RYTHM Foundation, the social impact initiative of the QI Group is the proud winner of the Junior Chamber International Malaysia (JCIM) Sustainable Development Award (SDA) 2020 for its Maharani programme, which works with at-risk, adolescent girls from marginalised communities in Malaysia.
The JCI Malaysia SDA, launched in 2017, is granted to sustainable projects conducted by companies, government agencies, and NGOs that advance any of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The Maharani programme was recognised for the award under the SDG 4 that aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
The Maharani programme was launched in 2010 by the RYTHM Foundation as its flagship programme under the leadership of its Chairperson, Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran. In the last decade, the Maharani programme has worked with more than 8,000 young girls from underserved communities, primarily from low-income and troubled family backgrounds, who are caught in the cycle of poverty.
Through a combination of self-discovery camps, after-school programmes, and continuous mentoring, the Maharani Programme has given hope and opportunity to thousands of young girls from the B40 segment in Malaysia to look beyond their circumstances and pursue a better life.
“We believe with the right support, education, and guidance, the young girls of today can become the change-makers of tomorrow. This award is a testament to the potential that each and every one of us has to impact another life,” said Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran, in her acceptance speech at the virtual ceremony of the JCI Sustainable Development Award 2020 held on Facebook Live on December 26.
Since its inception, RYTHM Foundation has worked with 55 schools in nine states all over Malaysia, has mobilised around 135 teachers, and organised 86 camps in 12 locations all over the country. The Maharani Learning Lab, the first physical facility established under the programme in Sungai Siput, Perak in 2015, has conducted over 1,200 cumulative hours of classes and activities and has benefitted over 500 girls from the local community.
The Maharani programme is endorsed by the Ministry of Education, Malaysia and has been incorporated into the Pintar Schools Adoption programme in five public schools in Perak in collaboration with Pintar Foundation. RYTHM Foundation has also partnered with organisations such as Pure Life Society and Young Women Christian Association Kuala Lumpur (YWCA KL) which has allowed it to expand the reach and scope of the programme. These partners have incorporated the Maharani module into their residential programmes.
Since its launch in 2010, the Maharani programme has grown, based on the underpinning belief that every girl is born strong and equal and must be raised as such to believe in herself and her potential, to drive change in our society.
Through the programme, the girls learn about gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, ethnicity and culture, and the importance of physical and spiritual wellness. The programme seeks to empower a new generation of young women who are motivated to battle outdated societal and cultural norms and overcome the limitations that undermine their self-worth. This programme gives them the confidence to pursue bigger goals for themselves, and subsequently for their families, and to make a positive impact in the communities in which they live.
“RYTHM Foundation is grateful to our partners, volunteers, trainers and participants for their support and contribution through this decade-long journey of Maharani. On behalf of my team, I express our sincere thanks to all those involved in making Maharani a success which has made this honour possible today,” added Datin Sri Umayal.
In September 2015, the United Nations announced the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by the year 2030, to replace the Millennium Development Goals that ended in 2015. In October 2015, JCI Malaysia released a Declaration at its Annual National Convention to announce its commitment to help educate, promote, and conduct sustainable projects in line with the UN SDGs.
Quality Education (SDG 4) is one of the RYTHM Foundation’s focus areas, alongside Gender Equality (SDG 5) and Sustainable Community Development (SDG 8, 11 and 17).