5th July 2012: For Immediate Release
EMPOWERING RURAL GIRLS PROGRAMME
Sarawak Women for Women Society recently conducted a 3-day training in Marudi (25th to 27th June 2012) after having conducted similar ones in Long Lama and Long San in 2009 and 2010. Ninety (90) participants, mostly women from about 16 communities located along the Baram river and its nearby tributaries attended the programme. They comprised of women from various Penan and other Orang Ulu communities as well as others from Marudi town. There were also teachers and non-academic staff from 13 primary schools and 3 secondary schools. Together with these communities were participants from the Marudi Hospital and health workers and officers. The training was held at Dewan Suarah, Marudi.
Amongst the objectives of the course were:
- To raise awareness and increase knowledge on how to limit and handle sexually exploitative and abusive relationships, ranging from men who cheat to rape.
- To train trainers / local contacts to (i) sustain the sharing of such knowledge and (ii) to provide direct help to young girls who require assistance.
- To facilitate the community to develop systemic and empathetic responses to women and girls who have been abused, and
- To help build support networks between the rural communities and helpful networks/services in town.
To meet these objectives the training covered topics such as healthy teenage relationships, teenage development, problems and risks facing youths in the rural areas, range of abuses that can occur, the law in respect of those abuses and HIV/AIDS. Trainers also introduced the basic principle of empowerment and skills of effective communication so that the support offered to survivors of abuse took into account their feelings and life opportunities. By the use of case studies participants at the course also discussed how to help girls who have experienced sexually exploitative situations as well as how to handle disclosures of sexual abuse. They also learnt the important role of support agencies and trusted networks in the handling of disclosures.
One of the components of this training is that the primary school teachers and interested participants observed our trainers conducting the Personal Safety for Children module in a classroom setting at one of the local school. Immediately after the core training had finished the teachers went back to their respective schools and conducted similar sessions with other students, some guided by the SWWS trainers. This method of training the trainers allowed the teachers of the respective schools to take ownership of the personal safety programme and use it to reach more of their students both immediately after the course and in the future. Many were thankful to be equipped with this Module as they had been searching for similar resources.
Meawhile the participants from the secondary schools observed the Healthy Relationships Module (compiled from materials available in the Reproductive Health of Adolescents Module) This was aimed at teaching youths what is good healthy relationships and the range of exploitative relationships and abuses that any young person living in the interior may encounter. Likewise, on the 4th day of the training the teachers conducted the sessions themselves and observed and guided by SWWS trainer.
On the last day, each community together the support agencies like the local school came up with action plans as to how to further the objectives of increasing level of awareness and building networks of support in their respective communities. At the closing ceremony, materials and resources relevant to the running of the said modules were presented to the participating schools and communities.
The event also saw the launching of Persatuan Wanita Penan, Baram Sarawak. As a result of attending a similar training in Long Lama at the end of 2009, some Penan women from the Tutoh- Apoh area decided to register their association. Members of the Marudi press was invited to cover the launching. Amongst the objectives of this association are: To empower members and Penan women and girls in general, to achieve economic development, social and gender justice, healthy and peaceful community through the tools of education, support and networking and advocating for better services from governmental and non-govenrmental bodies; To educate and increase the awareness (promote and disseminate information to) of members of the Association as well as Penan girls on womens’ rights in the home, place of work and society in general; To increase awareness amongst members and rural communities in general on the issues of violence against women and children as well as other forms of exploitation; To advance the position of Penan women and girls in Malaysian society and in particular amongst all the ethnic communities who live in Sarawak and to promote a society where men and women are equal; and To build Women Skill Centres and offer job skills training for a sustainable future, including access to capital to help Penan women create and manage sustainable micro-entrerprises in the rural parts of Sarawak. The President, Puan Jonita Ayat called for assistance and support from government and non-governmental agencies to work alongside them as well as provide funds so that they can carry out their activities to further the said objectives.
Part of the SWWS team also travelled to its chosen satellite, Long Bemang – a Kayan community with surrounding Penan villages along Sungai Apoh, Baram which has a primary school, SK Long Bemang. Apart from observing the teachers conduct the said primary school module our trainers also shared and dialogued with the women on the rights of rural women and children. The issues raised by the women including young mothers with children who had been abandoned by husbands, widows whose monthly welfare assistance had stopped abruptly 2 years ago and without reason although they had (as told) submitted their application for aid to the said Department numerous times.
SWWS view is that as with all kinds of abuses, the vulnerability increases when there is less awareness and in these rural areas of Sarawak it is coupled with difficulties of access and mobility. The isolation and lack of financial resources often means youths and women caught in abusive situations cannot readily access help and support. Thus equipping and training of locals to assist is paramount.
Overall the course was well received by all the participants and they made many calls for further training especially in the more isolated villages so the aim of empowering rural girls could reach more people.
The programme is funded by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and has the full cooperation of the Sarawak Women’s Bureau and the Department of Education.
In January 2011 SWWS had also written a Report and Recommendations pursuant to conducting the above stated programme in Long Lama and Long San and submitted it to Jabatan Pembangunan Wanita as well as other relevant state agencies. The report may be accessed at their website sarswws.org
Those interested in finding out more about the training can contact SWWS on 082-416053 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Press – For further information contact: Ann Teo (co-ordinator) – Tel 016 8604998