Meet Aziah Hussin, Chairperson of the Board of Justice Without Borders

March 21, 2024
Category: Communications | Information | People Profile

In this interview, we meet Aziah Hussin, the new Chairperson of the Board of Justice Without Borders, to discuss her inspirations and her vision for JWB.

Q1. Outside of JWB, you are a solicitor for major organizations. What inspires your interest in law, and a focus on International Law in particular? 

Law is a great equalizer. As an ideal, it treats everyone equally, but it is subject to how people implement and interpret it, and how they access it. The bigger question for me is: having had access to the law, did it serve justice? My passion in the law arose from my belief that law as an ideal is something that treats all human beings equally. 

As for international law, it reminds us that if we had been born in a different place or time, our lives would be completely different. International law reminds me to be humble and that we share many commonalities even with people we are unfamiliar with. The world today is especially dynamic and interconnected, what we do matters even far away.

Q2. Apart from your interest in law, we also noticed your vast experience in social justice work,  having worked in The Hunger Project Australia (2015) on combating poverty, and other projects on refugee integration and women’s empowerment. What’s your take on social justice? How do you think law and social justice work in tandem with each other?

If law is the great equalizer, then social justice is the great equity-deliverer. We know that access to justice is about equity. Social justice plays an important role recognising that people face different obstacles in gaining access to justice, depending on the country they are in, economic and social status.

Within social justice, many communities work to fill in the gap. Not just your traditional lawyers and legal folk, but non-profits, frontliners who identify and connect with those who need help, people who raise awareness, donors and volunteers. All of that is part of delivering access to law and social justice.

Q3. You have joined us since July 2023 as a Board Member.  How did you learn about JWB? What inspired you to help this particular group – Migrant Domestic Workers? 

I first encountered JWB when I attended a JWB fundraiser as a junior lawyer, 10-12 years before I formally joined the organization. Since then I have been closely following the organization. What inspired me about JWB’s mission is that it identifies a very specific gap in social justice and the law, and finds the right stakeholder group to solve it. That shared mission of empowering vulnerable people really spoke to me.

Q4. From your perspective, what are the main challenges migrant workers and human trafficking victims face in Asia, and how can JWB and similar organizations address these issues? 

This is a big question!

The first would be identifying who needs help, and getting information to those people. It often involves people who are scared to look for solutions, because of repercussions or safety (both physical and psychological), or have low legal literacy. They need to know what options of redress are available and make an informed choice.

The second is the transnational nature of the issue which requires cooperation among many stakeholders, across borders. In many cases this is difficult: economics and migration complicates matters. 

The most important issue is to recognise that there are people who truly need to be protected and feel protected by the system. This means building awareness and transparency among stakeholders, from MDW’s immediate employer, agents, governments, and nonprofits, to help them understand the role they can play in the infrastructure. This is a long-term and structural issue that a single nonprofit cannot solve, but that many small steps can help to address. 

Q5. In your opinion, what distinguishes JWB in the cross-border legal aid scene? 

As far as I am aware, no other non-profits cater to this sector in the justice system. That is not to say that the role that other organizations play is any less or any more. This long-term solution requires every stakeholder in the process to do everything they are already doing, and more. But I think it is fair to say that JWB’s value proposition is unique.

The beauty of JWB is that JWB has identified a very specific gap and found similarly-minded stakeholders who can help you fit the puzzle pieces together. In a non-profit context, scarcity of resources is always top of mind, the solution is that everyone specializes their strengths. I think part of JWB’s mission is identifying, along that chain, who is the best at what they do. That is unique.

Q6. You will be taking the role of Chairperson, the first woman Chairperson of JWB board history. What is your vision and direction for JWB in the future? How do you envision JWB and its partners making a difference?

I am confident that I will only be the first of many. If we talk about statistics, JWB is predominantly a women-led organization. Me as the first female Chairperson is only a signal to the work that the women before me have already done.

With JWB, one takeaway from the COVID pandemic is that challenges and injustices faced by the vulnerable become especially acute and complex in moments of crisis. Simultaneously, one wonderful thing that came out of the pandemic is the courts’ increased openness to explore remote and digital solutions to access to justice, including remote testimony. I would love for us to continue leveraging that development. It wonderfully reduces barriers to entry (the biggest being cost), increases access to justice, and facilitates collaboration across jurisdictions.

These, combined with the increased availability of alternative dispute resolution processes, is a game changer for supporting domestic workers in a transnational litigation context.

Lastly, I hope to see increased awareness and sensitivity across more groups of interested people in what JWB does. JWB has done a fantastic job of finding like-minded lawyers, partners, and donors who understand the niche specialised work that we do.  I want to help expand the visibility of JWB in those traditional networks. 

Q7. What are the biggest obstacles you envision that you will face in leading JWB? How would you tackle them?

I see these as challenges and not difficulties. One is helping people understand exactly where they can be most impactful. I am sure that we have many openhearted people willing to support our Migrant Domestic Workers. 

The world is difficult right now. In situations like this, it is difficult to ask and expect empathy for long periods of time. It is a constant struggle and question of resilience for many non-profit organizations including JWB. It is moments like this that the small things you do matter. If I were to have just one message that I want people to hear, it would be: this is the time to do one thing, however small.

Q8. Would you like to share a few words of encouragement to our JWB staff, volunteers, and partners? 

Every single one is a rockstar! 

I truly mean that. I come in as someone who is the newest of all these long-time stakeholders – we are surrounded by rockstars who have done this work tirelessly at this mission over many years. To me, the beauty of that is that you feed into something that grows and inspires people. I consider myself as one of the people who was touched by the efforts of that group, and now I want to spread the message too. 

I want to say thank you — that they are rockstars, and that their work has truly made a difference. 

Written by PR Fellow, Lovein Sui

Graphic Design by PR Fellow, Yasmin Elhassine