An impact & engagement initiative, #KisahKita was a content creation workshop series paired with community screenings aimed at changing the negative perspectives of the Malaysian audience on migrant workers whilst simultaneously empowering migrants and refugees to tell their own stories through social media.

Whilst a large part of Malaysia’s workforce consists of migrant workers, the sentiment towards them tends to lean more toward the negative. Reporting on migrant workers in Malaysia predominantly focus on challenges of co-existing with migrant communities or criminal acts that are suggested to be due to an increase in the migrant population in a certain area. Media narratives also speak about migrants in quantifiable terms such as statistics, but give little space to narratives empowered or driven by migrants themselves.

The key aim of Kisah Kita (translated as, ‘Our Stories’) was to extend the research findings conducted by the Nepal-Malaysia corridor research teams and engage with other migrant communities residing in Malaysia in order to tell their stories. Training migrants as content creators cut out the media, news organisations, and local filmmakers, to allow migrants to share their stories authentically and with as little interference from a third party as possible. While targeted towards Nepali migrant workers, the open call was also made public. Members of various refugee communities in Malaysia also sent in applications, and in the spirit of engagement and inclusivity, they were considered alongside the other applicants.

In total, eight participants from varying backgrounds and countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Syria, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia joined the sessions. The eight participants underwent a four-week workshop session, conducted every Sunday in May 2023. Learning from platform-specific content creators for YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, participants exchanged experiences and insights with local migrant mobilisers. Partners that contributed to the training sessions include Adrian Pereira of the North-South Initiative, Elroi Yee & Puah Sze Ning of Dari Dapur, and Saleh Sepas from Parastoo Theatre, to name a few.

In June 2023, the participants attended two walkabout sessions, visiting a Madura kongsi (settlement) in Selangor to see where how these settlers live within the palm oil estate in Malaysia. They also attended one of PERTIMIG’s (the Indonesian Domestic Workers’ Association) weekly meetings to hear stories from their members who have been fighting for their rights for many years. These walkabout sessions exposed the participants to different migrant groups and their way of living, as a way of inspiring content ideas.

After that, all eight participants began production on their content. To ensure consistency and amplified quality across all the content, a support team was put together to help the participants with post-production. This consisted of an animator and illustrator, a graphic designer, two transcribers and subtitles, a video editor, a copy editor and a social media manager to pull everything together.

The result of this was a two-month campaign on Instagram starting in July 2023, and a one-month rollout of content in August 2023 on three social media platforms (YouTube, Instagram and TikTok). The content varied from light-hearted features of recipes, cuisine, and festivities to harrowing accounts of fleeing persecution, facing lack of access to education and more. Bringing a myriad of issues to light, using different mediums with the help of the support team, the content creators crafted impactful, heart-wrenching pieces of content for a Malaysian audience.

Among the three platforms, the highest engagement was achieved on TikTok where there were 108,920 engagements in August 2023 itself. Malaysians empathised and engaged with the content by Umrohatun on Indonesian domestic workers the most, expressing their sympathy for domestic workers who do not get days off and dropping messages of solidarity in the video comments.

Connecting with community

To celebrate the migrant creators, we organised a launch event on 13 August 2023. The participants each presented a piece of their content and explained their messaging and objectives behind the creation to an audience of selected stakeholders, as well as the participants’ friends and family.

In November 2023, some of the participants got together to put on joint community screenings where their communities came together and had cultural exchanges. The first screening was jointly organised by Zeinab Moradi (Afghanistan), Ayesha Begum (Myanmar-Rohingya) and Umrohatun (Indonesia). A majority of the female members of the communities attended the screening where each participant screened a video of their choosing, followed by a discussion on the similarities in their challenges and how they can support each other. The discussion was moderated by PERTIMIG’s founder, Nasrikah.

Layih Poain (Myanmar-Mon) and Omid Jafari (Afghanistan) also hosted a joint community screening, where they had a potluck - each bringing delicacies from their places of origin. Many Afghan families and young Mon students attended the screening. Both content creators made a 10-minute presentation on their home countries, talking about topics ranging from food, culture and ethnic dress before moving onto the screening of the content.

The content creators from both screenings remarked that in spite of cultural differences, the struggles they face once they migrate or become refugees are very similar, and left with a resolve to form new relationships outside their own communities in order to create a wider network of support.

Overall, Kisah Kita helped empower migrants to tell their own stories with the resources they have. The hope is that the participants will continue to produce authentic tales on their own.