Empower Malaysia interviewed Hasnah Hussin who has been volunteering with a group of NGOs providing support to various groups including refugees, migrants, stateless and B40 groups in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please tell us a little about the work you are undertaking in response to the pandemic and why this is important?

At the moment, I’m part of the Tenaganita team where we help to mobilize communities in need. Tenaganita, Refuge for the Refugees, Dapur Jalanan KL, and Liga Rakyat Demokratik. We undertook our first fundraising event and through the proceeds raised have provided groceries to 1100 families around the Klang Valley including refugees, migrants, stateless persons and B40 groups. 

We are now at the second phase, where we’re organising another fundraising event to help support an additional 500 families. It is important because we don’t want people to get sick or die because of hunger. It’s personally important for me because I know what it feels like to go to bed hungry.  I would never want anyone else to suffer due to hunger. These communities are losing their livelihoods due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) restrictions. I know we can’t help each and every person in need but at least each day I can go to bed without any regrets as I have tried my very best to support my community.

What role has the government played so far?

In my personal opinion, the government is doing whatever they can to protect each individual in the country. Alhamdulillah at least now I can see the government and the locals treating each person equally regardless of their documentation and legal status. I just wish more resources are made available by the government for the refugees, Stateless persons and undocumented migrant communities since they have very limited access to most services that are offered.

What kind of support do you need for this work? What has been the impact so far?

As I mentioned earlier, resources such as donations in terms of goods and money are really helpful. In our first fundraising activity, alhamdulillah we managed to help over 1100 families with groceries and hygiene items. More requests are coming every day, so we need more funds to help the needy.

Does the current MCO impact women differently from men?

Humanity has no gender. However, as usual women are more vulnerable due to a number of factors when compared to men. At the same time and for many decades,  women are proven to be more resilient and empowered even in the most challenging of circumstances. As a woman, I am also able to coordinate and mobilise communities, working together with men to help the ones who need it the most. 

I must acknowledge two things here, I’m able to do what I’m doing now because first, I have the support of my Tenaganita family and second, I was given the opportunity to work with an awesome team, that consists of Refuge for the Refugees, Dapur Jalanan KL and Liga Rakyat Demokratik, where I feel I am being treated equally and respectfully. I’m so proud of what I’m able to do at the moment and am proud of my teammates as well.

What would you like to see in the future?

I really hope COVID-19 will come under control soon, and we can see the end of the lockdown so that everyone can return to work, feed their families, maintain their safety and remain sheltered. At the moment, many NGOs, community groups, individuals and the government are trying to help in terms of providing food but the communities have other needs as well, such as paying their rent, utility bills, medical fees and most importantly access to mental health services. 

Due to restrictions, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has increased and survivors are unable to reach or access the services and we are unable to help them as well. The second most important thing I would like to see in the near future is equality and acceptance of refugees in Malaysia. We need to see how we can help each other and support each other to have a better Malaysia and pave a better future for society.

To contribute to Hasnah’s efforts click here 

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