'Step With Refugees' Global Challenge Kicks Off In Malaysia


Kick-off of the Step With Refugees Challenge in Malaysia with Flyproject.co at The Square, Publika  © UNHCR/Yante Ismail

Kuala Lumpur, 14 July 2019 - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency kicked-off its “Step With Refugees” global movement here in Malaysia with a public event at the Publika Mall.

This campaign, kicked off globally on World Refugee Day last month, came about when UNHCR traced the journeys of refugees around the world and calculated that collectively, refugees travel approximately two billion kilometres every year to reach the first point of safety.

“In recognising the tremendous strength and resilience of refugee communities in finding safety, this global campaign invites people to act in solidarity with them, and take steps to demonstrate support for refugees,” said Maja Lazic, UNHCR Deputy Representative. “In a time of increasing xenophobia and hate speech towards migrants around the world, we can demonstrate a different narrative – one of tolerance, of connection, and of common values.”

There are over 175,000 refugees in Malaysia who have been forced to flee their countries due to conflict and persecution.  The campaign urges everyone to take steps - big or small - to help them live a life of dignity while they seek temporary protection here.

As part of the campaign, globally, UNHCR initiated the “Step With Refugees” challenge. In solidarity with refugees, people are encouraged to run, walk, cycle, etc, and sync their fitness apps to UNHCR’s website (stepwithrefugees.org), and clock in the number of kilometres they have moved. The global aim is to achieve a cumulative total of two billion kilometres contributed by communities worldwide, by end 2020.

In Malaysia, the main event to kick-off the campaign at Publika was a series of public workout classes offered by fitness expert FLYPROJECT. Participants of these classes collectively clocked in over 114,400 steps, or over 88km. These kilometres will be contributed to the global count of distance covered in solidarity with refugees.  The Challenge will continue till end 2020.

Beyond this, the campaign also broadly encourages people to support refugees through individual acts of solidarity, including extending friendship, camaraderie, and compassion for refugees.

In line with this, UNHCR partnered with Art Battle Malaysia to organise a live painting competition, called Art Battle, with ten refugee youth artists from the art collective Canvassing For Confidence. The intention of this collaboration is to allow refugee youth artists to compete through art and showcase their talent - an opportunity not often afforded to communities in exile. In line with the campaign, the collaboration also connects refugee and non-refugee artists through an arts platform in a mark of friendship and solidarity.

The winner of Art Battle was 16 year old Khadijah, an Afghan refugee youth, while the first runner was 15 year-old Sai Tom from Myanmar.

Other events that took place during the launch included a Drum For Hope performance by refugee students from Fugee School, and an artisanal bazaar - with over 15 booths selling jewellery, crafts, and traditional food. Among those participating were Fugee Lah, the Rohingya Women Development Network, Lady Ayaz, Dignity for Children Foundation, and Canvassing for Confidence.

This launch is held in partnership with FlyProject and Art Battle Malaysia, and with the support of Publika, UNIQLO, Premier Art, Czip Lee, and dUCk.