For empowerm ent: Participants listening to a talk during the workshop in Long Nen, organised by the Baram branch of Sarawak Penan Women Association.
MIRI: It has been discovered that many young Penan women in the interior of Sarawak are being left to look after their children on their own without any moral and financial support from their husbands.
The Baram branch of Sarawak Penan Women’s Association said they had unearthed quite a number of cases where these young mothers were abandoned by their spouses for no apparent reason.
Members from the association recently visited the rural settlements of Long Nen, Long Belok and Long Lutin in the upper reaches of Baram district where they conducted workshops to help educate the Penan women and girls on their rights.
Its president Jonita Ayet revealed that many Penan women found themselves being trapped in a difficult situation of having to bring up their children and take care of their families without any support from their husbands.
“Many of these women end up being single mothers after their husbands abandoned them.
“They are not receiving any welfare aid because they do not know how to seek or apply for it.
Due to lack of information and knowledge as well as not having legal documents of identification, many of them are also not aware of their rights,” she said.
Jonita said the women were also facing many difficulties in obtain- ing birth certificates for their children as they had to travel long distances to towns closest to their settlements to do so.
“Even those who managed to register the birth of their children — albeit late — had to fill up to 20 different types of forms.
“Many of these Penan women are not educated; they simply do not know what to do,” she said.
According to Junita, the association is currently seeking assistance from the National Registration Department, Welfare Department and also the Legal Aid Bureau to help these Penan women.
On the association’s side, she said it strove to carry out more outreach projects such as the workshops, to educate the rural folk on women’s rights as well as the campaign against sexual abuse and exploitation.
“The association also aims to teach them about their responsibilities as mothers, their rights under the law and ways to deal with family issues.
“We are also helping these women to obtain entrepreneurial skills that will enable them to set up small businesses,” Junita added.
The recent workshop in Baram saw more than 300 participants attending.