Idola-Demokrasi: Orang Asli and the Urban Youth

What, Where and When?
On 5th July 2014, UndiMsia! conducted an Idola Demokrasi workshop at Pusat Rakyat LoyarBurok designed to help communities contextualise their problems through better understanding of the country’s constitutional, political, economic and social structure. This is done by consensus building through open and honest dialogue among the participants. Participants are then armed with the appropriate tools to help them overcome these problems through collective action.

This was a special session because we had four Orang Asli (OA) from various OA non-governmental organisations such as Badan Bertindak Tanah Orang Asli Selangor (BBTOAS) joining us. The session was conducted through various interactive modules in Malay, which I will briefly describe.

Module 1: Where Do You Stand?
This module involved asking participants to take a stand on certain issues (i.e. whether the government was doing a good job in providing education to the OAs). Each of the three boards in the picture represents three points of view: yes, no and unsure. The participants were required to line up in front of the board that concurred with their views. After this was done, a few of the participants were asked to justify why they took that particular stand. At the end of hearing some of the views presented, participants were given the opportunity to change their stands if they wished to.

Module 2: Spaceship
In this module, we were given a scenario in which we had to move to a hypothetical new planet. We were then asked to list down five items we would bring. After that was done, we formed groups of two and out of the five items from each of our lists, we had to narrow it down to another five items. We then got into groups of five and repeated the process of extracting items from our lists to form another list of five. Each group had an opportunity to present their list at the front.

 

Module 3: Problem Tree

In the same groups, we then had to draw a problem tree. After identifying one problem, it was to be written on the trunk of our tree. We then had to identify the roots and the effects of the problem. The effects were written on the branches of our tree and the roots on the roots of the tree itself.
 

Module 4:  Big Picture Analysis

This module involved explaining the country’s power structure (i.e. Parliament and the Monarch) and society’s structure (i.e. gender and religious breakdown) to the participants to assist them in finding their place in society’s hierarchy.


 

Module 5: Pyramid of Action

In the same groups, we then had to construct a pyramid of action describing our main problem at hand, who to direct our complaints to, what action to take in directing our complaints to and the tactics of the action.  Each group then had to present their pyramid to the participants.

After the workshop, the participants were dismissed. The facilitators stayed back to discuss with the OAs what could be improved or modified to better suit the OA villages. The main concerns of the OAs were the speed of the workshops (it being too fast for the most OAs to be able to process properly) and the complexity of the information presented.

Reflections

  1. Communication is key
    From the beginning of the workshop, the facilitators set a rule that everybody had to converse in Malay upon the request of one of the OAs reason being that Malay was our national language. This was a struggle for quite a number of us urban youth who are used to conversing in English. Some of us had hardly spoken Malay since we finished Form 5! This was the first Idola-Demokrasi workshop I had attended in the capacity as an intern at the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR) and it was at this workshop I realised how incredibly rusty my Malay had become. This made things slightly awkward for me during group activities mainly because while I had a lot to say, I just couldn’t find the right words to use. 

    The OAs value relationships and the most obvious way to begin building a relationship with them is through communication. However, bad command of the language should not hinder you from participating in our upcoming workshops. Practice makes perfect; the more you speak Malay, the better you will get at it. The reason why some of us found it so difficult to converse in Malay was mainly because we hardly have anybody to practice with. Conversing with the OAs has enabled me to brush up on my Malay and hopefully as I get more involved in this project, I will no longer be sitting silently in my group but rather be able participate actively in the discussions on how to solve their issues.

  2. Commitment is vital
    This workshop began at about 11am and lasted until 6pm. We had a couple of ten minute breaks. Clearly, Idola workshops take up a lot of time and because of this, whoever is seriously considering becoming a long term volunteer must be able to dedicate many hours a week to participate in the workshops. It takes a while before a participant can graduate to a facilitator mainly because OAs are more receptive to those they are familiar with (as pointed out by the OAs in this particular workshop). My colleague has pointed out to me several times that working with OAs in their villages is challenging because- among many other reasons- they are either scared of foreigners or come off as indifferent when it comes to participating or both. It is because of this that it can take years to build relationships with them. 

  3. There is much to be done
    Despite being from the same country and perhaps the same state, I learnt that the problems faced by the OAs are completely different from mine. While I spent my time complaining about petty things like having an outdated phone, the OAs faced larger problems such as lack of educational opportunities and land grabbing; often time I take my education and having a permanent house to live in for granted. Talking to the OAs made me realise there are bigger problems in Malaysia I could be helping them with rather than spending my time complaining about things which the OA community would probably consider a luxury.

 

I learnt so much in just one session particularly about what I could help the OAs with such as helping to raise their awareness on their rights, particularly in regards to their land. I would highly encourage everyone to try Idola at least once. Follow the UndiMsia! Facebook page and Twitter account for more information on upcoming events. Hope to see you at one of the sessions soon!


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