Global Reach: Grantee Partners

Hong Kong Unison

Context

According to the population census (2016), ethnic minorities (EM) represent around 6% of the Hong Kong population – with Filipino, Indonesian, Indian, Nepalese, and Pakistani as most prominent groups (except Chinese who account alone for 92% and White people). Their economic situation is very different from Chinese Hong Kongers with a median monthly household income significantly lower and an average poverty rate amongst the South and South-East Asian ethnic minorities (EM) of 24% (highest amongst the Pakistani) against 20% in the HK population. In general, poverty among EM groups is worsening as is child poverty. A 2016 research study by Lingnan University in collaboration with universities in the UK and Australia revealed that more than a tenth of the city’s children do not have a suitable place to study. Hong Kong is also characterized by widespread discrimination based on social, political, racial and gender issues. It is therefore not astonishing that young people from EM backgrounds, who generally are in lower socio-economic strata, face a huge range of issues, including poverty, systemic discrimination in their daily life and at school, limited social mobility or language barriers resulting in lower educational attainment or inequalities in accessing future job opportunities. The education system has therefore a major role to play to help disadvantaged young people, including EM young people, to overcome barriers at various levels. Unfortunately, in school, EM young people are only offered limited opportunities for personal development and are often overlooked by teachers and social workers. In the school year 2019/2020 there were 8,937 EM students in secondary 1-6 in local secondary schools (age 12-19). More than 55% (4,946) of these students (mainly from Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, Filipino and Thai families) were/are concentrated in 15 band 3 schools which are poorer in quality. Owing to the segregated environment and lack of opportunities, many EM students have low self-esteem, low career aspirations and no achievable career goals. They also lack social capital and their self-limiting beliefs impedes their growth. These young people do not lack potential but quality offers, mentorship and guidance so that they can break the cycle of family poverty.

Organisation

Hong Kong Unison (HK Unison) is a non-governmental organisation founded in 2001 focusing its work on ethnic minority Hong Kong residents and their families. Ms. Fermi Wong, a registered social worker in Hong Kong, founded HK Unison. Back in the early 2000s, she encountered EM youth on the streets during school hours, when later she realized that they did not have places in schools due to discriminatory admission policies. In 2012, she was awarded with the Hong Kong Humanity Award in recognition of her commitment to serve the vulnerable. Hong Kong Unison works in: 1. Policy advocacy work (e.g. advocating for better Chinese language education policies for EM, expanding EM students’ post-secondary options in education, fighting for equal access to public services), and 2. Programmes, such as organizing life planning and career guidance workshops for EM students coupled with workplace visits, providing scholarships for those who wish to continue their education or promoting activities for racial harmony and cultural sensitivity in schools. HK Unison strives to support the HK EM community to better integrate into mainstream society and give them full and equal access to rights and services any HK resident is entitled to.

HK Unison currently employs 5 full-time staff and 1 part-time staff (due to COVID-19, they had to cut manpower from 7 to 6 staff), supported by 12-member Board of Directors and 339 volunteers. The project officer responsible for the proposed EMpower co-funded programme is Fredrick Lam, a registered social worker with more than 8 years of experience in youth counselling, youth activities and community building. Payal Biswas, a social worker and at the same time a Project Manager with HK Unison, will oversee the whole programme including supervising the project officer. She been with HK Unison since 2015.

Current Grant

EMpower’s 4th grant and first multi-year to Hong Kong Unison, will enable the organisation to empower ethnic minority (EM) young people to aspire towards achievable career goals. The grant will support 1,660 ethnic minority students 15-19 years old, (50% female) from 5 to 6 schools in Hong Kong to attend life planning and career guidance talks, participate in academic and job interview workshops at school and to participate in workplace visits.

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