that you’ve been most proud of? Why was this achievement special to you?

Hajah Safinah: Recently on 22 January, 2022, I reopened the brand that I nurtured, which is the Malay Tea House, in Genting Highland. This is the fifth outlet since the brand was established in 2006. This passion project promotes Tea Tourism through a tea-drinking culture and awareness for Malay traditions especially the wealth of our local herbs. 

I’m also excited about this project because through the Malay Tea House, I’m able to help out small farmers and empower them as part of our supply chain. This aligns with my goal for sustainable supply and good practice in SDG with the community.

ITC: What are the values you hold on to that has helped you to be where you are today – values that have helped to see you through the good and bad times? 

Hajah Safinah: Trust in Allah in everything I do. 

After I’ve done my research, planning and strategy and sought out second opinions, my motto is “just do it” and leave the rest to Allah.

ITC: What’s your project/ ambition/ goals that you wish to achieve next (personal and career/business-wise)?

Hajah Safinah: I have a few projects in mind at the moment. Business-wise, I’d love to proceed with organising our 16th Herbal Asia 2022 in Kuala Lumpur and the inaugural Herbal Asia Turkey 2022. 

I’m also planning to grow my Forest Farm project where people can freely enjoy harvesting food in the forest and at the same time, enjoy staying there as their new vacation destination. This aligns with my hope of bringing to city folks the kampung experience of living amid the forest, fruits, herbs, streams, birds, and the whole scenery and landscape that bring joy and rejuvenation to the mind and soul.

On a personal level, I’m hoping that I can learn a new skill like calligraphy.

ITC: Could you share with us your experience of working with ITC and what you value about this relationship?

Hajah Safinah: I was one of the panel speakers during Islamic Tourism Centre’s World Islamic Tourism Conference 2021. I believe that with my background in rural community work, tea tourism advocate, and champion for sustainable tourism, there are many opportunities to collaborate with ITC especially in promoting the sustainability and green impact agenda through Islamic Tourism. 


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