A mini grants program promotes equality and prevents gender-based violence in Malaysia

Geneva, 1 July 2015 - A number of events and activities aimed at preventing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) within the Burmese refugee communities were recently organized by ICMC Malaysia.

Through the mini grants program, small allowances are offered to refugee community organizations in order to actualize projects and community-based solutions to SGBV. ICMC reviews and selects grant recipients with the aim of raising awareness on this issue and providing assistance to women and children from refugee minorities who suffered violence and abuse.

The “Awareness Through Art” competition, organized by ICMC MalaysiaA young student works on her drawing during the “Awareness Through Art” competition. Photo credit: ICMC / Melanianne Yeoh Awarded throughout the year, the mini grants have allowed the organization a wide range of activities and workshops involving the local communities. At the end of April, ICMC held its first drawing competition, “Awareness Through Art”, in collaboration with the Spring Learning Center in Penang. More than 60 children of the Rohingya and Muslim refugee groups, from 5 to 16 years of age, were asked to express the themes of “Respect” or “Staying Safe” with oil pastels. The competition turned out to be a thrilling experience for the young participants: as the local school cannot provide art classes – the teachers explained – most children had never used a pastel before, nor had they ever received an award for their work.

The drawings were evaluated by an artist and two external teachers. The children showed great enthusiasm when the winners were announced, a few days later, during a prize-giving ceremony: they received school bags, stationary, books and encyclopaedias. More importantly, the competition became an occasion to reflect on the risks of sexual violence and how to avoid them. “As we were preparing them for the competition, we had to explain about respect and staying safe and also asked them about their ideas”, said Tin Tin, one of the teachers. “The whole event was fun. But, more importantly, they have learnt something”.

On another occasion, a mini grant awarded to the Rohingya Society in Malaysia, Penang (RSMP) made possible the organization of the “Rohingya Community Family Day”, which took place on 7 June. In order to address the divisions within the community and the lack of awareness about the extremely negative impact of violence, RSMP proposed to organize a day of games and communal activities to promote unity and mutual respect between men and women.

By the end of the day, 18 families had attended the event: the adults participated in a SGBV workshop, while the children’s activities allowed them to learn about personal safety. The families also had to invent slogans on combating SGBV, took pictures together in a photo booth and participated in a number of games. In the “Knowing Me Knowing You” game, for instance, couples were asked questions about each other so to improve understanding between husband and wife and to encourage mutual respect. “That day was a very happy day”, a father of two told ICMC’s staff. “I enjoyed being with my family. I have never been anywhere with my wife before.”

ICMC Malaysia is extremely active in preventing SGBV and supporting women and children who experienced violence. Adopting a community-based model, ICMC provides assistance to the Burmese refugee communities of Kuala Lumpur, the Klang Valley and Penang. In 2010, ICMC created the Refugee Women’s Protection Corps (RWPC), a group of trained Burmese volunteers who offer peer counselling and assistance to SGBV victims.

The ICMC mini grants program is part of a number of protection activities aimed at preventing and responding to SGBV in Malaysia, funded by the United States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM).