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May 20,2020
By Lim Vin Tsen

“Empower”, a verb to mean give (someone) the authority or power to do something.
make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.

That is the underlying message we received during the “EMPOWERING LIVES” webinar, a FAT Talk series, hosted by Dr. Andy Hickson for HELP University’s Faculty of Arts & Communications.In this segment, we were privileged to have outspoken mitigation lawyer and human rights advocate, Siti Kasim, speak to us on what it means to empower your life.

As one of the few Malay-Muslims who dares to speak out against hudud and what she terms “man-made” laws, this 57-year old litigation lawyer and human rights activist is the co-deputy chair of the Bar Council committee on Orang Asli rights. She frequently champions for the indigenous community on land issues, human rights violations, social injustices, while contributing her time for the NGO, Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity (MAJU). This NGO started way before GE14 in Labuan, Sabah, as a foundation and is modelled after ACLU in USA.

 Siti Kasim, mitigation lawyer and human rights advocate.

Sharing her experiences on empowerment, Siti Kasim started the webinar by explaining to us what her definition of empower means. “I am not a Social Science student, but honestly, what I have checked across the internet, empower means to increase the degree of autonomy to enable people to express themselves. Basically, I have not heard about this word when I was younger and people always asked me how did I become brave when talking to authoratives over these issues.” She added, “I am right in my thinking and what I am doing. So this is really about pushing myself and to not be fearful. I think fear is our number one enemy.”

“I must speak over things that are not right and just,” said Siti Kasim, “because I feel that if I do not speak up for myself, who will speak up for me?” She went on to highlight the fact that people in this country are in general too complacent and simply accept things as they are. This robotic mindset has been prevalent in high school where children have been mindlessly trained to be obedient, follow the rules and listen, without question, to what their teachers say.

“The way we are raised and the way the education system is being implemented and it takes a lot to get out of this mould and majority will follow, the infiltration that has been controlling us is very present. Youngsters these days, are so quick to follow, they believe, without questuin, what they are being told.”

Case in point, Siti Kasim pointed how when she visited an orang asli community and found that the children there are more inquisitive than compared to our national school students. Teachers lack the nurtuing skills and have to contend with schools filling students with too much religious indoctrination, to the point that student are no longer able to think about anything else besides their own religion. Miss Kasim’s statement lead to the first question of the day where Dr. Andy asked, “If we nurture our children to question us, do we find it would be more difficult to manage and control them?”

“We need to look past the whole “control” factor,’ Miss Kasim said, ‘and to help them think critically. A lot of people assume that if you question something, then you are being rude and that is wrong. It is the fear of getting arrested, that makes us all afraid, Miss Kasin pointed out. ‘ If you ask questions on facts, you should not be afraid. You do not need to be a lawyer to know about your rights, your rights are inherent, you do not need to be a lawyer to know what’s right and what’s wrong.’

It is a life skill that that you can acquire but I do believe that you can acquire this skill, speak up for yourself. Empowerment is up to the individual and will lead to collective change, if we can help others then we are empowering others as well. Our government needs to teach our people and the skills to take skills and lead their own lives, not to control the minds of the people. Also the parents, they need to teach their children how to lead and be empowered.

During the Q&A session, one viewer asked, ‘Is healthcare a privilege?’

“For the rich and for whom?’” replied Miss Kassim, “It is a privilege for everyone, people have this misinformation about healthcare. Everyone still needs to pay for basic healthcare even though they are sponsored by support groups or from their own pocket. It is not a privilege to anyone. It is a basic necessity and it must be available to everyone. In regards to the issues of religion and naysayers who tell her to mind her own business and repent, the empowered lady said that any religious belief should not be a major contributing factor in your life, people claim to be professionals and yet do not know the meaning of liberal and they “sully” the meaning of it. This is the marketing of the power that be that makes us devil advocates if we call ourselves a liberal.

In closing, Miss Kasim made a passionate plea to remind us that we can be empowered to speak up for ourselves because no one else will speak for you, if you are unhappy, then speak up! We must make the change and be brave about it.

The HELP University Faculty of Arts and Communication offers Diploma and Degree programmes majoring in Communication, Public Relations, Media Studies and Marketing Communication. Classes are fully integrated and are designed to address the individual and group needs of students. The emphasis on the courses is practical, interactive, fun and immersive. HELP University Communication students set the industry standard and are the number one choice for many employers across Malaysia and the world. Communication studies are more than just degree programmes, they hone the essential skills for life. Empower yourself at HELP University today. Visit www.university.help.edu.my and call 03-2716 2000 to speak to one our guidance counsellors today

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