PETALING JAYA, July 6 — A B40 single mum has stepped up to lead Covid-19 aid distribution at the people's housing project (PPR) in Lembah Subang 1 and 2.
Isham Romli, fondly known as Misha, is in charge of coordinating handouts of groceries and personal protective equipment (PPE) from donors, a role she’s had since the movement control order (MCO) kicked in on March 18, 2020.
After seeing families going hungry due to the economic fallout of the MCO, Misha also recruited a team of women to cook daily meals for those in need in the low-cost flats where she resides.
The 57-year-old is a community leader under Women of Will (WoW), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) aimed at empowering disadvantaged women in Malaysia to develop sustainable livelihoods.
Her help was especially crucial during the height of the MCO when NGO volunteers were barred from entering the PPR blocks.
In a Zoom interview with journalists, Misha said she has grown to be more confident and assertive thanks to the work she’s done with WoW.
“I used to be a very quiet person and I really wasn’t any good at speaking. I didn’t mix around much with other people either.
“When I found out about WoW, I went through a lot of their programmes and I got better at socialising, so I got to know more of the women who live in my residence as well.
“From there, I could feel myself growing braver and I pushed myself to stand out and take challenges in my stride in all aspects, whether it’s in business or my personal relationships,” said Misha.
The mother-of-three has been working with WoW since its inception in 2016 and went through its entrepreneurship programme to learn how she could start a sustainable business.
She now leads the WoW sewing centre at PPR Lembah Subang where she previously guided a team of seamstresses to sew protective gear for frontliners battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
Misha's story is an example of how important it is for female heads of households to be financially independent, and she recalled juggling various jobs in the past to put food on the table.
“I’ve been raising my three kids on my own since my husband passed away in 2007.
“I didn’t just work one job. I was a seamstress, I sold nasi lemak, and so much more just to look after my children.
“Alhamdulillah, my kids have grown up to be successful and they all have their own jobs now. My eldest son also recently got married.”
WoW president Datin Wira Goh Suet Lan said it’s important to uplift women like Misha so they can carve out a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.
The NGO aims to help B40 women run sustainable businesses which would allow them to generate income without having to constantly rely on donations or handouts.
“When a woman is able to take care of herself, she’s in a better position to take care of her family and her community as well.
“So by reaching one woman, you are expanding that impact to the family and the community,” said Goh.
To date, WoW has reached out to over 2,000 women in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Sabah through its programmes.
The NGO has also partnered with Yayasan Hasanah, the corporate social responsibility arm of Khazanah Nasional, to expand its outreach even further.
Thanks to Yayasan Hasanah, WoW beneficiaries living in PPR flats were supplied with PPE and typhoid vaccinations through the Humanitarian Disaster Relief Fund in 2020.
The typhoid jabs were essential as 70 per cent of WoW beneficiaries are running food and beverage-related businesses.
This initiative is just one of the many ways in which Yayasan Hasanah has worked with WoW to lend a helping hand to B40 women during the pandemic.
Yayasan Hasanah managing director Shahira Ahmed Bazari said the foundation awarded unrestricted funding to its partners in 2020 to get much-needed aid to beneficiaries as quickly as possible.
“(We told them to) just do what you need to do, whether it is getting PPEs, paying rent, or paying salaries.
“We all worked doubly hard because we usually take three months to award grants but during the pandemic, we had to do it in 30 days.
“That’s the role that we play because we trust that our partners are doing everything they can to help people on the ground,” said Shahira.
The pandemic saw Yayasan Hasanah allocating RM123.05 million to 253 partners and 262 projects in 2020, which benefited 322,137 needy individuals across the country.
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