25 years

Memories with Tenaganita in the past 25 years.

Emily Eaton says:-

Tenaganita may be in a new office however, its direction has remained the same and that is to prioritize the marginalized and focus on women, migrant, and refugee rights. During my 6 month internship at Tenaganita ( January – July 2016 ), I have had the opportunity to see Tenaganita relocate offices and, in the process, uncover the past as we sorted through memories of previous programs and events to fit the communities needs. I greatly treasure this organization’s ability to set roots in its past while setting sails toward the true north of JUSTICE.

Andrew Samuel, Chairperson of CARAM ASIA says:-

I think it was about 4 year back when Bangladesh was hosting the Colombo Process. In this meeting we tried to write a joint statement between CARAM and MFA and eventually succeeded with a lot of difficulty. But the memory is not that. It was a very high ranking Bangladeshi official who might have even been a minister who in his talk addressed the so called wonders and glories of what his government’s engagement with migrant workers and what his government has achievend for the lives, rights and protection of migrant workers. His talk was so political that Irene just couldn’t handle it and handle this minister anymore. No sooner his talk was over it was Irene who had to talk. She simply ripped the minister apart not worrying from which platform or country she was talking, not worrying if she would be reprimanded or even deported. It was a masterclass to all politicians in our part of the world about how not to lie to audiences to gain and remain in power. She was simply brilliant. This is the Irene that I so dearly miss. She is undoubtedly in paradise today. with much love – Andrew

Ramon Bultron, Executive Director ( Asia Pacific Mission For Migrants) APMM, Hong Kong says:

First of all, I wish to convey my warmest greetings of solidarity and congratulations to the staff, board and constituencies of TENAGANITA on your 25th year founding anniversary. I fully agree that Tenaganita builds an overwhelming recognition from the community of migrants, advocates and the masses in general in providing assistance and responding to the needs of migrants and refugees in Malaysia. My organization, Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), is a witness to the growth and strength of Tenaganita since its early formation. I remember in the 90’s when Tenaganita through the late Dr. Irene Fernandez supported APMM on its efforts to help organize Filipino migrants in Malaysia. Though our staff did not manage to stay longer as planned but the coordination and cooperation between APMM and Tenaganita continued and flourished until the present time. Both our institutions have co-organized conferences and activities in support of undocumented migrants and marriage migrants. Aside from working together on some advocacy campaigns in Malaysia and in the region, in early 2000, Irene and myself were working and coordinating closely on the formation of the first-ever global alliance of migrants, refugees and displaced people – the International Migrants Alliance (IMA). I remember the words of Irene shared with me: “The empowerment of migrants is very much needed and it should not happen tomorrow, next month or next year but must happen now.” There is much to be said but I think what is important here is to say that Tenaganita and Dr. Irene Fernandez did not only contribute to the empowerment of migrants in Malaysia but more importantly in the development and formation of the international movement of migrants. Again, Happy Anniversary! Long live Tenaganita and the legacy of Dr. Irene Fernandez!

Fr. Paul Dass, S.J. says:

Dear Aegile, Glo, colleagues and friends. I congratulate you as TENAGANITA on 25 years of life and service. TENAGANITA is the first organization that opened my eyes to the social realities of Malaysia. As a young priest working at SFX, I was brought by my friend Rosemary to meet Irene at her office, then at Jln. Tunku Abdul Rahman, and from that day on, the concerns and engagements of TENAGANITA became also mine. Because of Irene, because of TENAGANITA, SFX became the venue to house displaced migrant workers, became a tool to redress some of their legitimate complaints against their working conditions and struggles. In a similar way, SFX became involved in even local events that affected the lives of people, and I am thinking of the Kampung Gandhi incident, in this case. Working with TENAGANITA and Irene pushed my boundaries in many ways. 3:00 a.m. knocks on the door of the Jesuit House in SFX – to house displaced communities, rather intrepid rescue of trafficked women late in the night at distant places, attending some of the court hearings that Irene was subjected to, being present to some of the contentious issues being spoken of by those not particularly sympathetic, saying the opening prayer at a rally where Malaysians of all code, colour and creed were present – all these, I must say, stretched my boundaries, and pushed me in the direction learning conviction, discovering conviction, keeping conviction and returning to it. I must say it was a momentous juncture in my life. Irene is not here with us anymore, but, she is more than with us. She is not only remembered, but she is here, but more than present, more than giving, more than loving and caring – because that is what happens when people are joined to God; he shares his absolute qualities with us. All the effort, the dreams, the hopes and aspirations – may these come true for us, as embodied and upheld by TENAGANITA. May the angel of prayer always lift us up, and may the glow never fade. Yours very sincerely and appreciatively, Fr. Paul Dass, S.J.

Phil Robertson, Human Right Watch says:

“It’s hard to know even where to start when discussing how much Human Rights Watch values our historical, and ongoing relationship with Tenaganita. Over the years, we’ve worked side by side on reports, press releases, statements, and other advocacy efforts to demand respect for the rights of migrant workers in the fields, factories and homes of their employers in Malaysia. It’s been a hard effort, which is what you expect when you confront a government like that in Malaysia, which seems to be continuously composed of employers and their cronies in government determined to enrich themselves and take advantage of the poor and the vulnerable. The government doesn’t hide its intention to intimidate and try to break the NGOs and civil society groups who refuse to play along. Migrants from Southeast and South Asia had the least rights and the least voice in Malaysia, so it’s natural that Tenaganita would take up their cause first – and the rest of us just did what we could to keep up with your tremendous efforts. Often we benefited greatly from working with you. Human Rights Watch’s research on migrant domestic workers was facilitated in so many ways by the contacts and advice Tenaganita provided, and we did our best to take this issue to the international level to pressure Malaysia to take responsibility and act to end the abuses migrants were facing. But our partnership was not just confined to pressuring the recalcitrant Malaysia government, we also did tremendous work together trying to press for ASEAN to take up its responsibilities to migrant workers – ultimately with an uncertain outcome, but it’s important to recognize that the consultative process in ASEAN may take years rather than months to get something tangible done. The efforts of Tenaganita in spearheading the work in Malaysia of the Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers was impressive because it was, in part, such a thankless task. It’s become pretty clear now that some ASEAN states are happy with regional migration just the way it is, so an ASEAN instrument to protect migrant workers and their families is unfortunately not in the cards any time soon. And now today, with the focus of the international community on human trafficking, Tenaganita is still in the lead. All those years ago we knew it as “forced labor” but a new concept had to be invented before the international community would pay attention the abuses and impunity that have piled up around the world. Whether trafficking of Cambodian women into domestic servitude or a Burmese fisherman fleeing trafficking by jumping off boats in Sarawak, Tenaganita was there to offer support and assistance. The list of the incredible things that Tenaganta has done literally goes on and on in my head, but suffice to say that you have made the world a better, safer and more rights respecting place, and we are all in your debt for that. So happy 25th anniversary, and all of HRW’s warmest wishes for many, many more. all best, Phil Robertson Deputy Director, Asia Division Human Rights Watch

Jessica, IE3 says:

My most memorable experience was my own visit to Tenaganita in 2016. The organization has impacts far and wide, and I am proud to be associated with everyone at Tenaganita. It is my utmost pleasure to be able to work with interns who are able to get to know the organization more closely and directly support its initiatives. It is experiences like those my students have at Tenaganita and in Malaysia that bring me the most satisfaction in my advising role. Thank you for all the opportunities to work together, and I wish you the most lovely celebration tomorrow. Here’s to many more years! Best, Jessica

Dr. J Paul Baskar, Peacetrust International says:

The way Teneganita handling Migrant workers concern is unique . Case handlings ,drawing attention of all from grassroot to UN system using powerful advocacy tools with enough concern for poor. The Migrant Workers and their support NGOs in Asian region have learnt a lot from Teneganitas team and Dr Irene Fernandez. Let Tenegaita play a significant role as ever Dr.J.Paul Baskar

Rita Morbia, Inter Pares says:

I remember coming to visit Irene, with my late colleague Peter Gillespie in 2009, as we were trying to find an organization that would work with us to support people from Burma who were subject to some of the most horrific violations at the hands of Malaysian traffickers and authorities. Inter Pares and Tenaganita had worked together in the past but this was a new and sensitive initiative. Many organizations weren’t willing or able to take this work on but Tenaganita, under Irene’s stalwart leadership and staunch moral centre knew the human rights imperative of this work. The solidarity between Inter Pares and Tenaganita extends to this day and is based on the principles of mutual respect and equality. Congratulations on your 25th anniversary! – Rita Morbia, Inter Pares

Kevin Malseed, Inter Pares says:

When I arrived at Inter Pares in 2012 and was asked to take on the Tenaganita/COBEM work I was a bit daunted but keen to find out about it. My colleagues emphasized the courage of Tenaganita – that you were willing to take on the work with refugees when others wouldn’t, how Irene had brushed aside the risks to Tenaganita because she saw this as a moral imperative. In the time since, I’ve been further impressed by this courage, which comes out in all of your statements and in your refusal to back down in the face of intense government pressure and violent threats. You’ve taken on the hardest work there is – standing up for people who are vilified by almost everyone else. Even within the refugee communities, I’ve seen you stand up for equality among groups, including Rohingyas who have few friends among other people from Burma. I’ve always felt that there are some organizations that focus on their own survival, on courting donors or on grabbing credit for things, and others who do the real work, regardless of the paperwork and the credit, or whether it’s popular with donors. Tenaganita is clearly in the second category (and I’m not just saying that because donor reporting is not your strongest area!) It’s fantastic that you’ve made it to 25 and I hope you will be there for another 25 – the world needs more organizations like Tenaganita! – Kevin Malseed, Inter Pares

Orlaith Duggan says:-

Hi Glorene, Hopefully this isn’t too late! Interning at Tenaganita in 2012 changed my life. I will never forget the stories from so many strong, individuals who were trafficked and then helped by Tenaganita. Glorene, Irene, and all of the wonderful staff at Tenaganita taught me it is passion that keeps you motivated through the heart wrenching experiences of so many trafficked individuals. Irene was one of the strongest women I have ever met. She was a risk taker, whose presence commanded respect. I am grateful that I was able to meet such an amazing person, who dedicated her life to bettering the world. I am incredibly grateful for my experience at Tenaganita. My experience definitely propelled me further into my passion for promoting women’s rights. I wish I were there to celebrate your 25 years of accomplishments! Sincerely, Orlaith Duggan

Eric, IE3 says:

Glorene, I am so proud to have been a small part of the Tenaganita story. For seven years IE3 has partnered with you, and many of our students have had the opportunity to see the inspiring, powerful, and impactful work that Dr. Irene began and continues today. Our students have contributed to Tenaganita’s various project areas, which has been an invaluable learning experience in shaping who they are and the contributions to social justice they will make after graduation. I recall several students telling me that their internships with you led to a career choice changes, as they saw Tenaganita’s impact and want to contribute to such causes as their life’s work. Tenaganita not only shed’s light on the injustices being done in Malaysia; the work done inspires social justice action around the globe. I look forward to watching and supporting Tenaganita’s next 25 years! With respect and kind regards from Portland, Oregon. Eric

Dr. Bernard D’ Sami says:

Teneganita has been built in the last twenty-five years by blood, sweat and tears of working class people. It is not an organization and Irene never wanted an organization but a Movement (less of organizational structure and more of movemental characteristics) In short Irene built people and communities through Teneganita.

Brahm Press, Director of MAP Foundation and Convener of CARAM Asia’s Task Force on Migration Health and HIV says:

WoW! 25 years is a magnificent achievement. Tenaganita has definitely been at the heart of the migrant workers’ rights movement here in South East Asia and of course in Malaysia. Congratulations!!!!!!! Memories? Definitely, most of my memories focused around Irene as she was the one I was most in contact with. I am not the kind who remembers a lot of details of what people say, but I can summarize the feeling she inspired. When Irene spoke, she held people’s attention with her convictions. She was unflinching in her assessment of current economic systems which treat migrants as expendable, and she laid out a moral imperative to protect migrants’ rights and dignity. You were challenged to not feel aggrieved by migrants’ suffering. Irene was inspirational and you could tell that everyone at Tenaganita was energized and motivated by her to this day.

Mel says:

My dear Glorene, Happy 25th Anniversary – a milestone worth a special celebration! The first meeting I attended was Tenaganita’s presentation of the Results of the Research on the jail situation of migrant workers in Malaysia. This led to the filing of a case against our dear Dr. Irene Fernandez, who was later on detained. It was a long difficult battle, but finally won by Dr. Irene Fernandez with support from advocates all over the world. We in DAWN commend Tenaganita, led by Dr. Irene for initiating the formation of CARAM-Asia and the continuous guidance and support up to the present. Tenaganita and Dr. Irene Fernandez have always been a source of inspiration for DAWN, especially for me! Keep up the good work, of responding effectively to the protection of migrant workers and refugees, domestic workers and women trafficked for labor and forced prostitution. Congratulations!

Surendran, young lawyer from legal aid batch 84 says:

It’s not possible to share a specific memory, as all memories were unforgettable and had a common feature. The satisfaction of helping the helpless is invaluable. Human beings have an innate obligation to help those in need, even if it involves being pushed outside your comfort zone.