(Guest post from Isabel Girling)
Empowerment is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life.” Batik Boutique strives to assist artisans in achieving this definition of empowerment—in all areas of life. In addition to economic and professional development, they aim to take a holistic approach by providing opportunities for artisans to take control of other areas of their lives, including health.
My family has known Amy for a long time; in fact, 10 years ago we moved to Penang, Malaysia together on the exact same plane. We saw Batik Boutique develop from the very beginning, when Amy was making products in the guest room of her house. Over the past few years, even since we moved back to the United States, we have been inspired watching Batik Boutique grow into the successful business it is today and witnessing the ways it has bettered the community.
I’ll always remember walking through the markets and experiencing all the vivid sights and smells (check out the cow head!). A couple of the vendors at this market even recognized us- I guess that proves we were regulars.
My mom and I recently visited Malaysia again, my childhood home, and had the privilege of visiting Batik Boutique as well. My mom works in healthcare in the US, so while we were there, we conducted medical check-ups, including preliminary screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure, for six women working in the sewing center. We were able to pinpoint possible areas of concern and educate the women on high-risk diseases such as heart disease (which has been the leading cause of death in Malaysia for the past several decades), diabetes, and breast cancer, as well as to educate about preventative measures and steps towards a healthier lifestyle.
The medical screening took place at the sewing centre in Kota Damansara
Here are a few tips we shared:
- Watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake. The staple Malaysian diet of rice, bread, sugary drinks, and even more rice, leads to high blood sugar and could lead to Type II diabetes, the form of the disease caused by diet and lifestyle.
- Eat less salt. Salt, alongside obesity in general, is the main culprit of hypertension (high blood pressure), which can lead to heart disease.
- Women—check for breast cancer. All women over the age of 40 should receive a mammogram test every three years, and can also conduct self-examinations on a regular basis. Catching cancer in the earliest stage of development is crucial in overcoming the devastating disease and greatly increases chances of survival.
So what can we all do to care for our health and still enjoy the yummy cuisines in Southeast Asia?
- When ordering fresh juices, be sure to request no sugar
- Take advantage of the wide array of local seafood - order fish steamed or grilled, instead of fried
- Load your plate with veggies instead of rice
- Go easy with the soy sauce as it’s full of salt
- Swap your sugary drinks for mineral water, fresh coconut water or “limau ais” (iced water with lemon)
- Limit your deep fried food intake to once (or none!) a week, trans-fats won’t help you live longer
- Choose soups and local salads whenever possible
- Glowing neon green foods (i.e., artificial dyes) are fun, but don’t make them part of your diet as they’re usually full of chemicals
Chicken tandoori set— a classic! I ordered my jus oren “kosong,” or without sugar. It was still so refreshing, but much better for me.
My mom and I loved being back in Malaysia. We ate the food that we missed so badly (all in moderation!), visited old friends, relived memories, and even practiced speaking the Malay language while conducting medical check-ups.
Ikan Bakar was always a favorite of ours. It’s both healthy and delicious!
Nothing beats fresh fruit from local stands. As you can tell, my mom was very happy about her kiwi!
We feel so blessed to have the opportunity to play even a small role in supporting the mission of Batik Boutique. It was a pleasure to meet the beautiful and hardworking women that are behind the products we use every day-- and absolutely LOVE. We’re excited to watch the continued growth and impact of Batik Boutique, and hope to visit again someday. If you ever visit Malaysia, visit them!
3, Jalan 26/70a, Desa Sri Hartamas,
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Monday - Friday
8:30 am - 5:30pm
Phone: +60 3-2303 6052