We are fascinated with how stories of others’ lived realities weave into our own narratives, and sometimes become so embedded within us. We truly believe that if we can appreciate each other’s life experiences, we would be better able to bring about a nation that’s inclusive at so many levels. We began with an ambitious vision, of trying to get diverse peoples to understand each other across religion, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. That was way back in 2002. Subsequently, we realised that these boundaries were superficial, that they were boundaries imposed by those in power who would like us to believe and make us want to live in their ticked boxes, puppeteered boxes of social acceptance and rejection. The truth is, in each of us, we embody multiple complexities and intersections of who we are and who society, including our families, expect us to be. These are our lived realities, lived realities that some would cajole us to deny. So we gathered these stories, narratives as some would say, and we publish them no matter the controversies they may bring. Our work in bringing forth these stories do bring about change, like “Mata Hati Kita” (The Eyes of Our Hearts) that holds 25 stories of lesbians, bisexual women and transgender people. We are also proud of being a primary mover behind “Revolusis”, a graphic novel in the Malay language that tells of the adventures of 5 teenage girls and their ever so-odd school janitor (or is she really a school janitor?).
We conduct research to deepen our understanding of issues of identity, of alienation, of condemnation, and of deliberate violence. And we build capacities, capacities of many who after which have not only the knowledge of human rights and who embraced the principles and values of equality, non-discrimination, diversity, respect, dignity and choice, space for discourse, and to move us to richer conversations and more substantive dialogues. We do all of this with the belief that every person is a potential catalyst of the nation we want to see, a nation rich in diversity, and most importantly, sincere in communicating across differences.
Established initially in 2002 as a non-registered, non-partisan, civil society organisation and an incubation platform, Knowledge and Rights with Young people through Safer Spaces (KRYSS) is an organisation that works with young people—young in age, young because of denied opportunities and young in social activism—on the issues of freedom of opinion and expression with a gender lens. KRYSS was registered as a non-profit, limited liability partnership (LLP) on 28 August 2018 as we felt that an LLP framework helped provide for a more inclusive and participatory organisational culture, allowing for decision-making and responsibility for the organization to lie directly with those who do the work on the ground.
KRYSS continues to adopt the vision that it was first founded on in 2002: “We are committed to a world where all peoples, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age or any other status, are aware of and able to fully exercise their freedom of opinion and expression, public participation and bodily autonomy that is premised on gender equality, non-discrimination and feminist principles.”
KRYSS’s mission is closely linked to our value statement, “Reclaiming expression: where voice and diversity meet”, and so “We work towards increasing the individual and collective agency of all, but especially women, young women and gender non-conforming persons, in the full exercise of their freedom of opinion and expression through conscious strategy development that is supported by evidence-based knowledge, networking and advocacy; and guided by feminist and human rights principles of upholding dignity, equality, diversity, respect and choice.”