Emerging from poverty

National 3 minutes, 21 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

AFTER receiving financial assistance from authorities for five years, Nur Haziah Abd Rahman, took steps to improve her life and have her name taken off the zakat recipients list.

An _asnaf _zakat (individuals eligible to receive alms according to Islamic law) recipient from 2009 until 2014 from Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) under the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Nur Haziah used the aid she received in 2015 to help her open doors to success.

The mother of three had been selling handicrafts for six years before deciding to branch out into the salted eggs business due to high demand for the product. The family used $5,000 in zakat money ($1,000 for each family member) from Hari Raya Aidil Fitri that year to purchase ducks, materials for cages and feeds to kick start a duck farm.

It was not always smooth sailing — Nur Haziah, who started with 12 ducks, said they incurred losses in the first six months, as they waited for the ducks to mature so they could start producing eggs. Not knowing much about poultry, Nur Haziah also said they learned about duck farming through books and research on the internet.

But $20,000 in investments and more than 500 ducks later, Nur Haziah’s farm now produces 200 to 250 eggs daily. Through word of mouth, customers contact her directly to book the eggs, while others drop by her house in Kg Batang Duri to pick up their orders. The eggs are also available daily at Aneka Market in Bangar Town, Temburong.

The 34-year-old and her family are also a permanent fixture at the weekly Bandarku Ceria Car-free day event at the capital, where she sells her salted eggs and handicrafts. Her products are featured under products produced by Mukim Amo, under the Temburong District Office.

While she feels that they are still a long way from receiving their return on investment, she is optimistic that they are past the difficult part.

Nur Haziah is one of the zakat recipients who have managed to get out of financial aid to stand on her own two feet.

While releasing millions to provide welfare and financial assistance to needy families over the years, the authorities have repeatedly called on recipients to empower themselves and get out of the poverty.

Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman said assistance given to the recipients are meant to care for their welfare and to provide them with the environment that will allow them to perform ibadah (acts of worship) comfortably and improve their standard of living.

The minister, however, said that recipients must not rely entirely on assistance given but must empower themselves to be independent of any government assistance.

“For muallaf (Muslim converts) for example, they are eligible for assistance in the first 10 years (provided they fulfil the criteria).

This is so that they will have all the help they need to learn about Islam, strengthen their faith and to help them with their basic needs. After 10 years, they are no longer eligible.

However, if the Muslim converts are in need of assistance, they can apply for assistance under Asnaf Muallaf,” YB Pehin Dato Hj Awg Badaruddin said.

The key to empowering zakat recipients to get out of the cycle of poverty, the Minister of Religious Affairs told The Brunei Times, is education.

In 2015 alone, MUIB distributed $8 million in zakat (tithe) fund to the fakir (destitute)/miskin (poor) and muallaf (converts) in conjunction with Hari Raya Aidil Fitri celebration.

Under the Ministry of Religious Affairs, recipients eligible for the asnaf zakat are divided into six categories: fakir, miskin, muallaf, amil (those appointed to collect tithe payments), al-gharimin (those in debt but not due to extravagance or illicit habits), and _ibnu sabil _or musafir (a wayfarer in need of money while travelling).

Assistance includes monthly monetary aid to cover costs such as basic food and drink expenditures, daily living expenses, children’s school expenses, house rental assistance or construction of new homes for the recipients on their own land.

The Brunei Times