In May 2018, Malaysia saw a new beginning : a new political coalition party, Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), took over Malaysia for the first time since independence from the British in 1957. Overnight, the political tsunami in Malaysia became a hallmark of democracy across the country and the region.
As with any new situation, democracy can continue to flourish, and influence the region, or, it can start to take another shape, and slowly decline, and fade away. In recognizing the possibility of Malaysia’s revert to dictatorship and draconian laws, USAID launched Malaysia Reform Initiative (MARI) project to support and promote civil society organisations that are pushing for political and democratic reforms.
TechSoup was called in to design and conduct a pilot training for organisations working across political and democratic reforms. Working with Kitabisa, TechSoup led the design of a series of training modules for the participants, split into basic and intermediate knowledge levels.
The training modules were designed to help NGOs and organisations understand their target audiences, design more effective messaging, relevant content including the use of GIFs, memes and videos, as well as understanding basic social media insights in order to design campaigns that resonated with their intended audiences.
To help the NGOs identify and prioritise their needs, TechSoup facilitated a Mapping Your Action Plan session, where NGOs were grouped according to focus areas and sectors.
Each group listed their organisational challenges, ranked the priority of each challenge, according to the level of urgency. Finally, they mapped the challenge to the level of technology required.
The combined result is shown below:
To increase exposure to industry practitioners, TechSoup also curated an Open Marketplace, where industry-level experts in various fields came to share their knowledge, tips and techniques. This included experts from data analytics, digital content in advocacy, Google suite, grants and fundraising, and photography. TechSoup’s partner Yayasan Salam was also on-site to provide much-needed support and understanding of TechSoup Malaysia’s updated eligibility criteria.
By empowering the NGOs through this training, the end goal is for them to be more confident in using these tools independently, and ultimately, for them to create the social change that Malaysia needs.
Human trafficking, also known as modern slavery or forced labour, affects more than 40 million around the world. As the world’s 3rd fastest form of organized crime, worth an estimated USD150 billion dollar industry, it is easy to see the financial incentive to lure victims into forced labor. Every aspect of this crime is a business – from recruiting, transporting, organizing to monitoring and ensuring the forced labor continues.
Mirroring the stages of the traffickers, the non-profit sector working to combat this issue can briefly be categorized by their main objectives – awareness, prevention, advocacy, enforcement, shelter and resettlement. Although separate in their direction and functional objectives, these NGOs are dedicated in working towards one goal: to end modern slavery.
However, without the right tools, the majority of the non-profit sector working against the crime fall behind the sophisticated techniques used by the traffickers. Without using digitally secure networks, without knowing how to navigate cyberspace without leaving their digital footprints, without using the right communication techniques to speak to their target audience, much of their physical and digital safety is compromised, not to mention their hard work gone to waste.
Over the last few months from August to October, TechSoup conducted a series of workshops for the anti-human trafficking sector. Most participants were Malaysian based NGOs, a handful were unions and organizations set up to address the forced migrant labor issue. The training topics spanned from data visualization, digital security, communication tools, social media insights, fundraising, and even basic photography. The event culminated in an NGO Incubator Pitch, modeled after the “Shark Tank” pitches.
Each participating NGO had 10 mins to pitch their case. Their presentation started with the tech tools used to design and execute a short social media campaign of their choice; an honest sharing of their challenges and successes; and finally, the pitch: why should TechSoup and Yayasan Salam incubate and grow them?
The grand prize, worth USD1,700, comprised a customized training plan, 1-1 support, fundraising service support, mentoring with NGO start-ups, licensed software and a tech gadget of choice.
The winner of the NGO Incubator Pitch was Ziaur Rahman, a Rohingya refugee and a human trafficking victim who has been sold 7 times in his life. Since arriving in Malaysia, and obtaining his UNHCR status, Ziaur has campaigned tirelessly on violence against Rohingyas. The panel of judges were impressed with his ability to demonstrate clearly his goals, his vision for the road ahead, and mostly, that he was able to articulate how this incubation was important in ending modern slavery.
Second prize winner was Tenaganita who received a prize value of USD800, which includes customized training, licensed software and 1-1 support. Honorary mention that won a prize value of USD300 was Friends of Women Organisation, Selangor (Persatuan Sabahat Wanita, Selangor).
The winners will be incubated from November 2018 to April 2019. During this period, the winning NGOs will receive additional resources, support and help for them to campaign more effectively against human trafficking.
The project is funded by the U.S Embassy of Malaysia, and carried out in partnership with Yayasan Salam Malaysia. For more information on the project, please contact Elizabeth Liew at email@example.com
Working towards social transformation is never a straight road. The painstaking effort undertaken by all actors at various levels of governance such as the policy-making, enforcement and grassroot levels must work as a cohesive unit to truly tackle the issue of human trafficking in order to effectively eradicate what we now understand to be modern slavery.
This series incorporates classroom style learning of theory and hands-on practice, post-workshop support for participants, ultimately culminating with an NGO Incubator Pitch where the winner will not only receive a tech gadget to help them with their work, but also the much envied opportunity to develop one’s tech capacity through means and platforms provided by TechSoup for a period of one year!
All eligible NGOs will be competing to showcase how they have applied what they have learnt from the workshops – from data visualisation, graphic design skills and video making tools – to help them address gaps and deficits in their campaigns and lobbying efforts.
The NGO Incubator Pitch is an opportunity for NGOs to become more effective whether it is engaging with victims of human trafficking or to create awareness in order to develop better infrastructure for victims of human trafficking.
As a 100% born and bred Malaysian, I love my country. I am proud of our history, our people, our cultural heritage and incredible diversity through every imaginable aspect. While I can stand proud for (most) things “Made in Malaysia”, happily chant our “Malaysia Boleh! (Malaysia Can!)”slogan and our latest “Salam Malaysia Baru (Happy New Malaysia)” greeting, I am certainly not proud of this: Malaysia sitting in the bottom half of the World Press Freedom Index 2018 (144 out of 180 countries).
As a Journalism Major, I recall a media law research paper I wrote about the Internal Security Act 1960. The research that I discovered was horrifying, grotesque and beyond comprehension for a young adult : the Act allowed police to detain suspects up to 60 days in jail, without the right to trial, and subject these individuals to humiliation and torture, both emotional, mental and physical. Prisoners were those posing a ‘threat to national security’ – activists, journalists, student leaders, religious groups. In essence, ‘rebels’ and anyone who expressed a different train of thought to the ruling party. And in the mid 90’s, when the Internet was first introduced in Malaysia, another act was written up : the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998.
Just before the General Elections earlier this year, another Act was born. On 11 April 2018, the previous Malaysian administration led by former Prime Minister Najib Razak, gazetted the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 where offenders charged with spreading “news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false” including features, visuals and audio recordings, both on digital and print media, could be fined up to MYR500,000 (USD130,000) or jailed up to 6 years.
During my six-week YSEALI fellowship in USA in April through May 2018, I was fortunate and grateful to experience first-hand freedom of expression with Americans – at Metro stations, waiting in line at stores, dinner parties, street parades, and my favorite place in D.C – the President’s Park aka Lafayette Park in front of the White House. Albeit rather skewed political viewpoints (due to the geographical location I was in), it was still inspiring to see people exercise the First Amendment in many forms.
Through all this, one thing is apparent: while Malaysia may be ridiculed for our endless list of draconian laws, and shrinking civic spaces, all is not lost. The emergence of such laws have spurred Malaysian human rights groups such as SUARAM to host multi-stakeholder meetings, in hopes of developing practical recommendations and alternative policies, to the current legislations related to online expression and digital rights.
SUARAM recently organised a one-day consultative workshop, convening civil rights groups, lawyers, cyber law specialists, political activists, tech giant corporations affected by digital rights and the Anti-Fake News Law 2018. Panelists spoke about possibilities of self-regulatory models in social media channels, the challenges of defining fake news, and potential ways for citizens and media to fight the fake news law, should it continue to exist in this new administration.
In the days ahead, the new administration has an uphill battle to fight. Sixty years of a corrupted regime cannot be erased in the first 100 days of a new administration. The list of reforms is endless – empowering the indigenous groups (the poorest in the country), reducing the rural-urban divide, setting up an independent judiciary, repealing the censorship laws and amending the relevant ones instead of allowing it to be a blanket curb for freedom of expression. It is heartening to see the new government supporting the human rights sector, sitting in meetings and being available for discussions. It is always hard, but the first step is acknowledging the reforms and the need for them to be addressed immediately.
For many, these open dialogues may not mean anything. After all, talk is cheap. But to us Malaysians, these dialogues represent hope, no matter how tiny. And it is this tiny flicker of hope that will someday lead us to Internet freedom in Malaysia.
 In 2012, the Internal Security Act 1960 was replaced by the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012. Despite the claim by former Prime Minister Najib Razak that the ISA would be replaced by a law to reflect a modern democracy, the SOSMA has seen a long string of arrests including civil rights activists Maria Chin Abdullah in 2016.
Yayasan Salam Malaysia is a nonprofit organization that promotes the spirit of volunteerism among Malaysians, providing opportunities for individuals to volunteer in communities, both locally and internationally. In recent years, Yayasan Salam has embarked on several community projects from women empowerment, ICT for rural youth, to education for indigenous groups in Malaysia.