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ZULBAIDA BINTE MOHAMED ALI (b. 1962)

COMMUNITY ORGANISER

Known in the community as Zubee, Zubaida Binte Mohamed Ali started her journey in the social service sector after going through her own struggles as a young single mother with four children. Facing discrimination, struggling with finances and juggling childcare, she felt she could only rely on herself and “whatever crumbs your ex-husband or your family or the government could provide”. It was an uphill battle back then to regain stability.

Now working as a consultant with Daughters of Tomorrow, Zubee firmly believes in the role of both the community and the government in helping to ensure that children from less privileged backgrounds can grow up to become well-adjusted adults. The charity organisation focuses on a job readiness programme to help low-income families gain sustainable livelihoods. To support women going to work, it has an initiative for low-income neighbourhoods called the Community Childminding Programme, which takes a community-centric approach to childcare.

Zubee has plenty of examples of how structural and patriarchal systems affect such children in different ways – from the kind of housing they end up living in, to the way they develop social relations. And while government policies can change, they can take years, during which time these children grow up. She says: “If children are not given the proper foundation, not given the right support, not given the childhood that they deserve, then we are doing a disservice to them. They will grow up to become adults with issues and perpetuate the abuse to the next generation.”

Zubee also volunteers with Reyna Movement, a Singapore-based organisation whose work in empowering women includes supporting the displaced Rohingya refugee community living in Malaysia, some of whom have lived there for many years. “I’m a big advocate of self-responsibility and self-enablement. We want the community to be strong enough so that they can help themselves and not so much having a top-down approach. I’m against cultivating a giving handout culture, but more about enabling them to be self-sufficient,” says Zubee.

At the moment, Zubee is exploring how to use socially engaged art to change mindsets and encourage greater empathy. She is working on collecting stories of women who are single “in a world made for two” for an upcoming exhibition. By presenting these stories, she hopes to make these women feel heard on their own terms.

To know more about Daughters of Tomorrow, visit www.daughtersoftomorrow.org.