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For Hasanah, knowledge is intrinsically linked to learning and the source of all our knowledge is the work that our partners do on the ground. These learnings then provide us with evidence to support, advocate, and influence policy and structural changes in line with our aim to be an impact-based foundation supporting long-term social change.
ILMU Hasanah is a series of knowledge-sharing events planned for Hasanah's Civil Society Partner Organisations, stakeholders as
well as the public, on a range of relevant topics led by sectoral experts. These sessions, as well as the capacity building sessions we offer our Civil Society Partner Organisations, are aimed to enable and support learning for our partners, the wider stakeholder community, as well as for ourselves in Hasanah. We believe that continuous learning is essential and that there should be no barriers to learning.
Learnings from this webinar can be summarised under Seven Commandments for Civil Society Organisations to respond during a pandemic or any other disaster situation. The first is adopting the Code of Conduct for International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief and Humanitarian Principles which expounds treating everyone with respect and dignity as well as the Sustainable Development Goals’ Leave No One Behind philosophy.
Other commandments are paying special attention to the vulnerable, being culturally sensitive and transparent with communities, coordination and collaboration, enhance communication (especially in local languages), considering all risk mitigation issues during a response and lastly, capacity development.
Organised in collaboration with Malaysian Coordination and Action Hub Hub, some of the strategies identified to help reduce vulnerabilities and increase economic independence of the underserved community were – to adopt the community-based approach, empowerment of the local community, maintaining motivation, and provision and access to the right support. Khazanah Research Institute's Christopher Choong Weng Wai shared the institute's research into understanding the implications of the poverty line on social protection initiatives. Samantha Ong from People System Consultancy spoke about the importance of building rapport with local communities and efficient project management, while Onn Sein of YKPM and Anne Lasimbang of PACOS both talked about useful strategies to support the B40 communities' livelihood, including the lack of understanding and valuing of the Orang Asal as forest people, and the importance of contextualising training programmes to communities.
Award-winning investigative journalist and impact producer Ian Yee whose work has covered social justice issues such as human trafficking, violence against children, drug trafficking and refugee rights discussed how to create and communicate impactful stories. The essential steps were presented as 5C’s namely content, concept, channels, call to action and conversations—all of which civil society organisations could follow to produce design thinking and impactful stories to advocate their causes to the public.
Impact and Investigative Journalist
A panel of experts discussed the importance and challenges in identifying, establishing and managing marine protected areas (MPAs), the protection of which is a key focus area for Hasanah. Engagement of politicians and stakeholders, policy and institutional issues, and community awareness were identified as some of the challenges faced in managing MPAs.
Jointly organised with KRI, the webinar discussed the findings of The State of Household (SOH) Report 2020. Three authors shared their findings of the SOH series, which revisited the progress of Malaysian households over the last decade in terms of the changing structure of the economy, different realities of work in Malaysia and welfare through the lens of health, income and work.
Knowledge sharing events
Throughout this year, Khazanah Research Institute endeavoured continuously on its path of shaping public policy with the aim of improving the wellbeing of Malaysians through the research it undertakes. It actively engaged with various ministries and agencies across the federal and state governments to ensure solid policy support across an array of pressing issues.
While the pandemic may have called for a different approach to roundtable discussions, brown bag seminars and other forms of knowledge-sharing that were typically conducted pre-pandemic, the cornerstone of this non-profit organisation's very inception remain unchanged.
It was highlighted that despite significant improvements in social welfare for the past three decades, the rate of household income growth during the past two following the Asian Financial crisis never quite returned to pre-crisis rates. Meanwhile, increased spending alludes to greater cost of living pressures and fewer savings while consumption patterns changed with an emergence of new necessities, particularly for communication and eating out.
While structural change of the economy—from agriculture-based, to manufacturing-based, and then services-based—underpins Malaysia’s development, progress varies between states. This presentation expounded the idea that continuous assessment of regional policies, as well as coherent and sound industrial policies are key to addressing gaps among workers and households in different parts of the country.
Indeed, health outcomes are often due to a mix of social factors including income and work leading to varying life expectancy in different states and notable health inequalities by income and occupation. One of the key takeaways was that given the importance of social factors in determining health outcomes, policies must place greater importance on the social mechanisms underlying the inequitable distribution of health.
The author for each report under the series, namely Adam Manaf Mohamed Firouz, Siti Aiysyah Tumin and Nazihah Muhamad, discussed the findings of the three reports. The Q&A session revolved around many issues, ranging from suggested improvements to working environments, crafting social safety nets as well as policy considerations related to COVID-19.
Part one to the fourth instalment of its flagship publication, The State of Households 2020, was launched in October followed by the second and third in the consecutive months. Titled Welfare in Malaysia Across Three Decades, Work in an Evolving Malaysia and Social Inequalities and Health in Malaysia respectively, each explores various factors that shape the varying conditions of households in the country and the quality of life of the people it comprises of.
Phase 1 of the two-part Implications of the Dominant Shift to Industrial Crops in Malaysian Agriculture report titled System Dynamics Model of The Paddy and Rice Sector was launched on 13th April. This portion of the report that focused on the paddy and rice sector applied the system dynamics methodology to understand the shift in Malaysia’s agricultural crop mix and examine the impact of policy interventions.
Hasanah seeks to influence Malaysia’s civil society ecosystem through leadership or advisory roles in national bodies and/or representation in speaking engagements
Shahira Ahmed Bazari
Managing Director, Yayasan Hasanah
Dr Nur Anuar
Lead, Education, Yayasan Hasanah
Ivy Wong Abdullah
Lead, Environment, Yayasan Hasanah
Lead, Community Development, Yayasan Hasanah
Lead, Arts & Public Spaces, Yayasan Hasanah
Head, Monitoring, Learning & Evaluation and Knowledge
Completed field testing of indicators
Developed communications plan
With the pilot rollout of the Alternate Assessment for Children with Learning Difficulties, (PASM – Pentaksiran Alternat Sekolah Menengah) expected in a dozen secondary schools nationwide in 2021, this year has been all about conceptualisation, design and realisation of instruments for that purpose. The partner is creating a tool to measure students’ abilities within their disabilities, an objective that traditional pen and paper examinations cannot satisfy.
Selected schools in Perlis were first introduced to embedded systems, coding, electronics, mobile apps, AI and various soft skills, after which students showcased their newly gained knowledge in innovation competitions with the ultimate goal of applying technology platforms to identify and solve real life problems in their community.
Economic devastation is possibly one of the most severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, second only to medical-related ones. And for the beneficiaries of Pertubuhan Kesihatan dan Kebajikan Umum Malaysia (PKKUM) comprising of urban poor, jobless, B40, single mothers, senior citizens, the differently-abled and other marginalised communities around Chow Kit, this is a very real problem. So much so that for some, putting food on the table daily was a huge challenge.
In response to this, PKKUM Pusat Bantuan Khidmat Sosial (PBKS) commenced its Food for All street feeding project during the very first MCO. On top of providing daily meals, its second objective was to assist those from B40 communities and whose earnings had been affected by COVID-19.
In July, PKKUM received the Hasanah Special Grant enabling it to provide 330 packs of food—guaranteed nutritious and comes with clean drinking water— for 110 beneficiaries on a daily basis.
“We heard and understood the day-to-day struggles of our beneficiaries when they came reaching out to us. The Food for All project plays a vital role in providing sustenance to the less fortunate, serving as a lifeline for communities in need that would otherwise starve,” explains PKKUM programme manager Myra Hashim on what led to the birth of this initiative.
With HSG assistance also, the organisation was able to expand the types of capacity building classes it offered, which at that time, covered topics such as how to conduct an online business, business registration, marketing and accounting. The organisation’s PBKS Project 2020 saw 20 beneficiaries benefit from monthly workshops and classes on basic business knowledge and management. The aim was to expose them to and equip them with skills suited for new job opportunities.
From an operations perspective, social distancing requirements have had a tremendous effect on the people-centric organisation that PKKUM is, limiting face-to-face interactions with its beneficiaries. But in time, everyday tasks were customised to comply with standard operating procedures and above all, keep everyone safe during a time when adapting is the only way forward.
A huge part of the Global Environment Centre’s (GEC) conservation efforts in the Upper Kinta River Basin (UKB) involves interacting with nearby communities and during the pandemic, they noticed an urgent need for alternative livelihood options. This led to an initiative to empower targeted Orang Asal and peri-urban communities living near the 25,000 hectare UKB—a crucial part of the Central Forest Spine and the primary watershed providing potable water to Ipoh.
Movement Control Orders posed a challenge to those who would typically venture out to sell their products while others employed by nearby quarries and development projects were adversely impacted when work was put on hold. Assistance from HSG was put to good use in response to this situation.
On key takeaways for the year, the GEC cites face-to-face meeting restrictions and lengthy feedback time of government agencies as hurdles that delayed implementation during already uncertain times.
“However, we quickly adapted to the situation and continued capacity building by conducting all meetings virtually, communicating via WhatsApp and mobilising local leaders to action. As many Orang Asal lack phone and internet access, an officer from the Department of Orang Asal Development facilitated communications during the early MCO phase,”
senior programme officer Sathis Venkitasamy explains.
Having overcome all that, the results speak for themselves. 35 families or 139 people in Kampung Makmur recorded increased income from the programme, an indication of GEC’s step in the right direction.
When pandemic-driven movement restrictions orders were enforced, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) was faced with a predicament. Its main source of income—ticketing sales—was lost.
Dr Wong Siew Te, the founder and Chief Executive Officer, explains that said revenue would normally go to cover husbandry cost for 43 rescued ex-captive sun bears that call it home, including an average of RM26,000 per month for their food.
The smallest of its kind and only found in Southeast Asia, the Malayan sun bears are unfortunately threatened by forest degradation, illegal hunting for body parts and poaching of their young for pet trade.
Owing to HSG, the rescue and rehabilitation centre in Sepilok, Sandakan was able to feed 40 bears and three cubs, without further depleting financial reserves that had been dipped into during challenging times.
Not only has the aid been helpful but also echoed the spirit of conservation as Dr Wong explains. “Besides, conservation is not the sole responsibility of the organisation,” he begins by saying. “Collaborations with the government and private agencies are essential to financial sustainability and growth of conservation efforts.”
Indeed, as we share this world with other living beings, we are all custodians in some regard, with organisations such as BSBCC leading the way. In 2008, the wildlife biologist, tropical forest ecologist and sun bear expert, who has been fascinated with animals all his life, founded BSBCC. Six years later, the large forest enclosures that provide a natural environment, facilitating their rehabilitation into the wild, opened its doors to visitors.
Though at the moment, BSBCC’s on-site visits may be temporarily replaced by virtual tours, the spirit and objectives of the centre—the only sun bear conservation facility in the world—is resounding as ever, as they tackle old problems threatening the lives of the species in new, no less challenging times.
One afternoon, Ayu (not her real name) and her three children walked two hours in the scorching heat to the nearest police station. With only RM20 in her pocket, the beatings she endured the night before in the hands of her husband was the final straw. Searching online led her to being referred to the Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) and a social worker stayed in touch with her via phone right up to her lodging a police report, undergoing medical check-up and approved for interstate travel so that she and her children no longer had to be at the mercy of an abusive husband and father.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident.
Between March and May 2020, the WCC saw a near doubling of child sexual abuse (CSA) cases. Instances of domestic violence (DV) recorded an alarming increase too, making up 80 out of the 238 new cases handled.
The World Health Organisation attributed an increased likelihood of physical, psychological and sexual abuse at home (particularly children already living in violent or dysfunctional family situations) to ‘movement restrictions, loss of income, isolation, overcrowding and high levels of stress and anxiety’.
While dealing with escalating instances of CSA and DV, social distancing meant cancelling WCC’s major 35th anniversary fundraiser and budget reviews alongside a steep learning curve of operating remotely, all at once. As an organisation dependent on public donations to sustain work, it was badly affected monetarily and HSG assistance couldn’t have come at a better time.
According to WCC Executive Director Loh Cheng Kooi, the funding was well-utilised for a wide range of efforts, namely providing critical counselling for women and children, launching two online storybooks (Lisa and her Secret and Yusri and his Secret) aimed at children and teachers, ten awareness-driven webinars and 40 e-posters in BM, English, Chinese and Tamil as well as capacitating staff in handling and advocating cases in line with the new norm that included working from home with extended hotline hours.
That said, the organisation has reinvented itself and emerged stronger. “In every crisis, lies an opportunity. HSG enabled us to transform our physical work seamlessly into the virtual world; and the results were resounding, way beyond our expectations,” says Loh summing up the key takeaway from 2020.
For 32 years, Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation National Centre (KDSF-NC) has provided its Early Intervention Programme for children with Down syndrome, from the age of two months to six years. It involves therapy, exercises and activities designed to address developmental delays. Students pay a heavily subsidised, minimal-fee and further deductions are available for those from low-income families.
When COVID-19 hit, the centre had to close and its 34 students could no longer benefit from the sessions. Teachers and therapists had to upskill almost as quickly as decisions were being made. Hence, the KDSF Re-adapted Early Intervention Programme was born.
Concerning funding, public donations dwindled tremendously and all fundraising events came to a halt as most—such as the Annual Charity Funfair—involved large crowd attendance. Seeing that it depended solely on public donations to sustain operations and programmes, Heng says that HSG helped maintain the full teaching team, upgrade internet infrastructure and technology equipment.
“As a non-profit, we have always been prudent in our spending and preferred traditional teaching materials over investing in technology,”
KDSF–NC Executive Director Angie Heng explains, citing realising the importance of the latter as one of the organisations key learnings for 2020. Luckily, some of the teachers utilised their personal laptops, reducing the cost of procuring more devices.
Some other challenges were parents struggling to guide children through classes, giving up easily or lacking computer savviness. Teaching tools had to be improvised to suit what parents could find at home and therapists shouldered an additional role of guiding parents during activities.
“Some parents are receptive to this new way of education but do not have enough gadgets to utilise among their school-going children. It would usually be our students that have to give way to (for example) their older siblings who attend typical schools or require it for exams,” Heng observes.
Besides insufficient gadgets and poor internet connection, having parents watch over their shoulders throughout lessons and being unable to access teaching resources at the centre during restricted movement orders were but some of the hurdles. This experience brought to light the need to pay attention to the mental health of the facilitators.
On the bright side, having to convert to e-learning revealed the possibility of reaching students outside urban areas, rendering it a year of learning and re-learning for the organisation and its students alike.