feature stories | community development

Empowering women to break the poverty cycle

The loss of a loved one can make or break a person’s spirit. For mother of three Noraishah Osman, her husband’s death had a profound impact on her life as she was forced to do things alone and make ends meet without him.

“I was lost when he died as I relied heavily on him to move around. Most of the time, he was the one who helped me with deliveries as I am a horrible driver,”

Noraishah, also known as Kak Nor, is one of the many women living in People’s Housing Project (PPR) Lembah Subang. Like many of the women there doing small business ventures, she runs a home-based baking and catering business as her main source of income.

“My children have all grown up and are already working. My husband’s death impacted me deeply but I knew I had to continue living. My home-based business helped fill my spare time,”
Kak Nor
PPR Lembah Subang

Kak Nor is one of the 80 women in PPR Lembah Subang whose lives have been touched by Women of Will (WOW) through its micro-credit financing programme to give them the boost they need.

WOW is a non-governmental organisation that aims to transform the lives of vulnerable women in Malaysia, particularly single mothers, widows, survivors of domestic violence and women living in poverty. The organisation helps them out by giving small loans of up to RM2,000, which allow these women to set up small business ventures that would not have been possible through conventional financial institutions.

Aside from micro-financing, WOW also provides support to these women in the form of business coaching, entrepreneurship development programmes, and marketing and networking assistance.

In Kak Nor’s case, being a beneficiary of WOW has allowed her to engage more with the local community through WOW’s activities and also further her business venture, following her husband’s passing. Last year, she received a micro-credit financing loan from WOW which she put to good use by expanding her baking and catering business.

“I took some time before being active again in my business but with WOW’s support, I was able to move on in life by taking up larger catering and packed food orders.”

Her resilience and determination have made her into an inspirational role model for the other women. It also helps that she has developed a good rapport with the other residents of the PPR.

“Kak Nor is very committed to our programme as she is usually the first to arrive and last to leave. She also assists others in finding work through e-commerce and has become a point of communication for the community – she would pass on their grievances to WOW,”

Zul Imran Ishak


Women of Will, Community Development Officer

Overall, WOW’s programme with the women of Lembah Subang had one of the organisation’s highest participation rates with over 80 beneficiaries. The women were also notable for their diversity in businesses, ranging from food and beverages to handicraft and a mobile spa service.


Despite Kak Nor’s busy schedule trying to grow her business amid her adversities, she still finds time and strength to help other members of the community.  Aside from running her own baking and catering service, Kak Nor also manages a musical band called Pewaris, comprising children below the age of 13.

"When my late husband was still around, he would teach the children of the community to play the guitar or games such as chess and checkers. He believed that they could benefit from this as opposed to loitering aimlessly,” explained Kak Nor on the idea behind forming the band. 

What is special about the band is that the children create and make music from unconventional items such as using old pails as drums.

The band made headways at district level competitions in 2018 as they came in second at the MBSJ Pertandingan Muzik Kitar Semula Terbuka. They were placed third at the KL Stomp Youth Music Festival in 2017.

Children growing up in a densely populated PPR are often easily exposed into picking up bad behaviours and other social ills such as petty theft and drug abuse. By focusing the children’s time and energies on music, they are able to learn valuable life lessons, such as discipline, teamwork and creativity.

" I have been living here (PPR Lembah Subang) for six years and I see many lacking areas that could be improved on. I started this recycle band to show the community that we can bring these children to a level that can be boasted and talked about. "

Kak Nor takes pride of Pewaris and aspires to join more competitions in the future.

Today, Pewaris is in high demand as they have been engaged to perform at corporate functions and government events.

We have participated in many competitions; be it on a big or small stage. This has helped to reduce their stage fright and to become confident in front of an audience.

Kak Nor


PPR Lembah Subang

Brimming with ideas, Kak Nor is aiming to crowdfund her purchase of a van to ferry the children between gigs and starting a children football club in 2019.

” I do not know how to play any musical instrument but I know how to generate ideas and connect people to the right cause. “

Feature Stories | Community Development

empowering villages to stop violence

According to UN Women, it is estimated that 35% of women worldwide have been physically and/or sexually assaulted by their partners or have experienced sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. This figure does not even include cases of sexual harassment.

The issue is of such concern that two of the Sustainable Development Goals put forward by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 specifically focus on ending violence against women and children – the most likely victims of Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) – by the year 2030.

Malaysia has its fair share of SGBV incidents, including in rural areas where many cases were left unreported. The district of Tambunan in Sabah is one of them, but things are changing.

In April 2017, Hasanah’s partner, Good Shepherd Services (GSS), conceptualised the three-phase Protection and Empowerment of the Girl-Child programme which aimed to increase awareness and develop the capacity of communities to prevent and respond to SGBV incidents while strengthening community referral pathways in Tambunan.

The project adopts a participatory Community-Based Approach (CBA) which incorporates the theory of change as its.1 This approach leverages on the collective strength of the community and enhances their capacity to act as active and effective change agents in promoting and protecting the rights of children against SGBV in their respective villages as well as the district as a whole.

The programme targets a number of key stakeholders relevant to the community’s wellbeing. These range from parents and children within the family unit to community leaders, school authorities and civil society organisations. GSS has also incorporated a multi-sectorial approach involving government agencies from the healthcare, public protection, public administration, legal and psychological support and care sectors.

The first phase of the project focused on establishing community support groups to empower and enhance protection against SGBV in six villages. For Phases Two and Three, the strategy is to replicate the creation of community support groups in six new villages per phase. In total, this three-year project (which will last from April 2017 to March 2020), will involve 18 villages.

Women Support Groups


The WSG provides a platform for women to play a substantive role in community-based protection and to take the lead in raising awareness on prevention of SGBV. GSS’ efforts continued in 2018 as they embarked on Phase Two of the programme which involved the establishment of additional WSGs in six new villages.

The establishment of Women Support Groups has enabled us to engage with key stakeholders and contribute towards systematic changes in policy that protect children against child marriage, which is an aspect of SGBV,” explained GSS programme coordinator Sandra Masilang.

The WSGs from Phases One and Two have proven successful as the women who participated have not only strengthened their confidence and commitment, but also expanded their collaborative support network in addressing SGBV.

The WSGs have started handling disclosures from within their own villages as well as neighbouring ones. The reception of the WSGs by their respective communities is a positive indicator of the relevance and potential of WSGs in strengthening the role of women towards community-based protection of female children against SGBV.

youths and men speak up

The men, youth and students also played their roles. As SGBV is strongly embedded in the social and cultural construction of masculinity, and given the higher proportion of men reported as SGBV perpetrators, the need to mobilise men and boys to take a stand against SGBV has continued to be a pertinent aspect for GSS in Tambunan.

In 2017, awareness workshops were conducted for 52 men from the six villages under the first phase. Additionally, support groups were established in four schools, namely SMK Tambunan, SM St Martins, SK St David and SK Nambayan.

GSS’ efforts have borne fruit as the youth of Tambunan have taken their awareness on the prevention of SGBV to another level.

The youths participated in Tambunan’s inaugural Voice Out festival held on 29 September 2018 at Pisompuruan Square with one mission – to raise awareness on SGBV. The event was also an opportunity for the youths to showcase their artistic talents while still focusing on the subject of SGBV as the main topic.

What made the event special was that it was organised and driven by the youths themselves such as SMK Tambunan’s Form Five students, Adrienno V Talis and Lus Clarita George.

“I had a friend who was a victim of sexual violence and she was vocal about sharing her side of the story after attending Voice Out,”
Student, SMK Tambunan

She believed her participation in outreach activities such as Voice Out would help reduce SGBV among the women and children of Tambunan.

Adrienno, on the other hand, felt that approaching the issue with an open mind could help parents and children to talk about the issue without any taboo.

“Parents commented that the event provided their children with the necessary information on how to protect themselves against SGBV,”
Student, SMK Tambunan

The men of Tambunan also realised how important it was for them to speak up about SGBV issues within the community, and they were ready to help.

“We want to open the eyes of parents to show them that child marriage is not the solution and that the child’s education comes first,”
Vinson B Tadi
Part of a Male-Driven EngageMENt Team by GSS

Vinson is one of the core members of the male-driven ‘EngageMENt’ team established by GSS as a conduit to the men in the community in their multi-pronged approach in prevention of SGBV in Tambunan.

“As parents, we want the best for our children and the community they live in. The youth programme by GSS keeps them occupied and productive,” he shared.

Livelihood programmes based on ‘semangat kekitaan’


WSG promoting their products during the socioeconomic competition which was judged by En Thomas Logijun, District Officer of Tambunan, representative from Jabatan Pertanian and GSS

GSS worked with the women of Tambunan to start a livelihood project producing ginger-based products. This project, piloted by the WSGs, managed to rake in a profit of 27%. The profit will be used as a seed fund to enhance the livelihood component in 2019.

The youths played an important role in the livelihood programme as well. GSS Youth Connect Circle (YCC) member Ivy Ieren Gibi said that being part of the livelihood programme enabled her to contribute more to her community apart from organising events and campaigns to spread the message on SGBV.

Under this programme, youths were taught and given the responsibility of managing a ginger farm. The produce from the farm was supplied to the WSGs and turned into ginger-based products.

By working on the farm, Ivy and her peers were able to connect with the community’s farming roots and even picked up new skills.

The success of Phases One and Two heralds a positive transformation within the villages of Tambunan. This was made possible through the combined efforts of the people of Tambunan and GSS.

Moving forward, it is imperative to continue engaging with the communities of Tambunan in a meaningful and substantive manner. This approach will enable them to take a firm stand in the prevention of SGBV and eventually drive positive change and shift the dominant thinking on socio-cultural norms relating to gender equality in the district.


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