“They (Orang Asli) also maintain a strong spiritual and historical connection to their land and if they are displaced from their homeland, the loss of this connection has negative implications for their identities and social and mental well-being.“
– Alberto Gomes, anthropologist

Initiatives

Amplifying the Voices of Young Orang Asli Women

Initiatives

This project Amplifying the Voices of Young Orang Asli Women is a collaboration with young Orang Asli women from various tribes in Malaysia. It aims to amplify their voices through storytelling as they articulate their lived realities and demand for equality and rights for their community.

Through a unique participatory and creative production process, the young women tell stories of the Orang Asli identity, their community’s struggles and their vision for a better future. By telling their stories and participating in its creative process, the Orang Asli young women have been empowered to rise up for equality. They are claiming more spaces for discourse to give visibility to their community, thereby enriching our narrative on nationhood and inspiring more young women from their community to speak out and share their stories.

This collaboration was initiated though a series of engagement programmes through film bootcamps, human right and gender workshops and story labs over the course of three years from 2018-2020. The three-year collaboration with the young Orang Asli women resulted in two successful film productions, a book publication and a public performance.

Engagement Programs
Filming workshops in the village, 2020

Two intensive workshops of 8-10 days each were conducted in a Temiar village in Pos Ber, Kelantan; and a Semai village in Kampung Chang and Kampung Lapan, Perak, in September and October 2020.

Sixteen young Orang Asli women had the opportunity to develop a wider perspective of indigenous rights and identity through knowledge-sharing sessions with community elders. They reflected on the stories of their community’s struggles and resilience and passionately expressed their hopes for change on-screen. A series of hands-on exercises on filmmaking followed whereupon each participant was then partnered with a mentor in key areas of directing, camera, sound, production design and documentation and set out to create their own short films.

Impact

Confident voice: The women developed self-confidence, teamwork and leadership skills by taking part directly in the creative process of the film production.
United voice: The knowledge-sharing sessions with community elders and filming activities built solidarity among the women and impressed on them the importance of indigenous rights.
Resilient voice: A few of the women are now creating content for their YouTube channels to express their views and to counter gender stereotypes and social norms that discriminate against their community.

Program Outcome

Film Production in 2020
A participatory film project with young Orang Asli women which is making their premiere in this year’s FreedomFilmFest2020.

Selai Kayu Yek | Roots Of My Land
Aleh, a young Orang Asli woman, struggles to find support from her village when her family’s ancestral land is encroached. In fear of losing her land that she also uses to grow ubi kayu, she seeks out famous Orang Asli YouTuber Rien to expose and share her story. But Rien refuses at first as she believes that their community should pursue a better life in the city instead of farming on their land. Aleh and Rien eventually realise that they share similar struggles because of their identity. Together, they find their voice and speak out.

Engagement Programs

Story Labs, 2020

The Story Labs sessions took place in Petaling Jaya over 2-3 days each in January, March and August 2020.

Twelve young Orang Asli women identified their story theme as “Apa Kata Belia Wanita Orang Asli” in hopes of sharing stories about their identity, traditional knowledge and history. They explored the story theme by documenting their history and culture through interviews and photography in their villages. They then created narratives on what mattered most to them in their short films using a collaborative storytelling approach, with guidance from storytelling lab facilitators.

Impact

 Compelling storytellers: The women used their newfound skills in data collection, interviewing and basic photography to develop their stories.
Changemakers: The women took ownership of the process in self-reflection, research and narrative development for their films.

Program Outcome

Film Production in 2020
A participatory film project with young Orang Asli women which is making their premiere in this year’s FreedomFilmFest2020.

Klinik Ku Hutan | The Forest, My Clinic
Deep in a forest in Perak, two young Orang Asli women from the city named Nget and Abong are enjoying the beauty and calmness of nature. But their enjoyment quickly turned into despair when Abong suddenly falls gravely ill. In their quest for healing, they discover their elders’ knowledge in the medicinal properties of herbs and their deep spiritual and physical ties with the forest. They experience true healing when they finally reconnect with their traditional values and identity.

Engagement Programs

Human rights, gender and media workshop, 2019

This 3-day session workshop took place in December 2019 in Kuala Lumpur

Twenty-seven Orang Asli youth, specifically young women, learnt about human rights-based approach and how they could use film as a tool to speak out, engage and advocate for their rights. There were also sessions on gender to help them understand the gendered elements of their experiences. A few of them took up roles as leaders in this national-level workshop.

Impact

Rise up for change: The women are actively seeking for a role to contribute to their community as they recognise themselves as agents of social change.
Rise up for justice: The women will collaboratively produce their own short films to reach and educate others on their lived realities.

Program Outcome

Book Project
Kami Pun Ada Hak Bersekolah: Wanita Orang Asli Bersuara, 2019

The book Kami Pun Ada Hak Bersekolah: Wanita Orang Asli Bersuara is a compilation of personal stories, written by young Orang Asli women. The stories bear witness to the lived realities of the women in the area of education such as bullying in school, limited access to education, and lack of proper infrastructure. Some stories also celebrate the tenacity and perseverance of these women in the midst of challenges.

Engagement Programs

Workshop on storytelling, 2018

The Storytelling workshop was held over five days in October 2018.

Nineteen young Orang Asli women documented their personal experiences on education and learning. Using theatre as a strategy for community empowerment, they organised their experiences into stories and presented them through creative expressions. Their personal perspectives of cultural values, beliefs and knowledge were included in their stories, with some presented in their own language. This workshop included the participation of community leaders as mentors.

Impact

Power in the stories: As the women verbally and creatively expressed their struggles and experiences in their stories, they gained confidence and shared their vision for equality.
Power in content creation: As the women collaboratively presented their stories through drama, song, dance and shadow play, they discovered a new opportunity for self-expression, cultural regeneration and advocacy.

This initiative was made possible thanks to our wonderful partners

Program Outcome

Creative Performance – Belia Wanita Bersuara, 2018
The performance Belia Wanita Bersuara is a participatory, multi-art project that showcases the stories of the lived experiences of discrimination, poverty and access to education from young Orang Asli women. Performed by the women themselves, these stories document their seldom-heard-of voices as a tool for advocacy.

Young Orang Asli Women Speak Out’ mini performances

The Orang Asli Women’s Journey

Rise Up: If Not Us, Then Who?

Sherry Tan, a spunky 21-year-old from the Jakun tribe in Malaysia, went live on YouTube for the first time in November last year.

“I was nervous and happy at the same time to be able to carry the voices of young Orang Asli women,” she recalls. “I want my community to be brave and emotional like me, and fight for the rights of the Orang Asli.”

Sherry was a panellist for a recent webinar on indigenous women in film which was held on YouTube Live, together with two fellow participants from the Amplifying Voices of the Young Orang Asli Women programme, Yaliyana Lenab and Maranisnie Mohsin.

Collectively these young women are rising up to claim more spaces for discourse in order to give visibility to their community.

Brave, New Step

“The youth must have a sense of responsibility to work together to defend our ancestral land.” – Maranisnie Mohsin

If others can do it, why not me?
Yaliyana, more affectionately known as Yana, is proud that she and her friends from the programme are now speaking out on public platforms. The gutsy 28-year-old from the Semelai tribe hopes to encourage her community to speak out on their rights and put an end to discrimination against them.

Her journey towards championing the rights of her community started just over a year ago, when she was asked to be a facilitator at a workshop in the programme.

At that time, she felt she lacked confidence to speak in public, but then she thought to herself, “If others can do it, why not me?”

“Since then, I’ve been trying to be more confident in speaking in public to share my experience with others,” she says.

Determined to speak out

Yana is determined to keep speaking out so that more will know about her community and their struggles.

Yana says, “Once, someone asked me, ‘Are you from Sarawak or Sabah?’ I said I’m from Negeri Sembilan and this person didn’t even know about the Orang Asli.”

So why do many don’t know about the Orang Asli?

Sherry thinks it’s due to little information and stories about them in books and the media. “Even though the Orang Asli are the first peoples in Peninsular Malaysia, our contribution to the nation is not in our textbooks.”

Our own stories, our own voices
Sherry and Yana feel that they are living in a society where no one knows and cares about them. Both of them, along with many other young Orang Asli women, are now on a quest to change that by telling their own stories in their own voices through films.

“We’re producing short films with powerful messages for all Malaysians,” says Yana.
“We want to tell Malaysians that the forest is important to us. We preserve the biodiversity of the forest and its treasures so we can maintain our beliefs and practices, and we’re able to pass on the traditional knowledge and practices to future generations.”

Telling it First in Pictures

Penghasilan Jalan Cerita Filem Pendek

“Our ancestors have deep spiritual and physical ties with the forest, and we want to continue this relationship.” – Yaliyana Lenab

Lights, camera, action!
Sherry and Yana filmed their stories in two villages, hundreds of kilometres away from their own villages, in October. It was an eye- and heart-opening experience for them.

“I saw the difference between polluted and clean rivers,” Sherry recalls. “I experienced living in villages where the community didn’t have access to electricity and water supply.”

While she was frustrated with the inequality experienced by her community, she found strength in her community’s cultural and spiritual traditions.

Her spiritual encounter
Sherry is happy to take part in Sewang, a healing ritual, as it has taught her how to maintain the special relationship she has with the spirits.

Sherry is seen here with her co-casts from the film Klinik Ku Hutan, Linda Ibrahim and Atuk Yam, a traditional healer.

Empower, educate, advocate
As young Orang Asli women from different tribes came together to film their stories, the experience filled them with a sense of pride and courage to rise up and be the generation that would take back not only their rights and identity but also the space for their voices to be heard.

“We want society to stop looking down on us and to stop insulting us. If it’s not us young Orang Asli women speaking out, then who will? Let us all come out of our cocoons to empower, educate and advocate us, our family, community and country,” Yana says confidently.

United we rise up
“We want society to stop looking down on us and to stop insulting us. If it’s not us young Orang Asli women speaking out, then who will?”

Support the Orang Asli Women’s Program

Support the Orang Asli Women program by purchasing the book (RM15.00 each). For details email info@freedomfilm.my