Is Malaysia's democracy flagging? | Source:

A rallying call from Animah Kosai to those who are despondent following the Cabinet reshuffle.

As I scroll through social media and private messages today, I see the bleakness and depression that is hitting so many Malaysians (and foreigners too, some of whom I work with).

But I was not depressed and for a while that puzzled me. And it wasn’t because I am the eternal action oriented optimist.

Then I realised why.

Two years ago.

As the GE 13 results woke in, I just sank. Like many others I had been so hopeful. That a new government would help rid the rot, help Malaysia get back on its feet.

It hit me. It wasn’t happening. We were stuck with the same inept and self-interested “leadership”. What hope was there?

I succumbed to the flu germs that were battling me as I had stood in line to vote. And stayed in bed for two days. I ignored all messages, phone calls. I just switched off, unable to deal with the news. Some of you may remember how down I was.

I eventually crawled out to go to work but it was difficult.

It is funny how a saviour comes from the strangest of places. Marcus van Geyzel wrote a note on Facebook, and I can’t quite remember what he said (Marcus, do you?) [LB: This note has since been confirmed to be Marcus’ “What Now, Malaysia?” which was published on 6 May 2013.] but it struck a deep chord — I needed to step up and do something. The fate of my country did not lie in the hands of politicians. It lies in the hands of ordinary citizens and that included me.

A few months earlier we had started Surya Women and we stood for women’s empowerment. I had to walk the talk right? Take back my power.

Also, Edmund Bon had been asking me about coaching because I was looking for coaching hours. SekolahAktivisme was his brainchild, and we would coach young passionate activists about non-violent direct actions (there are 198 methods by the way). I said yes because I needed to shift from this sense of hopelessness.

Fast forward two years later — we have seen 2.5 batches of SekolahAktivisme and I have been so inspired by the youth I have met, as well as the UM8 leaders, some of whom started the young new political party.

Through Surya Women and other women initiatives, I have met some amazing women who are incredibly dedicated to gender equality at work, Young Women Making Change who are pushing a sexual harassment bill through and women who believe in supporting and nurturing each other so that we can get through some of the really harsh environments we often find ourselves in.

Then I came across various ordinary Malaysians who I am sure are really angels — who worked tirelessly through several flood relief efforts, boat refugee rescue efforts, earthquake relief and soup kitchens. I am so in awe and humbled by these individuals, many of whom are my Facebook friends.

This year, having learnt the art of hustling, I managed to ignite (Alice Imm’s words, and I love her for it) a group of mainly women who met for the first time at a Call to Action to protect our children against sex offenders (Project Protect the Children). This is another group which completely inspired me with their passion to make things happen, and I am so excited about meeting them next week on a strategic meeting.

And I still hope to paint a bridge with Hartini Zainudin, Abby Latif, and Abby Zain to uplift the children and residents of Chow Kit.

I am not depressed because I am empowered and know that I can make a change to elevate Malaysia out of depression.

Every one of us can make a change — with the tools and capabilities we already have and with the passion which is already burning in each of us (otherwise where is your anger coming from?)

So come on ordinary Malaysians (and residents). Turn your depression around and act. Every single example I have quoted arose from people who did not wait for the government to do something. We did it anyway. And none of it was anti-government. All completely peaceful and legal.

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