Sarawak and Sabah are situated on the island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world north of the Equator. Sarawak is known for its rugged, dense rainforest and Sabah is famed for its 4,095-metre-tall Mount Kinabalu. The indigenous people living in Malaysian Borneo face threats from climate change, deforestation, mining and continuous logging which is polluting the air and valuable sources of drinking water and threatening the rich biodiversity of the area.
Women and girls living in the rural village of Long Tanyit in the Belaga District of Sarawak are particularly vulnerable. An eight-hour drive inland along logging tracks from the coastal town of Bintulu, the village has no clean water, no electricity, no sanitation and no medical clinic. Furthermore, there is a culture of male dominance. Soroptimist International Damansara (SID) is active in Sarawak through its work with the Penan community, and in Sabah, with the Orang Asal Community. The club has provided ‘Work Readiness’ programmes to young people in Long Tanyit and a group of 35 from the village have successfully graduated with a Malaysian Skills Certificate in welding and are now inspired to create a sustainable future for themselves and their community.
Recognising the opportunity to support growth whilst empowering women and girls, SID responded to the call and with the support of SIROM (comprising of Soroptimist clubs within the region of Malaysia), proposed a project with the people of Long Tanyit, for funding from the Women, Water and Leadership Appeal.
SI is delighted to announce that the progressive project is now confirmed and will be spearheaded by the SIROM President and supported by a committee, made up of representatives from six Malaysian SI clubs, including Damansara, Bangsar, Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. Phase One will begin in Long Tanyit, Sarawak and when successful, the model will be replicated in Sabah. Representatives will be given specific roles, such as monitoring and data collection, finance, logistics and publicity, and they will work closely with the community and the Village Headman, and in partnership with organisations including Master Weld Academy. The Penan villagers of Long Tanyit will be the owners of this transformative project, and their vested interest will help to ensure its sustainability.
Implementing Sustainable Development Goals 4, 5 and 6, women will be empowered to earn their own incomes, and taught how to fully utilise the current land to feed themselves and their families. Of urgent need is a clean and safe drinking water system, which will be developed through rainwater harvesting, and the existing dam will undergo strengthening, with new pipes installed, so the water can be fed directly to the village, and used for drinking, sanitation and to grow vegetables in the gardens. To ensure a steady supply of water to cover drought in the dry season, collection and storage tanks will be set up.
Education is of key importance, and the women and girls of the villages will be trained to become organic farmers. They will learn how to use the rainwater harvesting system and be responsible for maintaining the water and organic farming irrigation systems and subsequently, by playing a role in the management of the project, will attain positions of leadership within their community. Furthermore, the young women welders within the group will be upskilled to become welding inspectors, again supporting the move into leadership for the women and girls of Long Tanyit.
SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen says: “This project is very exciting and a wonderful partnership between Soroptimists and local people. Diarrhoea is still one of the leading causes of death in under-fives due directly to unsafe water – and through the provision of clean water, the project will undoubtedly improve the health of the community. The educational programme is based on the needs of the local people and the opportunities that may be available to them. Organic farming brings food security and economic empowerment and by upskilling women and girls, we are responding to the shortage of skilled labour in Sarawak and helping to advance women and girls’ capacity for economic development and empowerment. We wish all involved the very best of success”.
To make a donation to the Women, Water and Leadership President’s Appeal 2017-2019 and support the women and girls in Long Tanyit and other WWL projects, please do so through your own Federation.
For further information please email Hafdís Karlsdóttir at email@example.com