Through its legal aid clinic, Tenaganita provides assistance for and intervenes on behalf of refugees who face human rights violations especially with regard to labour rights, civil rights (arrest and detention) and gender based violence.
By working directly with the Coalition of Burma Ethnics in Malaysia (COBEM), Tenaganita supports and strengthens the work of eight community-based organizations (CBOs) representing refugees from different ethnic nationalities from Burma. These CBOs were formed by refugees from Burma to organize, assist, empower, protect their respective communities. Several vital areas of work conducted by these CBOs are:
For more information about COBEM: http://www.cobem.org/
Tenaganita believes that in order to ensure change, refugees and their communities need support from host communities, civil society and other stakeholders. The organization initiates social dialogue and consciousness raising with various groups and organizations in order to garner support for required services and for policy change.
We were also instrumental in a global campaign to address the trafficking and sale of refugees by government institutions through intensive documentation of cases that was published in a book entitled, “The Revolving Door”. The issue was seriously taken up by the US government in its work against human trafficking. The Malaysian government has since stopped the deportation of refugees at the Thai-Malaysia border.
The organization continues to strengthen its advocacy by raising the voice of the refugees as a member of various, national regional and international networks, such as, Migration Working Group, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, International Migrants Alliance, CARAM Asia, Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development.
Recognizing the critical need for safe and sustainable livelihood opportunities, Tenaganita currently hosts Tanma Federation, a fair-trade cooperative formed and led by Burmese refugee women in Malaysia.
Together with these women refugees, Tenaganita collaboratively conducts the following programmes: training on skills development, financial management, livelihoods management and community management. Leadership development among the women, rights awareness and psychosocial support activities are also given priority in this project. The inter-ethnic model of this livelihood program also seeks to build bridges and increase understanding and solidarity between the various ethnic Burmese groups living in Malaysia.
Additionally, Tanma is an important space to collectively address the various forms of violence faced by refugee women in Malaysia. Through Tenaganita’s work with refugee communities, the following are descriptions of the kinds of experiences and issues faced by refugee women and girls in Malaysia was documented.
From 2007-2009, Tenaganita operated an intensive, community-oriented intervention program to empower refugee women and refugee communities to combat gender-based violence (GBV). Through our proven community approach, we improve knowledge of GBV among refugee communities and host communities. In addition, by training community animators and community health workers on issues of GBV, health and victims’ rights, our program improves the capacity of the community to respond to GBV.
Leveraging our outreach and community capacity building activities, we have documented violations on refugee women both by state and non-state actors. Through case management, the establishment of a network of service providers, and a multi-sectoral referral system, Tenaganita has helped ensure that refugee women have access to the services they need to rebuild their lives.
In addition to the collaboration with Tanma, and the legal and psychosocial support we provide to survivors of GBV, Tenaganita also works with a small pool of men and women refugee “gender facilitators” in order to address GBV in their communities. We are however continuously seeking for funding to continue and expand our work with refugees in order to systematically and collectively address gender-based violence against refugees.
Refugee women are raped, sexually harassed, extorted for money. Many refugee women when they attempt to assert their basic rights have been subject to sexual harassment in the workplace, especially. Since refugees are not recognized, the victims find it difficult to access legal protection mechanisms and often stay silent from fear.
Burmese refugee women face deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes, cultural norms, practices and traditions that stereotype and discriminate women, while also justifying and “normalizing” violence at home. The most common forms of domestic violence faced by Burmese refugee women are financial, emotional and other forms of psychological abuse which often escalate into beatings and sexual violence.
Living in crowded conditions, sometimes with as many as 15 men and a few women in a small two-room flat, Burmese refugee women are at a heightened risk of gender-based violence by their own community members.
As we listen to the silenced voices of our communities, we began to identify the gaps which exist. We have different specific and dedicated programmes which are built from and developed through the needs of the communities we work with.
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