This Project Lets Asian Minorities Tell Stories About Their Struggles In Their Own Words
Living in a multi-cultural and multi-racial country like Malaysia, it's important to accommodate the needs of everyone in our diverse society
As some minorities still face discrimination and struggles, it's important to highlight what they're going through and spread awareness. Bringing these issues to light will go a long way in helping to put an end to them for good, and help society become more accepting of people from all walks of life, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or background.
It's especially important to hear about these issues from the minorities facing them, in order to fully understand what they're going through and how we, as a society, can help or change for the better.
Aiming to do just this is Libraries of Resistance, a new online portal that hosts three community storytelling projects centred on the voices of marginalised communities, rural folks, and human rights defenders from East Asia and Southeast Asia
Through these projects, community storytellers use their own words to tell the world their powerful stories — how they were impacted by discrimination and oppression, how they resisted governments and investors, and how they defended and cared for their communities through it all.
Libraries of Resistance represents an effort to bring together activists working on different issues. It is a repository of lessons and visions of resistance, solidarity, and inclusivity across East Asia and Southeast Asia.
By documenting and celebrating lived experiences of marginalised and minority communities, Libraries of Resistance hopes to inspire collaborative, intersectional learning as it collectively defends, creates, and expands civic space.
One of the storytelling projects featured on the portal is Stories of Hope, Struggle, and Inclusion (SSHI), which features stories about the diverse communities in various Asian countries, including Malaysia
SSHI was born from the belief that civic spaces and communities across East and Southeast Asia are leading the way in struggles for inclusion and hope in our region; and the stories of these efforts need to be told and shared more widely.
In 2022, as part of this project, nine activists and/or artists were provided with the resources and support to produce and present stories about diverse Asian communities in both physical and digital spaces.
Seven countries were represented in SSHI — Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
To tell the stories of these communities, the storytellers combined diverse backgrounds and approaches. This included working in a range of different mediums, from rock songs to comics to photojournalism, as well as focusing on different issues such as disability, indigenous rights, and more.
This project aims to promote a climate of hope in the region through shared movement building and acts of solidarity. These narratives will not only highlight the wins and struggles of communities, but also the tools, methodologies, strategies, and approaches they took in order to reach their goals, as well as lessons learned.
Three stories under the SSHI project are from Malaysia, depicting the struggles of different minorities in our country.
Check them out:
DRAW YOUR WAY HOME
by Ratna, Rozella, Punnagai, Nupurasa, and Rupa
Created in collaboration with Malaysian women who champion body autonomy, this collage journal invites us to listen to and recognise the language of our bodies.
SLOW DOWN AND LOOK AT THE STARS: A Zine of Hope, Joy, and Mundanity
by Farid Nad
A zine showcasing hope, joy and, everyday life experiences of queer and disabled folk, created by a newly-formed community. It consists of comics, collages, illustrations, poetry, and prose.
To Dance Along the Wind: Poetry on Migration, Borders, and New Futures
by Lily Jamaludin
A zine of poetry selections developed during a writing workshop focused on migration, borders, nationalism, and imagining new futures.
Libraries of Resistance, and by extension, all the projects under it, including SSHI, is the latest effort by Innovation for Change - East Asia (I4C-EA)
As one of seven regional hubs worldwide, their mission is to provide virtual and real spaces for civil society to co-create and innovate ideas and projects.
They also jointly offer services and activities that contribute towards improving the lives of citizens and communities. Another key focus is to strengthen citizens' engagement and accountable governance by defending, expanding, and creating civic space in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Since its launch in 2017, I4C-EA has brought together leaders and activists from across East Asia to learn and support each other.
Over the past few years, their work has focused on several themes, such as countering disinformation, building the Belt and Road solidarity, reimagining post-COVID civic spaces, and the sustainability and well-being of activists. All of these projects brought diverse voices into spaces where they could listen to and learn from their peers from across the region.
Commenting on the importance of storytelling and why the organisation chose to focus on it, Corinna Lopa, Programme Director of Innovation for Change - East Asia, shared that storytelling is an integral part of movement building.
"By representing the unrepresented, storytelling has the power to foster solidarity against authoritarian regimes promoting hate and division. When illiberal forces are determined to keep us divided, storytelling is the way for our communities to listen to each other, learn together, and be resilient in our struggles," she explained.