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Celebrating life of Tambunan women
Published on: Sunday, March 07, 2021
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Chin displaying copies of “Not My Mother’s Path”.
Kota Kinabalu: The Good Shepherd Services (GSS) is launching a coffee table book entitled “Not My Mother’s Path” in conjunction with International Women’s Day (IWD) on Monday.

It represents the collective strength of Tambunan’s daughters, mainly farmers, wives and mothers in voicing social concerns such as abuse and domestic violence and striving for economic empowerment.

GSS Executive Director Chin Poh Choo said 200 copies of the 44-page book published by GSS have been printed initially.

It embraces the association’s unique project experience in Tambunan from April 2017 to March 2020 specifically on the “Protection and Empowerment of the Girl-Child against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Tambunan.

The three-year project by GSS saw the development of a network dubbed “Women Support Group” (WSG), the formation of the Women’s Support Group Enterprise (WSGE) and the establishment of two interim shelters to support women and children experiencing abuse in their communities.

“The book marks a celebration of the life of the women in Tambunan. It sheds light on GSS’ efforts to break the cycle of gender inequality and represents the change process experienced by rural womenfolk in Tambunan,” said Chin who mooted the idea of documenting the stories of Tambunan women and members of the community. 

“I am of the conviction that rural indigenous women can also be empowered mentally, socially and economically towards having the courage to speak up on critical issues and achieving financial independence ultimately, like their urban counterparts.

“Through the Women Support Group, we have offered the people an appropriate platform for their voices to be heard and possible solutions to be sought for social problems encountered by the women and children.

“It is a matter of community engagement whereby we (GSS) are giving the women and youth an opportunity to voice out the issue of SGBV prevailing in Tambunan.

“I hope this book (on the stories of real-life people) will inspire women in other communities to be empowered too, and thus raise issues affecting themselves and community members.” The authors are volunteers Arthur Lee and Jason Lim.

On the WSGE, Chin said the economic initiative involves ginger cultivation for the production of specific products like ginger powder, ginger flakes and ginger floss. 

“As a collective entity, WSGE operates by clusters. There are five clusters in Tambunan with each cluster covering two to four villages. Membership in each cluster ranges from six to 14, depending on the size of each village.”

 According to her, four main ginger-based products are currently being marketed by Shopee Mart, namely ginger powder, ginger flakes, wild ginger floss (serunding tuhau) and ginger floss (serunding halia).

In her acknowledgement, Chin thanked all key stakeholders, including the Tambunan District Office and relevant government agencies, for having supported and contributed to the success of the GSS’ cause.

Interestingly, Tambunan District Officer Jumain Abdul Ghani now heads the district-level council against SGBV.

Credit is also given to former Tambunan District Officer Thomas Logijin who had paved the way for GSS’ entry into Tambunan for the project at the outset.

“Protection and Empowerment of the Girl-Child against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Tambunan” , which is GSS’ first district-wide community-based project, is supported by Yayasan Hasanah, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Foundation of Khazanah Nasional. 

 In the foreword, Yayasan Hasanah Managing Director Shahira Ahmed Bazari said Hasanah’s partnership with GSS began in 2017.

“I am proud of what GSS and especially the people of Tambunan have achieved. All the struggles and wins are encapsulated in this book in the form of stories from the community.

“We have witnessed throughout the partnership that the women in Tambunan are visibly committed to improve their lives and those of their communities by taking ownership of their aspirations and taking leadership roles.

“I would like to congratulate GSS and the people of Tambunan for making this happen. These stories are more than just stories. They are a living documentation of the power of change when communities work together with one focus, drive and inclusive participation.”

Shahira is impressed that GSS has expanded the project from six villages in  2017 to 18 villages today in seven mukim to build safer communities, saying the community-run programmes are empowering the people to uphold human rights and to make a sustained difference independently.

Confirming this, Chin said to date, the Women Support Group (WSG) has been formed in each of the 18 villages with the aim of hitting the 36 mark by April this year. 

“At the rate we are going, we anticipate that we will have a WSG set up in all the 88 villages in Tambunan by Year 2024 so that as a collective force, women in the district can organise, mobilise and advocate for a more equal future,” she asserted, adding that WSG is pivotal to ensuring the continued enhancement of community protection and advocacy for gender equality in Tambunan.” 

Chairperson of the Women Support Group (WSG) Tambunan Working Committee, Felicia Onsodon, who is from Kg Narayat, said:

“My first wish for the Women Support Group is to spread awareness of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) within the community. There is a longstanding culture of silence and avoidance, and it needs to change.

“Beyond spreading awareness, a significant accomplishment of the women on ground has been the awakening of a cultural shift towards the reporting of instances of abuse.”

In the chapter “On our own two feet”, the author says that the Tambunan Ginger Project under the Women’s Support Group Enterprise (WSGE) is a self-sustaining agronomic model that allows women the opportunity to improve their living conditions and to reduce the level of financial dependency, without having to rely solely on their husbands.

“I am very grateful to GSS for their efforts. Not only have they created awareness about the issues surrounding SGBV but they have also given us the opportunity to provide for ourselves and to empower our community economically,” Chairperson of the WSGE Tambunan, Rosa Payak, a mother of 11, said.



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