International Speaker Series - March 2019

by Dr. Susheela Balasundaram from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

There are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide as a result of conflict or persecution. In Malaysia alone, there are 164,620 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR as of January 2018, with a majority of them from Myanmar and more than half, ethnic Rohingya.

Dr. Susheela Balasundaram, the Associate Public Health Officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malaysia, came to Taylor’s Hostel to educate residents on refugees. She shed light on why people are forced to leave the comfort of their own homes, the perilous journey they have to endure in order to escape, and how they survive the harsh challenges in a foreign land.

an inspirational talk by Sharifah Shakirah,
Founder of the Rohingya Women Development Network (RWDN)

On 15th March, residents got a firsthand glimpse into the life of Sharifah Shakirah, a 25-year-old Rohingya refugee who was born in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. When she was five, she fled to Malaysia to escape persecution and reunite with her father who was already in the country. She received her education in a community school for refugees located in Kuala Lumpur, Dignity for Children. 

In 2017, a scholarship from a private college and UNHCR enabled her to take a course in English and IT. When she turned 22 years old, this brave and outspoken young lady founded the first ever organisation in Malaysia dedicated to empowering Rohingya women, the Rohingya Women Development Network (RWDN). Her passionate effort and hard work has earned her the International Women of Courage award from the U.S. Department of State in March 2019.

I think the talks were very good and it was an eye-opener for residents to understand who a refugee is and the work that UNHCR does”, – Ishantha Prashan Ratnayake, Bachelor of International Hospitality

The talks created a sense of awareness in the life of a refugee and how Sharifah persevered despite the difficulties she faced”, – Clarissa Phung Pao Yee, Cambridge A Levels

For the next 3 months from April 2019 onwards, residents will have the opportunity to volunteer at RWDN through our community development programme. Stay tuned!