Sat, 9 Dec 2023



Kenyan woman's Unduk Ngadau experience in prison
Published on: Sunday, May 14, 2023
By: Agust Dean and Aishah Abdullah
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Some of the inmates who took part in the Unduk Ngadau competition at the KK Women’s Prison in a group photo with officers.
DONNING a Dusun Lotud traditional garb and waving her hands like an Unduk Ngadau was an unforgettable experience for a 33-year-old Kenyan who is currently imprisoned for drug trafficking. 

After being arrested at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport in 2011, Priscilla (not her real name) spent her entire 20s in the Kota Kinabalu Women’s Prisons. 

Serving her sentence in prison enabled her to gradually absorb the customs of Sabah society via mentors and other inmates. 

“In fact, when I first participated in the Unduk Ngadau competition at the Women’s Prison, I was crowned Tati Tosuau (Miss Friendly).

“I became fluent in Bahasa Malaysia in 2016 because I socialise with the local inmates,” she said when met during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri cum Kaamatan Festival held at the Kota Kinabalu Women’s Prison, recently. 

She will be sent back to Kenya once she completes her sentence in Jan 13, 2025.

Even though she just learned about Sabah in prison, she said the experience and culture would be unforgettable for her.

“If I could go back in time, I would not trust anyone, including childhood friends,” Priscilla said, recalling the day she got caught with a friend’s syabu in her luggage. 

“My friend and her mother disappeared after I was detained by enforcement officers upon my arrival at KKIA 12 years ago,” she said. 

Ardel, 25, from Ranau, who is in jail for drug abuse and having syabu in her possession, also shared her experience participating in the prisons Unduk Ngadau competition. 

“I’d never competed in an Unduk Ngadau competition before. 

“For me, this is an unforgettable experience,” she said. 

“I learned to be graceful and to wear wigs. I didn’t expect to be named winner,” she said. 

Ardel, an orphan, said she began using drugs when she was 12 and her addiction worsened when she was 19. 

She said that while in prison, she learned to pray, recite, and memorise the Quran. 

She intends to avoid friends who are still addicted to drugs once she is freed in November 2025 and wants to start over. 

Present were Yayasan Kebajikan Suria Executive Chairperson Datin Seri Raya Erom and Kota Kinabalu Women’s Prison Director Kesumawati Ilas.

Meanwhile, the gallows sentence received by a prisoner known as Yaya, 31, four years ago, has not stopped her from appealing against the sentence.

Yaya, who is currently serving her sentence in the Kota Kinabalu Women’s Prison for the offence under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 for trafficking 5kg syabu, accepted the decision. 

“I was sent here on March 14, 2019 after being arrested at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) and convicted for trafficking the drug.

“At that time I knew the item I was carrying was syabu. Upon arriving at KKIA, I was arrested and now serving sentence because of my mistake,” she said when met at the prison in Kapayan, here, recently.

Yaya with her family during the recent Hari Raya programme at the KK Women’s Prison. 

Yaya, who previously worked as a graphic designer, regretted her decision.

“But I am grateful because I learned many things here, especially on religious knowledge. 

“In the past, when I was outside, I rarely prayed and did not delve into religious knowledge.

“I also lead congregational prayers with other residents. In fact, I also learned to recite and memorise the Quran,” she said.

Yaya was also given the opportunity to meet her family members at the Hari Raya Aidilfitri programme which was held recently.

“This time, my mother and sister came to meet me to celebrate the Aidilfitri together.

“For me, this is the time I’ve been waiting for – to meet family members. If possible, I want to go home with them, but I can’t,” said Yaya.


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