Malaysian B40 bakers earn extra money for Hari Raya through Cookies For A Cause

Norlaila has been working 14 hours a day during the fasting month to fulfill her cookie orders for Hari Raya. Photos: Maria Chin Abdullah

It's less than three weeks before Hari Raya and home baker Norlaila Abd Hamid, 61, is busy making her signature coconut biscuits for customers.

Since the start of Ramadan, the mother of two from Taman Medan in Petaling Jaya has made 300 containers of her much sought-after cookies. The sweet treats are promoted as "Norlaila".

"I feel happy to have cookies in my name. People love my homemade cookies because they're crunchy and flavourful. They only contain three ingredients – coconut, sugar and crushed rusk," said Norlaila during a phone interview.

Norlaila is among 10 women from her community selected for the Cookies For A Cause: In Support Of The B40 Women In Petaling Jaya initiative.

The community project is an effort by the Petaling Jaya parliamentary office to support women from the B40 group who have lost their jobs and experience financial constraints during the Covid-19 pandemic.The extra money earned will be used to buy new Hari Raya clothes for my four children,"The extra money earned will be used to buy new Hari Raya clothes for my four children," says Salnah. Photo: Salnah Abdul Rahman

Besides "Norlaila", there are other sweet treats made by other women, including Salnah (blueberry tarts), Puan Zai (milo cookies), Rama (achi muruku), Loges (nestum popiah cookies) and Asmah (semprit cookies). Their products are affordably priced at RM20 per container.

Most of the women are reaping the benefits of the project. It's hard work, but single mother Salnah Rahman, 44, doesn't mind going the extra mile to earn some extra money.

"On average, I've been working 10 to 12 hours each day to fulfill orders. Even though the orders are overwhelming, I am happy. The extra money earned will be used to buy new Hari Raya clothes for my four children. I'll save as much as possible for my children's education too."

Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah hopes the initiative will enable underprivileged communities to make ends meet and put food on the table during the pandemic.

“Some of these women are food traders and homemakers. During the first movement control order last year, many of them could not earn a living. It became even more complicated when some of their husbands lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Petaling Jaya MP Maria (left) with Taman Medan's talented bakers: Ramapraba Rajah (second from left), Asmah Abdullah (second from right) and Salnah.Petaling Jaya MP Maria (left) with Taman Medan's talented bakers: Ramapraba Rajah (second from left), Asmah Abdullah (second from right) and Salnah.

“The RM20 earned per container means these women can put food on the table for their families. I’ve come across many scenarios where families can’t even afford to feed their children three meals a day, ” Maria said, adding that the cookies are named after the women so they feel proud to have an item in their name.

The initiative first started in January, when 10 mothers from the B40 group in Lembah Subang and Desa Mentari were roped in to sell homemade cookies for Chinese New Year. The response was positive, motivating Maria to enlist 10 bakers from Kampung Medan to promote their goods for Hari Raya.

These bakers comprise women from different ethnicities, chosen based on their income level, interest in the project and baking skills.

“Currently, we have 20 women from two communities. I admire these talented women because they are very serious and dedicated to the cause. Some of them have tweaked their recipes many times to ensure they are the best for their customers. They are really giving their 110%, ” said Maria, adding that the women have also undergone training such as digital marketing, financial planning and business management.

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