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The Unwavering Spirit of Orang Asli Women: Empowering Communities in Malaysia

 On the heels of the recent Merdeka and Malaysia Day celebrations, we seize the moment to redirect our focus towards the frequently overlooked heroes within the Orang Asli communities. Against the backdrop of rapid development and progress, these resilient women stand tall as the unyielding pillars for their families.

The Orang Asli communities hold an indelible place in Malaysia's rich cultural tapestry, deserving a prominent role in our nation's vision of progress and multiculturalism. While Malaysia's urban landscape undergoes impressive transformations, it is paramount that we do not lose sight of the vital importance of social inclusion and empowerment, particularly for the Orang Asli communities.

To this day, the Orang Asli community grapples with socio-economic disparities, with many still lacking access to fundamental services, including education and economic opportunities. The challenge we face lies in ensuring that development extends its benefits to all segments of society, including indigenous communities, paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable future.

One powerful avenue to bridge the gap and uplift the underprivileged women within the Orang Asli communities is by providing them with access to meaningful employment. One such social enterprise leading the charge is The Asli Co., established in 2019 with a mission to offer Orang Asli women opportunities to create and sell products such as face masks, soaps, lavender eye pillows and hand sanitisers and more. This not only allows them to earn a living and support their families but also secures their children’s access to education. 

Currently, The Asli Co. collaborates with over 60 mothers from the Orang Asli communities and has disbursed over RM1.5 million to cover raw materials, equipment, and wages. This initiative serves as an avenue for the Orang Asli mothers to upskill and strive for a better life for themselves and their families. 

Rosnina binti Roslan - Stitching a Brighter Future

Meet Nina, a resilient mother of three hailing from Kampung Orang Asli Serendah, of the Temuan tribe. Nina’s journey with The Asli Co. began when her sister, Zulaika, joined The Asli Co.’s sewing workshop in 2020 and encouraged her to participate as well. This decision marked the beginning of a remarkable transformation in Nina's life, as she ventured into the world of sewing and self-discovery.

Today, Nina is a skilled artisan, meticulously crafting Lavender Eye Pillows, Tummy Pillows, Scrunchies, and Fabric Face Masks. Her journey not only involved acquiring the art of sewing using a machine but also witnessed her remarkable growth in self-confidence, allowing her to comfortably interact with people beyond her village. 

Nina's face lights up when she talks about her work. "I'm very happy that I'm now very skilled at sewing these products," she beams. The flexible working hours allow her to balance her responsibilities as a mother of three young children, all under the age of five. "Mostly, I'm very glad I'm able to help with my family's expenses by earning a good income. The flexible working arrangement is great."

Nina's story stands as a testament to the life-altering impact of offering meaningful employment and upskilling opportunities to women within the Orang Asli communities. As she stitches for a brighter future, she not only supports her family but also embodies the potential within every Orang Asli woman.

Noremely binti Angah - From Soap Crafting to Financial Independence

Noremely, from Kampung Orang Asli Desa Temuan, is a remarkable soap artisan at The Asli Co. Before joining The Asli Co., Noremely and her family often faced hardships. She recalls, "Sometimes, in the middle of the month, if there was no extra money, we would only eat vegetables grown in the backyard. There were also times where I was unable to provide an allowance for the children so I would prepare biscuits or bread for them to bring to school instead.”

The presence of The Asli Co. has brought significant positive changes to Noremely's life. Now, she is able to earn a stable income for her family, ensuring there is enough food on the table and school expenses can also be increased slightly. "I am happy that with The Asli Co., I can also help my husband generate income to pay bills and buy daily household needs."

As a mother, Noremely is proud that she can now provide for the needs and desires of her children. Her journey also serves as an inspiration to other Orang Asli mothers, showing them the way to improve their family's standard of living through meaningful employment and economic empowerment.

These stories of transformation reveal how women who once grappled with financial hardships have now emerged as empowered entrepreneurs. They are not only making significant contributions to their households but also nurturing a profound sense of pride and self-sufficiency. These remarkable individuals have embarked on a journey that allows them to provide their families with a better quality of life and ensure their children receive the education they rightfully deserve. Their success has a positive effect that goes well beyond their homes, making communities better and proving that lasting change is possible.