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The woman pulling her weight in a man’s world

Nor Syazwani Norazaman proves that gender is no obstacle in working at her grandfather's oil palm plantation.

Azzman Abdul Jamal
2 minute read
Nor Syazwani Norazaman regularly works side by side with her male relatives at her grandfather's oil palm plantation in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan.
Nor Syazwani Norazaman regularly works side by side with her male relatives at her grandfather's oil palm plantation in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan.

A young woman in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan is throwing convention out the window, working side by side with her male relatives doing heavy lifting normally associated with men at her grandfather’s oil palm plantation in Felda Pasoh Empat.

Twenty-year-old Nor Syazwani Norazaman smiled as she spoke in a recent interview with MalaysiaNow, her small frame belying the loads she carries on a regular basis, some of which are half her body weight.

She began working at the plantation straight out of school when she was 15 years old. Twice a month, she and several cousins and uncles head over to help with the harvest.

“Working at an oil palm plantation is not so hard when you know how to do it correctly,” she said.

“For me, it’s not so much work as it is spending time with my family while earning an income.”

It’s hard and heavy work, but Nor Syazwani Norazaman enjoys helping out.

Syazwani and her family often come just to spend time at her grandfather’s plantation, some 6km away from their house. There, they have built a large hut where they can sleep, and only need to leave in order to do their laundry or buy daily necessities.

It is a big plantation, measuring some 10 acres.

Apart from helping her grandfather, Syazwani and her uncle also earn some money helping the Felda settlers in the area harvest their crops.

It’s hard work but Syazwani’s family is proud of her.

The petite 20-year-old is tiny in comparison to the trees from which she harvests the fruit.

Her step-father, Khairul Muhamad Senawi, said she is also very versatile and able to do many other tasks.

“She often helps me with my carpentry when I get jobs repairing the houses of settlers in the area,” he said.

“One of her jobs is to mix the cement – she’s very good at that.”

Nor Syazwani Norazaman pushes a wheelbarrow filled with oil palm fruit through her grandfather’s plantation.

And she is equally skilful in the kitchen, he added. “Her mother used to run a restaurant. It’s closed now because of the pandemic, but Syazwani used to make the roti canai there.”

Syazawni’s skill in the plantation recently landed her in the spotlight when pictures of her working there went viral on social media.

She also drew the attention of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) which offered her a job at the mechanisation of plantations division.

Syazawni, a third-generation Felda settler, is currently discussing the opportunity with MPOB and expects to begin working there in February.

Nor Syazwani Norazaman holds her own against any of her cousins and uncles with whom she works.

Her grandfather, Masran Hassan, is proud of what she has achieved but readily acknowledges that he will miss her once she is no longer at his plantation.

He quickly adds however that he has no intention of standing in her way of a better job.

“I would like it if she stayed here and inherited all this from me,” he said.

“But I will not stifle her ambitions. If she has a better offer somewhere else, I fully encourage her to take it so that she can have a good future.”