ONE woman is determined to wean Malaysians off the “ammah syndrome” when it comes to keeping their surroundings clean.
The “ammah syndrome” or maid syndrome is the habit of hiring maids or labourers to clean up the neighbourhood during gotong-royong sessions.
Recycle Community Malaysia Lestari (RCOMM Lestari) president and co-founder Wan Amiza Pawan Chik said she found this habit, which is ingrained in Malaysian society, distasteful and irresponsible, and hopes to put a stop to it.
“During my grandparents’ time, recycling and cleaning up neighbourhoods were a big part of our community.
“It was a routine they took pride in doing.
“But sadly, it’s no longer being practised.
“Today’s generation grew up in households where the maids do all the cleaning, so the perception is that cleaning is beneath them,” she said.
Wan Amiza is determined to change this attitude and get people, particularly the younger generation to be involved in community activities especially in environmental issues.
Established in 2010, the non-governmental organisation RCOMM Lestari has been pushing the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” that was adopted at a special United Nations summit on Sept 25, 2015.
It includes 17 sustainable development goals that are towards achieving social, economic and environmental dimensions.
“We are looking at chapter 11, whereby we are working hard to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by 2030.
“We have a framework to get communities and its stakeholders as well as government agencies to work together to achieve a sustainable and waste-free Malaysia,” Wan Amiza explained.
However, she said, the community often posed challenges in achieving these goals.
Having worked with LA21, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and in several other townships, Wan Amiza noted that Malaysians often chose the easy way out, which was to hire people to do their dirty work.
“I have witnessed this in many gotong-royong sessions.
“The organisers pay labourers to carry out cleanups,” she said, relating one incident when community leaders had a difficult time persuading residents to take part in a cleanup and ended up bringing in five busloads of workers to do the job.
“In some neighbourhoods, residents would send their maids over to do the work.
“There are instances when cleaning sessions are carried out in commercial areas but participation from the business community, particularly the restaurants, is poor,” she added.
In Kuala Lumpur, DBKL spends a whopping RM160mil a year to clear rubbish and Wan Amiza said 57% of waste thrown at landfills in Malaysia were organic waste.
“Waste at the landfills are increasing every year and local councils are spending large amounts of money on the ever increasing tipping fees.
“Things are only going to get worse if we do not take a more holistic approach in eradicating our waste problem,” she said..
To that effect, RCOMM Lestari is taking the lead for World Cleanup Day 2018 and organising a massive cleanup session nationwide on Sept 15.
In Kuala Lumpur, it will be held on Sept 16.
The nationwide programme will be part of the global effort where 150 countries are set to undergo a massive cleanup through a similar initiative.
On the local front, RCOMM Lestari will rally support and participation from the community and collaborate with government agencies to carry out gotong-royong sessions in various states.
“The event on Sept 16 at Dataran Merdeka is in conjunction with the city’s car-free morning.
“We aim to mobilise 5% or 100,000 of the city’s two million residents to take part in the event.
“The local community should be part of the event and not hire people from other areas to do it.
“We do not want this trend to continue any longer.
“Societies must be taught to emulate civic consciousness and inspire good social behaviour,” she said.
World Cleanup Day was initiated by the Let’s Do It Foundation; a global civic movement that started in Estonia in 2008 when 50,000 people came together to clean up the entire country in just five hours.
The foundation’s mission is to connect and empower people and organisations around the world to clean up the planet.
Since then, Let’s Do It has spread the model of cleaning up one country in one day around the world.
To date, nearly 120 countries and 20 million people have joined the movement.
Residents reduce carbon footprint