Doctor-politician awarded Fulbright scholarship

A medical doctor by profession, co-founder and former vice president of Parti MUDA, and budding politician, Dr Thanussha Francis Xavier (pic) adds another feather to her illustrious cap — receiving a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue post-graduate studies at Columbia University, New York.

Sep 17, 2022


A medical doctor by profession, co-founder and former vice president of Parti MUDA, and budding politician, Dr Thanussha Francis Xavier (pic) adds another feather to her illustrious cap — receiving a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue post-graduate studies at Columbia University, New York.

Thanussha is one of four Malaysian Fulbright scholars selected by the US State Department this year. She is currently in America studying International Relations, with a focus on economics and political development. She intends to use this opportunity to improve her skills in the political field as well.

The Taiping Catholic Church parishioner firmly believes politics in Malaysia should be issue-based and policy-driven. Not religious and racial rhetoric.

“I hope to work with other similar-minded groups to steer Malaysia in this direction,” said the 31-year-old.

She also intends to continue empowering women and marginalised communities in politics. The days of women and minority communities being side-lined must come to end.

Thanussha grew up valuing education. Having scored 10 As for her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) in 2008, the Taiping native was awarded a scholarship to study medicine in Havana, Cuba, in 2010.

Eleven years later, she took a drastic turn and went from being a medical practitioner to being the vice-president of a Malaysian political party. Thanussha said, “There are many capable Indian women in the country who deserve the space to participate in politics but may be afraid to take the plunge. There needs to be a conscious effort by political parties to be more diverse and inclusive, both in the party’s leadership as well as in candidacy nominations during elections.”
Passionate about women and minority rights, Thanussha believes there is a lack of platform for women to participate in politics and be involved in decision-making.

“Except for MUDA, most political parties have women’s wings which, although originally intended to empower women in politics, have instead immured women’s voices as they are confined and limited by it. The bigger issue, however, is racism and sexism. It is extremely discouraging to be constantly told you are not good enough; you do not know enough and that you will never be good enough.”

Thanussha also said fighting discrimination daily can be exhausting and mentally challenging. Female leaders, especially from minority groups, have to work multiple times harder to be seen as equally good as their male counterparts.

She added, “It is not that all women do not like leadership in politics but is it fair to expect women to face systemic discrimination for simply being from a different gender?”

As an Indian woman in politics, Thanussha has faced discrimination on the political scene. Being looked down on by the political community is a lived reality. “I am looked down upon for, firstly being female, and then for being from a minority community and on top of that, for being young. There is always a perception that I could not possibly have anything of value to say, as I am not from elitist circles and because I do not have sufficient political ‘experience’.”

Thanussha pointed out that racism and sexism were extremely prevalent in politics, which makes it even more difficult for women and politicians from minority communities. The challenge has never been about navigating politics itself, but rather, about navigating discrimination. We see this discrimination reflected in all layers of the Indian community. For example, Malaysian Indian SPM students who do well are not given scholarships or admission to public universities.
“I was in the same boat after I completed my SPM. Even now, to support the cost of living in the US, I have to borrow from my parents’ EPF savings because most financial aid is intended for Bumiputera only,” she said.

The Ivy League postgraduate student said, during her tenure as vice president of Parti MUDA, her role was not defined by its top leaders. “I have stepped down as it is only fair the position be helmed by someone who is physically here, as we approach critical times with the 15th general election (GE15) around the corner.

“Opposition parties must work together to have a chance of winning in GE15. If ego takes precedence, we have already lost. My hope is, of course, to see more young candidates from minority groups and more female candidates as well.

They should be given the opportunity to contest in winnable seats and not be put up as candidates for mere tokenism.
“We must take an honest look at ourselves as Malaysians and question why we have failed as a nation to progress as well as our neighbouring countries, and how this ties to race relations in Malaysia.”

Hailing from a family of four, Thanussha’s younger sister Deeviya is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Vienna, Austria. Their mother, Dominica Rose, a former nurse from Taiping Hospital, has just returned home after having worked in Saudi Arabia for eight years. Father, Francis Xavier, who is semi-retired and attached to an International NGO Foundation, gives all glory and praise to the Almighty for his daughters’ achievements, both here and abroad.

Total Comments:0

Name
Email
Comments