Cohort one’s journey

Q&A Sessions with the communities

December 2021
Chen, the programme coordinator, met ladies from different communities who were interested to be part of Azalea Initiative’s first cohort, and answered some of the queries they had about the programme.

Chapter 1: Constructing your identity

15 January 2022
The ladies started the day with some fun activities before immersing themselves into the first session called Migration of Identity. Being uprooted from home and migrating to a brand new country with a very different culture can profoundly affect a person. It is not uncommon for people who have been through such experiences to lose some form of their identity. The ladies explored their sense of identity in this session and discovered what defines them as a person. 

16 January 2022
The ladies started the second day of the workshop with Vic Qi through some fun dance moves. It was good reconnecting with each other again especially after hearing each others’ stories. The ladies spent the morning mapping out the people who influence or are making a difference in their respective lives. Through the Team of Life session, Chen guided the ladies through a series of questions that helped them to recognise their support system. The session ended with a time of reflection where they were tasked to chose one person whom they desired to write a letter to.

After filling their bellies with scrumptious Afghan food, the workshop resumed with the session, The Stories We Tell Ourselves. “Who they are” and “what they do” are influenced by the stories that they tell themselves. While a person cannot change the stories that others have about them, they can influence the stories they tell themselves. The ladies were taught the tools to start writing their own narratives. With thoughtfulness, they can author their stories of identity that they believe best represents them. 

Chapter 2: Challenging yourself to bloom

12 February 2022
Excitement filled the air as the ladies reconvened for Chapter 2 where they learnt from a set of leadership modules by International Detention Coalition. The cohort warmed up with a few icebreakers before diving into the first session: Intersectionality.

“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
Audre Lorde

The ladies learnt that a person has “overlapping identities” and can experience “overlapping forms of oppression”, like sexism, racism, and religious discrimination, simultaneously. As such, it is important to consider every aspect of a person’s or community’s life in their work on overcoming oppression.

Meet & Greet

9 January 2022
Twelve ladies from four communities met as a cohort for the first time. The energy was high and they had a great time getting to know one another. They bonded over games, food and conversations. Chen introduced the idea of ‘taking Time to Think’ as one of the facilitation tools that the ladies will be using for the workshops. It was encouraging to see them holding space for each other to share without judgement and interruption; one of the most important tools in their journey of leadership. 

After lunch, Chen ran a session on Trauma, Resilience and Healing. The ladies learned the importance of recognizing collective trauma, understanding their personal resilience and starting the healing process. Self-facilitated conversations helped them to hold safe space for each other to share their experiences. 

I feel sad but now I know that I am not the only one who has experienced what I did.

After that, Cecil (a project coordinator from SUKA Society) led the group into a session on self-care. She emphasized the importance of taking time to practise self-care and shared some relaxation techniques to the ladies. It was definitely a day of deep reflection and self-discovery.

Milestone Project 1: Self-expression

17-31 January 2022
As part of their Chapter 1 training, the ladies were required to complete a self-expression assignment. Some decided to paint, write, craft or make a short video.

The second half of the day saw the ladies exploring what and how “Human Rights” looked like. They shared their thoughts on the importance of safeguarding everyone’s rights. The session included an activity where Chen led the ladies to envision their ideal world. It was an emotionally-moving process. Holding onto the vision they had, the ladies were tasked to visualise and draw pictures of the ideal community that they hoped to see. 

13 February 2022
What is Justice and Solidarity? That was the question that the ladies had to unpack on the second day. They were asked many thought-provoking questions like, “Can we center justice around laws?” and “Are all the laws just?”. They drew inspiration from the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and his pursuit for a just world. The ladies also learned that justice can be hard to achieve, but by standing in solidarity with each other, the community can make a difference.

One of the activities gave them the opportunity to express their experiences of injustice and enabled them to demonstrate it through mini skits.  The group came together to discuss the skits and proposed how injustice can be prevented in those scenarios. Through interactive activities like this, the ladies could meaningfully participate in problem-solving discussions.

Azalea Initiative recognised that each person is a leader in her own space. In order for them to fully harness their potential, they needed to understand their leadership style. In the Leadership module, the ladies answered a  questionnaire that gave them an insight into their style of leadership and how they can work with various types of leaders. This was particularly important for them as they would have to collaborate with each other for their second milestone project: an International Women’s Day event.

Milestone Project 2: International Women's Day Event organising

27 February – 26 March 2022
As part of their Chapter 2 training, the ladies were required to collaborate and organise an event in conjunction with International Women’s Day. Although the task wasn’t easy, the ladies took ownership and worked together to plan the event. They spent days brainstorming and decided to go with theme for this year: Break the Bias. The event objectives were:

Inspire women to live up to their potential.
Enjoy a day of fun organised by women for women.
Learn to recognise and exercise their rights as an individual.
Connect with women from the communities.

The ladies were individually tasked to lead different segments of the event. From food to a theater performance, they worked as a team to make the event a success.

26 February 2022
The ladies spent the Saturday afternoon learning about Community Organising from Hnin and Siva from Asylum Access Malaysia. Although the session was conducted over Zoom, the ladies were still able to participate meaningfully through discussions and activities.

International Women's Day: Break the Bias

27 March 2022
Finally the anticipated day arrived. After spending weeks practicing and doing trial runs for the event, the ladies could finally dress up and enjoy the day they have been investing so much time on. Other women from the communities who were guests of Cohort 1 came and enjoyed the activities planned for them. This included several games followed by a video screening entitled: The Selfmade Women, which was directed and produced by the participants, featured some of the refugee women in Malaysia who have made significant achievements despite their hardships here.

Lunch was a cross cultural affair. Guests were served a variety of finger food such as the Afghan dumplings called mantu, sandwiches, ferni – a custard-like dessert from Agfhanistan, and Somalian vegetarian samosas.

After lunch, guests were ushered back into the hall for a theatre presentation. Titled Breaking the Silence, the play centered around a young refugee girl, Sara, who had come to Malaysia with her family. Needing to support her family, she found a job in a hotel but was sadly entangled in an unpredictable harassment situation. After the play, the actors and the audience engaged in a discussion about speaking out against such offences and what it meant to empower women.

A well-rounded event filled with laughter, dance, games and reflection, the celebration ended with an acknowledgement of the hard work put in by the Azalea Initiative ladies and a presentation of tokens of appreciation.

17 April 2022
On the last day of the workshop, the cohort learnt the purpose of Campaign Planning in advocating for their communities and pushing for change.  In this session, the ladies recognised that a campaign can help communities to organise themselves to negotiate with people who hold decision-making power. The ladies drew examples from their own experiences and had a robust discussion on the ways to  solve pressing issues through a campaign.

As part of a case study, the ladies watched a documentary called Girl Rising, a short film about an organisation’s mission to eradicate poverty by keeping girls in school. After the screening, the ladies shared their thoughts and feelings about the documentary. Using examples from the film, the ladies shared what they thought about addressing problems by understanding the root causes and having a strong campaign to advocate for change. The conversation sparked some ideas among the ladies. Breaking into small Thinking Session groups, the cohort worked together to develop ideas for their own impact projects.

Chapter 3: Creating impact through actions

16 April 2022
The cohort came together again after a three-week break for their final workshop weekend. The day started with Kevin, Azalea Initiative’s project assistant, who conducted a session on Power Mapping. They learned about power dynamics and the way communities can harness their collective power to make a change. The ladies participated in a roleplay activity and had a discussion on ways they could navigate around the different powers at play.

Chen conducted the second session on “Issue Analysis” where they investigated an issue’s root causes. During the session, the ladies explored the issue of young people not having access to good quality education. It was an issue that all of them resonated with and through facilitated discussions, they dug deep and identified some of the real reasons that perpetuated the problem. The question they were tasked to ponder on were, “How can this issues be addressed meaningfully now that we have identified the root causes?”

The workshop closed with the ladies sharing their experiences and learnings about themselves throughout the Azalea Initiative programme thus far. As they move into the Impact Project planning stage, Chen and her team hope that they are able to harness what they’ve learned and use them to achieve their goals.

You can learn many different things here in this project. The most important thing is women gathering with each other and learn about different communities and you can find the solution and share with others too.
Mozhdeh Qurbani

Afghanistan

People should join the Azalea Initiative because it is a big opportunity to improve yourself.
Tamana Sherzad

Afghanistan

People should join the Azalea Initiative because you can learn about your abilities and build your confidence to advocate for yourself and the women in your community.
Amber Maria

Pakistan

If you want to learn new things and connect with people from different cultures, make sure to sign up for the Azalea Initiative.
Abeera

Somalia

Azalea Initiative is a home where every woman can learn to know that your voice matters and you are capable of the impossible. It’s a place where you can use your abilities and connect with different people.
Moon Zi

Myanmar

It is really fun and you can get a lot of things. For me, I learned to be confident, what are my values, and what are my rights as a woman.
Farzana Rasooli

Afghanistan

Cohort one’s journey

Q&A Sessions with the communities

December 2021
Chen, the programme coordinator, met ladies from different communities who were interested to be part of Azalea Initiative’s first cohort, and answered some of the queries they had about the programme.

Meet & Greet

9 January 2022
Twelve ladies from four communities met as a cohort for the first time. The energy was high and they had a great time getting to know one another. They bonded over games, food and conversations. Chen introduced the idea of ‘taking Time to Think’ as one of the facilitation tools that the ladies will be using for the workshops. It was encouraging to see them holding space for each other to share without judgement and interruption; one of the most important tools in their journey of leadership. 

Chapter 1: Constructing your identity

15 January 2022
The ladies started the day with some fun activities before immersing themselves into the first session called Migration of Identity. Being uprooted from home and migrating to a brand new country with a very different culture can profoundly affect a person. It is not uncommon for people who have been through such experiences to lose some form of their identity. The ladies explored their sense of identity in this session and discovered what defines them as a person. 

After lunch, Chen ran a session on Trauma, Resilience and Healing. The ladies learned the importance of recognizing collective trauma, understanding their personal resilience and starting the healing process. Self-facilitated conversations helped them to hold safe space for each other to share their experiences. 

I feel sad but now I know that I am not the only one who has experienced what I did.

After that, Cecil (a project coordinator from SUKA Society) led the group into a session on self-care. She emphasized the importance of taking time to practise self-care and shared some relaxation techniques to the ladies. It was definitely a day of deep reflection and self-discovery.

16 January 2022
The ladies started the second day of the workshop with Vic Qi through some fun dance moves. It was good reconnecting with each other again especially after hearing each others’ stories. The ladies spent the morning mapping out the people who influence or are making a difference in their respective lives. Through the Team of Life session, Chen guided the ladies through a series of questions that helped them to recognise their support system. The session ended with a time of reflection where they were tasked to chose one person whom they desired to write a letter to.

After filling their bellies with scrumptious Afghan food, the workshop resumed with the session, The Stories We Tell Ourselves. “Who they are” and “what they do” are influenced by the stories that they tell themselves. While a person cannot change the stories that others have about them, they can influence the stories they tell themselves. The ladies were taught the tools to start writing their own narratives. With thoughtfulness, they can author their stories of identity that they believe best represents them. 

Milestone Project 1: Self-expression

17-31 January 2022
As part of their Chapter 1 training, the ladies were required to complete a self-expression assignment. Some decided to paint, write, craft or make a short video.

Chapter 2: Challenging yourself to bloom

12 February 2022
Excitement filled the air as the ladies reconvened for Chapter 2 where they learnt from a set of leadership modules by International Detention Coalition. The cohort warmed up with a few icebreakers before diving into the first session: Intersectionality.

“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
Audre Lorde

The ladies learnt that a person has “overlapping identities” and can experience “overlapping forms of oppression”, like sexism, racism, and religious discrimination, simultaneously. As such, it is important to consider every aspect of a person’s or community’s life in their work on overcoming oppression.

The second half of the day saw the ladies exploring what and how “Human Rights” looked like. They shared their thoughts on the importance of safeguarding everyone’s rights. The session included an activity where Chen led the ladies to envision their ideal world. It was an emotionally-moving process. Holding onto the vision they had, the ladies were tasked to visualise and draw pictures of the ideal community that they hoped to see. 

13 February 2022
What is Justice and Solidarity? That was the question that the ladies had to unpack on the second day. They were asked many thought-provoking questions like, “Can we center justice around laws?” and “Are all the laws just?”. They drew inspiration from the life of Dr. Martin Luther King and his pursuit for a just world. The ladies also learned that justice can be hard to achieve, but by standing in solidarity with each other, the community can make a difference.

One of the activities gave them the opportunity to express their experiences of injustice and enabled them to demonstrate it through mini skits.  The group came together to discuss the skits and proposed how injustice can be prevented in those scenarios. Through interactive activities like this, the ladies could meaningfully participate in problem-solving discussions.

Azalea Initiative recognised that each person is a leader in her own space. In order for them to fully harness their potential, they needed to understand their leadership style. In the Leadership module, the ladies answered a  questionnaire that gave them an insight into their style of leadership and how they can work with various types of leaders. This was particularly important for them as they would have to collaborate with each other for their second milestone project: an International Women’s Day event.

26 February 2022
The ladies spent the Saturday afternoon learning about Community Organising from Hnin and Siva from Asylum Access Malaysia. Although the session was conducted over Zoom, the ladies were still able to participate meaningfully through discussions and activities.

Milestone Project 2: International Women's Day Event organising

27 February – 26 March 2022
As part of their Chapter 2 training, the ladies were required to collaborate and organise an event in conjunction with International Women’s Day. Although the task wasn’t easy, the ladies took ownership and worked together to plan the event. They spent days brainstorming and decided to go with theme for this year: Break the Bias. The event objectives were:

Inspire women to live up to their potential.
Enjoy a day of fun organised by women for women.
Learn to recognise and exercise their rights as an individual.
Connect with women from the communities.

The ladies were individually tasked to lead different segments of the event. From food to a theater performance, they worked as a team to make the event a success.

International Women's Day: Break the Bias

27 March 2022
Finally the anticipated day arrived. After spending weeks practicing and doing trial runs for the event, the ladies could finally dress up and enjoy the day they have been investing so much time on. Other women from the communities who were guests of Cohort 1 came and enjoyed the activities planned for them. This included several games followed by a video screening entitled: The Selfmade Women, which was directed and produced by the participants, featured some of the refugee women in Malaysia who have made significant achievements despite their hardships here.

Lunch was a cross cultural affair. Guests were served a variety of finger food such as the Afghan dumplings called mantu, sandwiches, ferni – a custard-like dessert from Agfhanistan, and Somalian vegetarian samosas.

After lunch, guests were ushered back into the hall for a theatre presentation. Titled Breaking the Silence, the play centered around a young refugee girl, Sara, who had come to Malaysia with her family. Needing to support her family, she found a job in a hotel but was sadly entangled in an unpredictable harassment situation. After the play, the actors and the audience engaged in a discussion about speaking out against such offences and what it meant to empower women.

A well-rounded event filled with laughter, dance, games and reflection, the celebration ended with an acknowledgement of the hard work put in by the Azalea Initiative ladies and a presentation of tokens of appreciation.

Chapter 3: Creating impact through actions

16 April 2022
The cohort came together again after a three-week break for their final workshop weekend. The day started with Kevin, Azalea Initiative’s project assistant, who conducted a session on Power Mapping. They learned about power dynamics and the way communities can harness their collective power to make a change. The ladies participated in a roleplay activity and had a discussion on ways they could navigate around the different powers at play.

Chen conducted the second session on “Issue Analysis” where they investigated an issue’s root causes. During the session, the ladies explored the issue of young people not having access to good quality education. It was an issue that all of them resonated with and through facilitated discussions, they dug deep and identified some of the real reasons that perpetuated the problem. The question they were tasked to ponder on were, “How can this issues be addressed meaningfully now that we have identified the root causes?”

17 April 2022
On the last day of the workshop, the cohort learnt the purpose of Campaign Planning in advocating for their communities and pushing for change.  In this session, the ladies recognised that a campaign can help communities to organise themselves to negotiate with people who hold decision-making power. The ladies drew examples from their own experiences and had a robust discussion on the ways to  solve pressing issues through a campaign.

As part of a case study, the ladies watched a documentary called Girl Rising, a short film about an organisation’s mission to eradicate poverty by keeping girls in school. After the screening, the ladies shared their thoughts and feelings about the documentary. Using examples from the film, the ladies shared what they thought about addressing problems by understanding the root causes and having a strong campaign to advocate for change. The conversation sparked some ideas among the ladies. Breaking into small Thinking Session groups, the cohort worked together to develop ideas for their own impact projects.

The workshop closed with the ladies sharing their experiences and learnings about themselves throughout the Azalea Initiative programme thus far. As they move into the Impact Project planning stage, Chen and her team hope that they are able to harness what they’ve learned and use them to achieve their goals.

You can learn many different things here in this project. The most important thing is women gathering with each other and learn about different communities and you can find the solution and share with others too.
Mozhdeh Qurbani

Afghanistan

People should join the Azalea Initiative because it is a big opportunity to improve yourself.
Tamana Sherzad

Afghanistan

If you want to learn new things and connect with people from different cultures, make sure to sign up for the Azalea Initiative.
Abeera

Somalia

It is really fun and you can get a lot of things. For me, I learned to be confident, what are my values, and what are my rights as a woman.
Farzana Rasooli

Afghanistan

People should join the Azalea Initiative because you can learn about your abilities and build your confidence to advocate for yourself and the women in your community.
Amber Maria

Pakistan

Azalea Initiative is a home where every woman can learn to know that your voice matters and you are capable of the impossible. It’s a place where you can use your abilities and connect with different people.
Moon Zi

Myanmar