A full time Master’s student in University Malaysia Sarawak, Atiqah Abdul Rahim’s research thesis on the oral history of Hansen’s disease, more commonly known as Leprosy or the Lepers disease, in Sarawak carries more significance beyond checking box of a graduate-degree course. When she found out her uncle had contracted the condition, and had remained single his whole life because of it, she took that as an opportunity to share the stories of former Hansenites, and to shine a light on the hidden history of Sarawak that people are unaware of.
Carrying out her research in Kampung Sinar Baru, Kota Padawan, a village resettlement of former Hansenites, Atiqah aims to use her voice to disentangle misconceptions around the disease as well as raise awareness of the condition to the public. Till this day, Kampung Sinar Baru has been unable to escape the shadow of its dark history as it is still stigmatised for its connection to the forgotten disease. Parts of the community remain apprehensive about coming forward with their stories for the fear of judgement and discrimination.