KUALA LUMPUR: Laila (not her real name) was only 14 when she was brought to Malaysia from Bangladesh nine years ago.
A year later, her quest for a better life was to turn into the darkest chapter of her life.
She was abused and assaulted by a couple who hired her a domestic worker.
Tenaganita executive director Glorene Das remembers Laila’s ordeal, for she had personally cared for her.
“When I went to see her, she was in a coma. I thought she would die,” she told FMT when met during a dinner in honour of lawyers who have helped the migrants rights group in the last two decades.
Laila’s medical bill came up to RM200,000, paid through funds raised by Tenaganita, the bulk of which was contributed by the Swiss government.
After her surgery, Laila was unable to pass motion naturally, and had to carry around a bag with her.
“I stayed with her over the night. I was very scared, wondering if she would be able to pass motion.
“(But) she came running to me and said, ‘Mama, I can pass motion’,” Glorene recalled.
Laila’s case is one of many that were taken up by Tenaganita, a group which has championed the plight of migrant workers for over two decades.
Glorene said many victims of abuse had come to Tenaganita, and had almost given up on their lives.
She said most of them were like “living dead”.
“Most of them, when you look into their eyes, they are alive but they are dead.
“And then when we give them certain encouragement, you see their eyes light up. That is when you realise you have given them life,” said Glorene.
“When you give them hope, you give them life. It is not about the money. It’s these things that make our work so meaningful,” she added.
It is also why Glorene regards seeing through Laila’s path to recovery as one of her proudest moments.
Laila lived with Tenaganita for almost three years, from June 2013 to 2016.
Now 23, Laila has since returned to Bangladesh to live with her family.
But she has not completely recovered despite the surgery.
“She is struggling with her family, because she cannot hold permanent work due to the operation, hence the trauma,” said Glorene.
Glorene is hopeful that Laila would bounce back.
“She is a very smart girl. She is a fighter. People like her should be leaders one day,” she said.
Glorene said they were now working towards securing funding for Laila, for her to return to Malaysia and study nursing.
She has identified parties who have already expressed their interest in funding Laila.