Eirliani is Executive Director of YAKIN, a not-for-profit tackling child sexual abuse, and Director at the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation US. She edited Nobel laureate Satyarthi’s book Will for Children, while her book Survivors was published in 2017. She also contributed to the textbook Essentials of Global Health which won first prize in the 2019 British Medical Association book awards. 

Eirliani won the 2015 BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Award. She sits on Twitter’s Trust & Safety Council and was in the Singapore Foreign Service from 2005-2015. She is skiing to the North Pole in April 2020 to campaign against child sexual abuse.

Global Girl She The People Elsamarie

How would you describe yourself? 

I’m a passionate campaigner against child sexual abuse and am also an explorer of the Arctic. I am full of contradictions: boisterous and loving being the centre of attention one minute, and wanting to have quiet time to reflect the next. 

I feel emboldened by all the strong women in my life who have overcome serious challenges and yet thrived.

You are an ex diplomat and now a child rights activist? Can you explain why you chose your original career and then made the shift?

Yes, that’s right. I made a vow to myself when I was 17 that I would help give a voice to the voiceless before I turn 40 after watching a documentary on dowry burning in South Asia.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman
Eirliani Abdul Rahman

You are “fearless” in your current position. Help us walk in your shoes and understand where you get the strength from.

From my mother and her mother before me. I feel emboldened by all the strong women in my life who have overcome serious challenges and yet thrived.

What excites you when you wake up every morning?

The many different possibilities that a new day brings.

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Share some examples where you have made a difference in your country and community. 

Lobbying successfully for the Singapore Botanical Garden to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; working with the Olympics Committee in Germany for the inaugural Youth Olympics Games hosted by Singapore in 2010; helping to establish the Middle East Institute in Singapore so as to better understand the geopolitics of the Middle East, etc.

What are some of the challenges you face? How do you overcome them?

There were many but I’ve learnt to sleep over important decisions, and also, the importance of self-care.

I’m training to ski to the North Pole in April 2020 to raise awareness on child sexual abuse. I had attempted to do so this year but the entire North Pole season got canceled due to the ice melting, thanks to global warming. It’s brought home to me the impact of global warming on the Arctic and the rest of the planet.

How do you manage self care? Do you believe in work-life balance or integration? What are some of the strategies you adopt?

Definitely. I like to celebrate every “win”, no matter how small by indulging in a matcha green tea yoghurt smoothie, or getting a bath infused with salts. I like to “end” my day, even if my to-do list is not yet finished by spending time with my loved ones. 

Do you consider yourself a “Global Girl”? why?

Yes! I’m a global citizen. I’ve visited 60 countries and lived in seven, including my current abode in the US. I speak eight languages and have friends all over the world.

What is the advice you would give your 16 year old self?

Take it easy, take it slow. There is always tomorrow.

What are three values you think are most important for a global leader?

Integrity, respect and compassion.

What’s next for Eirliani?

I’m training to ski to the North Pole in April 2020 to raise awareness on child sexual abuse. I had attempted to do so this year but the entire North Pole season got canceled due to the ice melting, thanks to global warming. It’s brought home to me the impact of global warming on the Arctic and the rest of the planet.

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