Hoe Yu Li shares how she came to be an activist — and why you should become one too.
Like many Malaysians, I first came across the word ‘gerrymandering’ right after the 13th General Election. After Barisan Nasional won enough seats in the Dewan Rakyat to form a Federal Government, many took to the streets and Facebook (unsurprisingly) to vent their anger and frustration. I started seeing Facebook feeds highlighting the unfairness in our electoral system. Those who previously did not know what the ‘first past the post’ system was, now suddenly became experts in our electoral system.
Faced with two almost-opposite stories by supporters from the different political parties, I admit, I was overhelmed by so-called ‘facts’. I learnt that Gerrymandering and Mal-appotionment cost Pakatan Rakyat their win during the 13th General Election. I learnt that it was a political tool used to benefit the incumbent party. But all in all, gerrymandering to me was just another political issue.
Moving forward a few months after the general election, I was introduced to a new initiative under UndiMsia! called Sekolah Aktivisme. The first campaign to be launched by Sekolah Aktivisme was on the topic of Gerrymandering.
As I was looking for different experiences I decided to give activism a chance. It took some courage to make that decision, after having been told my whole life that activism is a form of ‘rebellion’ against the establishment, and that it is wrong and would be punished.
Nonetheless, my decision would prove to be the start of an adventurous journey that would change my views and opinions on gerrymandering and activism.
Sekolah Aktivisme means School of Activism. It comprises youths who are fondly known as ‘sekolah movers’. Started in August 2013, the aim of Sekolah Aktivisme is to train everyday activists to effect positive change in the country. Similar to most formal learning institutions, sekolah movers are tasked to complete reading materials and work assigned for each session. Apart from that, external coaches are also invited to help sekolah movers learn and understand their strengths and areas for improvement.
The all rounded approach of having sekolah movers to plan and implement the anti-gerrymandering campaign themselves coupled with guidance on how to interact with other activists and the public-at-large is the first of its kind of activism education in Malaysia.
Sekolah movers achieved their first milestone when we launched our campaign called 1Rakyat: 1 Undi: 1Nilai (1RUN).
The two main objectives of the 1RUN campaign are — (1) to increase awareness of gerrymandering amongst the youth; and (2) to mobilise youths to act on unfair delineation of boundaries.
In the three months prior to our first launch on 26 October 2013, sekolah movers worked tirelessly to produce various products such as a memorandum, a comic booklet and a gerrymandering gameshop. The National Language was used as a medium for the memorandum and comic booklet with hopes to reach communities less exposed to activism.
After the first launch, sekolah movers also started speaking at public events and universities. These experiences have proven to be a good learning platform for our young sekolah movers whilst doing their part to change Malaysia.
Encouraged by the good reception at our previous activities, Sekolah Aktivisme is collaborating with media and social media personalities to run a gerrymandering awareness week from 29 March to 5 April 2014. The awareness week was kickstarted by a press event where media and social media personalities were encouraged to write about gerrymandering during the week. Sekolah movers aim to reach a wider audience with the gerrymandering awareness week.
Sharing the past activities of Sekolah Aktivisme and 1RUN campaign above has made me realise how much we have achieved in the short span of seven months. What was once just another political issue to me is now where I spend most of my weekends working with a great bunch of young Malaysians who are eager to change the wrong they see in this country.
Understanding the core issues of gerrymandering and mal-appotionment through research and discussion has allowed me to understand a portion of the unfairness happening around me.
Gerrymandering no longer represents blind anger and frustration to me. Gerrymandering represents friendship to me because I have made many close friends through the 1RUN campaign.
Gerrymandering also represents an opportunity to change for the better, because to change for the better, we must know where we went wrong in the first place.
At a time where people seem to be caught in between political arguments and fights, and political parties and leaders seem to only prioritise their personal agendas before the needs of the people, I firmly believe that standing up for your rights through activism is important and necessary.
Therefore, with this short yet rewarding experience of mine, I humbly appeal to all Malaysians to join sekolah movers on this journey to learn about our rights in relation to free and fair elections and how you can channel your anger into action and effect positive changes around you.