About Liyana Othman

Liyana Othman’s focus lies in strategic public policy, economics, international trade and development, particularly in the Asia-Pacific and South Asian regions. She is a former consultant for an international organisation on projects relating to inclusive trade liberalisation and investment facilitation. She was formerly an economist with a management consulting firm focused on Southeast Asian infrastructure development.

She is active in the United Nations field, serving as Head of Policy and Research for the United Nations Youth Associations Network (UNYANET), and as Country Ambassador for the Singapore Committee for UN Women’s Project Inspire for three consecutive years, from 2014 to 2016.

Project Inspire 2015: Progress for Women is Progress for All

Project Inspire 2015

Project Inspire 2015

“A new economic agenda will not only make the economy work for women, but also benefit the majority of men. Progress for women is progress for all.”

– UN Women Flagship Report “Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016”

As the international community is poised to agree on the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is a strong and growing global consensus on the need to achieve gender equality. While we have to acknowledge the significant strides made towards this goal, we have to also focus on where we need to redouble our efforts to achieve substantive equality and the realization of human rights for all women and girls.

To educate girls is to reduce poverty.

Now in its fifth edition, Project Inspire: 5 Minutes to Change the World seeks to highlight the efforts of entrepreneurial women in the less advantaged global regions and celebrates five years of supporting social entrepreneurs around the world. This is done in the hopes of emphasizing the right of all women and girls to a good job with equal pay and safe working conditions, which in the medium to long run should be brought into consideration during economic policymaking. Through Project Inspire, we hope that the increased support would enable these women to provide enough income to support a decent, sustainable standard of living for themselves and their families.

Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

Previous notable projects have been those such as the 2014 Runner-up, Riverkids Project, which provides counselling, healthcare and vocational training for Cambodian sex workers, so they can transition out of the sex industry, and run their own small business; and the 2014 People’s Choice, Sinag Store Project, where financially disadvantaged girl students will gain marketable design skills and experience first-hand how to use those skills to launch a social enterprise project.

Launched in 2011 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and the 25th anniversary of MasterCard in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, “Project Inspire: 5 minutes to Change the World” is a global challenge that presents 18-35 year olds with a 5-minute platform to pitch their inspired idea to the world.

The fastest way to change society is to mobilise women of the world.

The fastest way to change society is to mobilise women of the world.

With a US$25,000 Grand Prize and US$10,000 Runner-Up Prize on offer to make their idea a reality, Project Inspire 2015 will take on the theme of ‘Technology or Design for Economic Empowerment’. Applicants will be asked to demonstrate how they use design or technology as a tool in the work they are doing to enable and empower women economically throughout Asia, the Pacific, Middle East & Africa.

As part of the youth community, let us take a stand and continue to support these youth initiatives and the projects and women that they support during the crowdfunding period. The Grand Finals will be held in Singapore on November 13, 2015. For more information, please go to http://www.ProjInspire.com.

#7 Ensuring access to energy for all

Goal-7

2014 marks the launch of the United Nations decade of Sustainable Energy for All, which calls for universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Energy access is a vital development goal, and the focus on energy as part of the agenda reflects energy as crucial in solving many development challenges.

The importance of universal access to modern energy services may not be clearly obvious, but its impact on developing countries are wide and far reaching, being critical to a country’s socioeconomic development. Increased access to reliable clean energy is essential for the protection of ecosystems through basic human rights such as sanitation and healthcare, as well as strengthening economies through improving access to education and improving national infrastructure. Continue reading

Boosting Bario’s Ecotourism: International Day of Rural Women

International Day of Rural Women

A Space in Time
Planting paddy in the field while teaching an elderly Kelabit woman English, picking wild vegetables in the jungle for lunch, sharing stories while beading necklaces for the entire afternoon; these are some common activities done by a youth volunteer in Bario under Project WHEE!

Secluded from the rest of the world by a range of mountains, Bario is a remote settlement located on the east of Sarawak in Borneo, bordering Kalimantan, Indonesia. Its thirteen villages are primarily resided by Kelabits, one of the smallest tribes in Malaysia. The Kelabits were heavily involved in headhunting practices over a century ago. However, they are now well-known for their friendliness and unique culture, allowing Bario to be affectionately known as the ‘Land of a Hundred Handshakes’.

Agriculture plays a big part in Bario’s economy. Vast plots of paddy fields here produce Bario rice, cultivated using traditional methods and grown without chemicals. Bario is also known to produce high-potash salt and tasty pineapples.

"E e ada banyak kerja, jaga keluarga, anyam bakul untuk orang, pergi kelas malam, tapi e e masihmahu belajar English. E e duit tak banyak tapi rumah jahat tak apa, asalkan hati baik."(I have a lot of work. I have to take care of my family, weave baskets for others, go to night class, but I still want to learn English. I don't have much, but it doesn't matter if you have a 'bad' house, as long as your heart is good.)" - Catherine Erip TungangIf I had to describe this woman in a few words, they would be: determined, inspiring, loving andhardworking. This amazing woman is a great inspiration and the largest lesson I have learnt from her is that happiness is about contentment, not materialistic possessions; that you define your own happiness. What you have, or don't have, is irrelevant as long as you have a good heart and good intentions, and this is one lesson that I will pass on to my children in the future. - Rachel Khoo

“E e ada banyak kerja, jaga keluarga, anyam bakul untuk orang, pergi kelas malam, tapi e e masih
mahu belajar English. E e duit tak banyak tapi rumah jahat tak apa, asalkan hati baik.”
(I have a lot of work. I have to take care of my family, weave baskets for others, go to night class, but I still want to learn English. I don’t have much, but it doesn’t matter if you have a ‘bad’ house, as long as your heart is good.)” – Catherine Erip Tungang
If I had to describe this woman in a few words, they would be: determined, inspiring, loving and
hardworking. This amazing woman is a great inspiration and the largest lesson I have learnt from her is that happiness is about contentment, not materialistic possessions; that you define your own happiness. What you have, or don’t have, is irrelevant as long as you have a good heart and good intentions, and this is one lesson that I will pass on to my children in the future. – Rachel Khoo

Development in Bario is slow due to its geographical barriers. Access to Internet is limited and electricity is only supplied for a few hours in the evening by a mini hydro dam for one of the villages. The only airport that connects to Bario is Miri, a city which is 55 minutes’ plane ride away. There are at most only three flights to Bario each day. Contacting someone in Bario can be done through phone calls to several villages but the connection is unreliable. Medical personnel and facilities are limited; there is a hospital that only treats common maladies and anyone severely ill will have to fly out of Bario to the hospital in Miri.

Many Kelabits have migrated to cities for better education and job opportunities, leaving behind the elderly and the young children. As a result, some elderly women continue to farm despite their old age. Their physical limitations also prevent them from conducting ‘gotong-royong’ (a tradition of helping each other and the community) to set-up basic logistics at the community level to receive eco-tourists.

People-to-People Exchanges

In order to revive the community, various initiatives have been taken to develop Bario to create more job opportunities and lure back the diaspora. One of them is to boost the ecotourism industry here by extending homestay and tour guiding activities which are now concentrated in a few central villages to the outlaying villages.

Between 2010-2013, eHomemakers, a Malaysian non-profit social enterprise, initiated two training projects for women in three villages, Bario Asal, Ulong Palang and Arur Dalan – ecotourism and computer-based office work, thanks to a seed fund from PEMANDU (a unit under the Prime Mininster’s Department in Malaysia) for 15 months to upskill the women in ecotourism and produce higher value agricultural products.

Standing over a huge bucket of paddy seeds, Tepuq Sina Rang put her hands out and  gestured for me to hold them. I held them, not really sure what was going on and then, she said a  prayer. A prayer for a good harvest. - Kan Wai Min

Standing over a huge bucket of paddy seeds, Tepuq Sina Rang put her hands out and gestured for me to hold them. I held them, not really sure what was going on and then, she said a prayer. A prayer for a good harvest. – Kan Wai Min

In 2014, with a seed fund from Dana Belia 1Malaysia, it mobilised voluntary resources and corporate barter exchanges to initiate Project WHEE! (PW!), a youth project to continue the rural community development in Bario. Youth volunteers from all over Malaysia are sent to Bario for two weeks to help the Kelabit women with their command of spoken English, so to become better homestay hosts and community guides. Each volunteer is be assigned to a lady and shadows her for the entire duration of the project. While helping her in her daily work, he/she will also improve the women’s English through conversations. From time to time, community services are conducted according to the needs of the community.

Bario’s solitude is a double-edged sword to its inhabitants. It impedes development but at the same time, preserves the simplicity of their lifestyle. They find joy in routine activities as they appreciate every moment and live life full of sincerity. They may not be the wealthiest monetarily but they are definitely rich with wisdom and in many other ways. The volunteers, fondly known as WHEE-ans return from Bario changed with different perceptions on life.

To recognize and honour the contributions of the women in Bario ‘to the family and the community, especially in cases where they are left behind by migrating adults or as a result of other socio-economic factors,’ a Facebook campaign was kick started on Oct 1 2014 in conjunction with International Day of Rural Women which falls on October 15.

While talking to Tepuq Ulo about her younger days and the hardships she faced. "Saya kecil dulu, tak ada baju cantik cantik untuk pakai. Makan pun biasa saja. Tak ada la makan  besar besar. Tapi sekarang, sudah selesa la. Ada baju ada makan. Kalau selalu kerja keras, ada hati  yang baik, sentiasa ingat Tuhan; sudah cukup la selesa." "While I was younger, I did not have pretty clothes or lavish access to meals. But now, I am  comfortable. I have clothes to wear and food on my table. If we always work hard, have a good heart  and remember God; you will have enough comfort. " - Tharunnia Ganesan

While talking to Tepuq Ulo about her younger days and the hardships she faced. “Saya kecil dulu, tak ada baju cantik cantik untuk pakai. Makan pun biasa saja. Tak ada la makan besar besar. Tapi sekarang, sudah selesa la. Ada baju ada makan. Kalau selalu kerja keras, ada hati yang baik, sentiasa ingat Tuhan; sudah cukup la selesa.” “When I was younger, I did not have pretty clothes or lavish access to meals. But now, I am comfortable. I have clothes to wear and food on my table. If we always work hard, have a good heart and remember God; you will have enough comfort. ” – Tharunnia Ganesan

This new international day was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 62/136. It was first observed in 2008, to recognize ‘the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty’,

The campaign features stories of the women, written by the volunteers themselves. They range from each woman’s contribution in agriculture or to the community, to how she has inspired the youth volunteer. Beginning 1 October 2014 to the actual day of observation, a photo of one of these women captioned with her story is posted on PW!’s Facebook page daily.

Redefining Success

Project WHEE! has shown the youth organizing teams and the youth participants that the definition of success needs to be redefined. Many are occupied with chasing success and happiness, are these materialistic pursuits worth it? Does ‘success’ mean being financially able and to have authority over people? Perhaps, it is good to take a step back from this mad chase and return to the basics – a rudiment lifestyle and we will probably find our answer through rural people throughout the world, especially the resilient, strong determined women in Bario, Sarawak, Malaysia.

By LEE RUI CI
PW! Administrator

Fundraising in the Times of Crisis for Youth-Led NGOs

hands tree-02(6).jpg

Source: Fotolia

Fundraising in the times of crisis is a sensitive issue. These crises may include, but are not limited to, natural disasters, civil unrest, political uprising, so on and so forth, whereby there are unprecedented economic, social and political impacts.Therefore, it takes a careful hand to fundraise in such times, where the crisis at hand may have adverse effects on organisations and their programmes.

The first thing to note about fundraising in such times is the sensitivities of the cause you are raising for and how you, as a potential fundraiser, will deal with them. As an already established youth-led non-governmental organisation, you should already have a network to whom you will approach for potential partnerships and donations. New supporters need to be cultivated, with existing ones hearing from you about your stand on the crisis.

Find out more about fundraising legalities and acceptable practices in the country you are raising for and from, if you are from another country. This will create a smoother road to fundraising success. There are usually helpful bodies and guidelines which can help you achieve your goal. There are also legal and accounting terms to consider, such as whether these funds are tax-deductible in your country and the country you are raising the funds for.

Create a goal, mission, vision, fundraising tactics and a timeline. Implement a contingency plan to prepare and mobilise your organisation to react and adjust to new economic conditions. In the face of many fundraising scandals, transparency is key. In an effort to encourage more transparency about the usage and allocation of the funds, the second thing is to create a public fundraising plan and timeline as to how you are going to use the funds raised for the cause. Updates should preferably continue in the weeks and months following the initial fundraising phase so as to increase transparency of what the funds are used for. This will ensure donors’ funds are used according to how they were planned for, helping to build trust in your organisation.

There are various fundraising methods, whether online or offline. Things to consider would be how you can do that whether you’re located in the country or raising funds for a cause in another country. Increase your organisation’s social capital: engage the board and discuss any strategic plans. Train all your staff and volunteers on the importance of continuous fundraising and utilise their various expertise to add value to your organisation.

Approaching potential corporate donors and sponsors could be a crucial part of your fundraising efforts; whereby support from such organisations would lend even more legitimacy to your organisation and perhaps even increase your reach. Diversify your donor base and expand your network: professional, alumni, school, so on and so forth. You would be surprised at how much support you can garner with a clear, concrete and viable mission, tactics and timeline.

At the end of the day, donors and sponsors should be thanked and kept updated. Progress on the beneficiaries and the cause should also be updated. This is for donors and partners to have a more active, personal attachment to the beneficiaries of the funds, cultivating a deeper, longer-term relationship. These donors are the key people with the means to give to your organisation now and in the future.

For more information on effective fundraising and building long-term relationships with your donors, sign up for our workshops in 23rd August 2014 at 15:00h GMT+2 and September 2014. We look forward to seeing you then!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1lLcKmRAUmUmTKRsE6d7KNVBAa_UbJG0p9hi1vEW6PF4/viewform

Youths and their role in Project Inspire

As a joint initiative from the Singapore Committee for UN Women and MasterCard, Project Inspire was launched in 2011 to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. It aims to provide youths from the ages of eighteen to thirty-five the opportunity to work with non-profit organisations and compete for a US$25,000 grant to help create a better world for women and girls in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

The grant is aimed towards the target beneficiaries of the winning proposal. In the past, other than the winner’s grant, selected teams have been chosen and granted additional grants due to the strength of their proposal. It’s not just about the best proposal winning, but about increasing awareness about the promotion of economic empowerment for women. These additional grants are funded by the judging panel or by interested members of the public. Thus is the impact of such an initiative, that it encourages the public to see through the implementation of feasible projects.

I first heard about the call for Project Inspire’s Country Ambassadors in one of the Singapore Committee for UN Women’s bulletins. The qualities needed to be a Country Ambassador are similar to some of those needed for participants of the project: drive to contribute positively to society and determination to build a long-term relationship that extends beyond the initial phase.

The bulk of my time as Singapore Country Ambassador lies in relationship management and public relations, driving awareness to youths, particularly those in local and international tertiary institutions. My aim in targeting these institutions is that these youths can form a proposal with like-minded individuals. I am pleased to note there has been great support from the management of these institutions. Many of them recognise the potential of youths, and are glad to lend their support to such an initiative that provides youths with the ability to promote economic empowerment for women.

The importance of youths is key not only to the development of Project Inspire, but also in ‘Womenomics’ and creating sustainable economic growth in developed and developing countries. This enables them to believe in their own voices, and to believe in their ability to influence key decision making steps and policy planning.

One of the Special Recognition Award winners of Project Inspire 2012 recently had the pleasure of knowing that most of their beneficiaries had created their own income from using the skills developed through their proposal (http://projinspire.com/bringing-sustainable-change-to-women-in-northern-sri-lanka/). Many of the Livelihood Initiatives for Empowerment of Women (LIFE) past beneficiaries in Northern Sri Lanka are now working full time at government managed farms. LIFE has now expanded its programme to include business management skills for future beneficiaries. The ability to transfer long-term knowledge on these women’s areas of expertise have led them to further become active producing, contributing members of their economy.

In the words of Singapore Committee for UN Women’s Project Development Coordinator Ms. Soha Yassine (http://projinspire.com/the-team/), Project Inspire “represents a sustainable solution for the world we want our children to inherit. The traditional model of non-profit NGOs has seen limited success in the past but the convergence of business and social good is a more realistic and exciting model for ending poverty, disease, and injustice in the future.”

Applications are open until 30 June 2014, after which the panel of judges will select the best proposals. Representatives from these teams will be mentored and flown to Singapore to give a formal presentation of their proposal. For more information of Project Inspire, please visit http://projinspire.com/.