Second chance at life

Nor Fadilah seeks to empower victims of domestic violence and also help professional women give back to the community. Photo: The Star

If you were to meet Nor Fadilah Mohamed Nizar, you might not realise that she was once a victim of domestic violence and a single mother.

The founder of social enterprise Johor Empowerment of Intellectual Women Association (Jeiwa) resonates with life and positivity, is now happily married and has a six-year-old son. But in 2013, during her first marriage, Nor Fadilah was a victim of domestic violence.

“My ex-husband punched me more than 10 times on my face. The injuries were so bad that I needed surgery. Through a long and difficult process, the case was brought to court and he was charged and sent to jail,” she recounts.

But Nor Fadilah is a firm believer of second chances.

“It’s possible to start again, to have a new and better life, and a new family,” says Nor Fadilah, who often gives motivational talks for NGOs, government organisations, and universities.

She shares openly about her experience and how she overcame the trauma of domestic violence to start life all over again.

The enterprising 38-year-old started Jeiwa because she wanted to empower women who are victims of domestic violence and also help professional women who desire to use their skills to earn a living and give back to the community.

From zero to hero

Nor Fadilah says that it’s very important for women to believe in their own potential and to activate it.

“When you believe in yourself and take positive action, the possibilities are limitless,” she says.

She is a living example of this, having started Jeiwa as an NGO without any funds. Then, her late father offered her RM2,000 to open a current account and from there, the funds started coming in, at first in the form of donations.

“I believe that whenever you do anything, whether it’s starting an organisation or a business, you must be transparent, you need to have integrity and build your reputation,” she says.

From there, she started looking at how to sustain an NGO without relying on just sponsorship and donations.

“I realised that starting a social enterprise is the solution: to do business, generate an income and channel that income back to the community,” she says.

Not having been involved in business before, Nor Fadilah started building up her knowledge and social networks with the aim of helping women in need.

“In 2017, we established the social enterprise to raise funds for the women’s empowerment centre and to help women entrepreneurs who were facing difficulties marketing or distributing their products,” she says.

Jeiwa helps women in two ways: firstly, by being a distributor for their (handicraft) products, and secondly, by offering them a business opportunity. This is through its Tiffin Jeiwa Agent Programme (Teja) which enables them to earn an income by selling custom-designed tiffin carriers. The women carry out promotions online, collect orders and payments, and receive a commission for each item sold.

There is an outlet in Paradigm Mall Johor Baru, which besides selling products also serves as its women’s empowerment centre. There is also a booth at Suria KLCC Kuala Lumpur, and plans are underway for two more outlets by next year.

The social enterprise has over 35 women under the Teja programme. It also has a joint venture with 30 to 50 women entrepreneurs to distribute their products. The women come from various backgrounds – single mothers, housewives, students, pensioners, and even women whose husbands lost their jobs during the MCO – many who don’t wish to do business just for the sake of money, but also for a more meaningful cause.

Some of them are able to earn between RM5,000 and RM10,000 monthly, reveals Nor Fadilah.

She says that teamwork is very important to be successful in running any kind of organisation.

Nor Fadilah (centre, seated) is grateful to have a team that is very positive and supportive. Photo: Johor Empowerment of Intellectual Women AssociationNor Fadilah (centre, seated) is grateful to have a team that is very positive and supportive. Photo: Johor Empowerment of Intellectual Women Association

“I’m so happy and grateful because I have a great team (of eight), and the people around me are very positive and supportive. More than 60 companies have also contributed towards the cause and helped realise our vision,” she says.

“All of us work together, regardless of race, religious background or social status. And I’m thrilled that the products carried by our social enterprise have received great feedback from the community, and even royalty, celebrities, and both local and foreign ministries have purchased the items in support of woman empowerment and to sustain the community centre,” she adds.

For every problem, there is a solution. During the MCO and CMCO, when they faced difficulties such as low traffic to their outlets, they started providing services such as delivery and ‘personal shopper’ and received more orders online.

Dignity for every woman

Nor Fadilah says that when she faced her domestic violence court trial, she noticed that lawyers defending the perpetrators would often put the women (victims) down. She felt this was wrong and that women also have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and not blamed when they are they are the victim.

She also noticed that contrary to popular perception, not all women who are domestic violence victims are underprivileged or uneducated. The women who face this situation suffer not only from physical assault, but also financial, emotional, verbal, mental and sexual abuse, and they come from various backgrounds. Some are highly educated and professional career women, but they seldom speak out because they are worried about the stigma.

Nor Fadilah often gives motivational talks for NGOs, government organisations, and universities. Photo: Johor Empowerment of Intellectual Women AssociationNor Fadilah often gives motivational talks for NGOs, government organisations, and universities. Photo: Johor Empowerment of Intellectual Women Association“It inspired me to gather more women to share about their situation and experiences so that they can help and mentor others,” says Nor Fadilah, who is also a life coach and mentor.

Nor Fadilah reveals that her husband and her son are very supportive of her social enterprise activities.

“My husband always provides good advice on the technical aspects, such as when I wanted to construct Jeiwa Powerhouse (the women’s empowerment centre). He also often helps transport donations or charity items to the needy,” she says, adding that he has helped her expand her social network through referrals to his colleagues and counterparts for the social enterprise’s products and cause.

Her son is also interested in the custom-designed tiffin carrier, and even promotes it to his friends.

“He uses it as his lunchbox in school (before the MCO) and always tells all his friends about it,” she beams proudly.

A kindness, a day

Nor Fadilah’s days are always full but she keeps to her “kindness goal”.

“Every day, I pledge to myself, that I must do something kind: one day, one act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can even be a gesture of kindness for family members.”

“So, I always start my day with helping people, because I believe that if you lend a hand to others, God will open more rezeki (doors and opportunities) to grow what you are doing or want to do in life. It makes your life smoother,” she explains.

She believes that the secret to success is wealth sharing.

“Sharing what you have with others, especially those in need, makes one more positive, less greedy and selfish, and you’ll sleep better at night.

“My late father told me, make sure every day, people eat well in your home. Give, because from there, you will receive more rezeki. And, that is my secret of success – always share and be positive and believe in your potential,” she concludes.

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