Fighting for a better future

Learning to keep safe: (From left) Myage members Naavish Nair, Syarifah, Arif Izzat and Balqis Azhar, together with Tadika Perpaduan Seri Pantai B teacher Sitti Aisah Abdul Hakim (second left), teaching kindergarten students how to wear their face masks the right way at PPR Seri Pantai. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Youth activists are showing that Malaysia’s young people are powerhouses in leading and advocating for positive changes in the country.

Syarifah Nur Anisah Syed Mohd Amin, from Malaysian Youth Advocates for Gender Equality (Myage), says these millennials play a huge role in bringing change to society, especially in fresh, innovative ways.

“We are living in a different world of activism. I do work on-the-ground and at the grassroots level, but I also engage in advocacy work on social media.

“On social media, we have a huge base and we can target more people than offline, and we are able to organise and mobilise our resources, ” she said.

The 24-year-old is project director of the Mask-for-All Campaign, which collects funds to buy and distribute masks to B40 communities and refugees.

In just four days, the campaign has raised about RM3,000, which was used to buy face masks, sanitisers, soaps and even stationery for these communities.

“It’s a platform for the youth to come together and devise a plan to help.

“It’s a ‘short-term solution’ because there needs to be policy changes and issues to be raised in Parliament about the protection of these communities.

“However, we also want to take things into our own hands to show that it is our turn to do our part. We cannot solely depend on the authorities, ” she said.

Reza Abedi, from youth climate movement Malaysian Youth Delegation, spoke about challenges faced by young activists.

“The social media accounts of youth organisations are definitely the first point of exposure for many youth organisations to the general public.

“But the competition for users’ attention requires us to simplify our messaging a lot, and focus more on visuals to create engaging content, ” said Rezwa, 28.

However, he said that “what really hurts youth advocacy is a culture of patronising youth demands as unrealistic or idealistic.”

Rojak Projek co-founder Faye Lim was involved in an event where she would craft portraits of 100 newly-registered voters using nasi lemak as an art medium.

Though her projects usually aim to bring awareness of the diverse ethnicities in Malaysia, this time her portraits are meant to encourage young Malaysians to register as voters. “We as the youth have to play a part, no matter in what capacity.

“It is something that must be so natural to us to say that we care – whether it is about climate change or the environment or national affairs.

“Like the nasi lemak, every part ‘plays’ a role – you have the anchovies, the chilli, the rice, the cucumber.

“If you put every young Malaysian together, we are all different and we play a part to stand on what is right, ” she said.

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