Rebuilding hope and opportunities for refugees through self-reliance

Rebuilding hope and opportunities for refugees through self-reliance

There are over 150,000 refugees registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, and like Rashidah, they do not have access to legal work due to their lack of legal status.

Most refugees support their families through work in the informal sector where they face exploitation and extremely low wages. However, with the support of UNHCR, NGOs, and refugee community groups, many refugees find opportunities for livelihood through self-reliance projects.

“UNHCR approached me to participate in a Micro-entrepreneurship development programme,” said Rashidah. “I received training and coaching, and a grant to start a project that would help me earn a living.”

© UNHCR/K.Vishipir
Rashidah sells the sambal she makes at home

“I have always made sambal with dried chillies, because it was what my mother had made when I was small. So I thought maybe I could sell it. I made small quantities, packed them in containers. I was so shy at first, but I approached a Myanmar shop to ask if they would sell it for me,” said Rashidah. 

The shopkeeper liked her product, and agreed to sell it for her. To her surprise, he then ordered an additional 150 packs. Then he said that other Myanmar shops nearby were also interested to sell her sambal.

“I wasn’t shy anymore after that. I approached other shops and distributed my product myself. No shopkeeper has rejected my product yet,” said Rashidah proudly. The income she earned has allowed her to also sell fruits and local cakes in her neighbourhood in the evenings.

Rashidah is one of the success stories from UNHCR’s Micro-entrepreneurship development programme run by its NGO partner, the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs Malaysia (NAWEM). Programmes such as this aims to strengthen the capacity of refugees to explore opportunities to be self-reliant, which will lead towards a more resilient refugee community who are better able to contribute positively to the host country.

“I learnt how to speak English, how to serve customers, how to work on a business, how to invest and gain profit. I never had any of this knowledge until I joined this programme,” said Rashidah.

“I feel it is vital for refugees to have a chance to earn a livelihood just like any other person. What others can do, we can do too.”

Original source: UNHCR
Published on 12 February 2018