Crossroads is a video advocacy project aimed at developing and strengthening the advocacy and documentation capacity of migrant workers, refugees, stateless persons, and their support organisations in Malaysia. It is a collaboration between EngageMedia and Citizen Journalists Malaysia.
Malaysia has the highest numbers of migrant workers in Southeast Asia. According to government statistics from July 2013, the country has 2.1 million registered migrant workers and an estimated 1.3 illegal migrant workers within its borders. This means one in three workers comes from outside Malaysia.
Workers without valid documentation are considered illegal and are often subjected to various forms of abuse – ranging from illegal withholding of salaries, to engagement in bribery, and rape. However, the reality of the workers’ situations are not widely known or reported in the media. Various negative stereotypes exist in a hostile climate in the host community.
EngageMedia believes that by supporting migrant workers to take the lead in telling their own stories through video, Malaysians will gain a better understanding of their personal experiences, in order to correct the stereotypes and foster a climate of tolerance. The workers will also have the necessary skills to use video for evidence and documentation as aid in advocacy.
In the past year, we organised a total of 12 workshops in Klang Valley, Selangor, and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. For the 15 participants which included Indonesians, Nepalis, Malaysians, and Burmese, we provided skills in storytelling, video advocacy, storyboarding, video shooting and editing, online/offline video distribution, and online subtitling with Amara.
Our participants came from various backgrounds, such as Karmadi (pictured top-right), who is an Indonesian migrant in Malaysia working in the construction sector. He made the time to attend all the training sessions despite his difficult work schedule, and recently purchased Malay-language books on photography to continue practicing around his various job-sites. He hopes that he “can use his new video and photography skills to do more than construction work”. In the video, Karmadi explains the hardships experienced by undocumented workers:
The authorities are not interested to know why the migrants are undocumented. They just want to punish them. No one wants to be an undocumented worker, but due to poor laws and enforcement, it gives agents a lot of opportunities to deceive desperate migrant workers.
The final videos produced by Karmadi and the other particpants were compiled into a DVD toolkit featuring 12 videos organised in five chapters according to the theme of migration they touch upon, namely, The 6P Programme, Support Systems for Migrant Workers, The Role of Law Enforcement Authorities, Seeking Protection, and Protecting Children. It also includes a Study Guide designed to give context to these videos for use in educational and advocacy purposes.
On 15 December 2013, a launch screening was organised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in collaboration with Tenanganita, a migrant rights NGO. The event was graced by its founder, the late Dr. Irene Fernandez, who reminded the 200 migrant worker guests of their fundamental human rights and stressed the importance of using video, among other means, as tools for evidence and documentation.
As project lead, I learned as much from the participants as I shared with them. These are not only stories of struggle in a foreign land, but also of resilience and hope for a better future. All the videos from the project and a PDF version of the Study Guide can be viewed and downloaded here.
Written by Seelan Palay