Women's Aid Organisation (WAO)

WAO opened Malaysia's first Refuge for battered women and their children in 1982. WAO Vision is to create a society that is free of violence against women. The WAO mission is to promote and create respect, protection and fulfillment of equal rights for women and to work towards the elimination of discrimination against women and to bring about equality between women and men.
Apr 19, 2013

Aiyoh...WatLah?!

Do you remember doing a facepalm when someone utters something ridiculous, like how women shouldn’t drive Unfortunately, public figures in Malaysia routinely make jaw dropping remarks that makes you go ‘Aiyoooo!’ (a local expression of disbelief) while cringing. This Malaysian term has been adopted as the name of a spoof awards ceremony to highlight sexism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia in the Malaysian public sphere.

Inaugurated last year, the Aiyoh… WatLah?! Awards was created by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) which comprises of nine non-governmental organizations to raise awareness on sexism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia and to encourage higher standards of behaviour from public figures, policy makers and institutions in relation to gender and sexuality.

The Awards focuses on public statements and actions instead of individuals and institutions. Selected from media reports in 2012, the nominees contend for one of seven categories: “Foot in Mouth”, “Insulting Intelligence”, “Policy Fail”, “Cannot Ignore”, “Least Helpful to the Sisterhood”, “Enough Already!” and “Right on Track”.

The shortlist of nominees also saw the perpetuation of discriminatory attitudes towards the LGBT community in particular, reflected in the “Enough Already!” category which highlights statements and acts that repeat sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, or transphobic messages. This year, three of the four nominees under this category targeted LGBTs, whether through organising forums and publishing guidelines to identify symptoms of homosexuality in order to stop their “spread” or by demonising LGBTs as a source of social ills and an offence to religion. The fourth nominee was the harassment against Ambiga Sreenevasan, co-chair of Bersih 2.0.

The Aiyoh...WatLah?! Awards also recognises positive statements and actions via the “Right on Track” category aside from just highlighting discriminatory attitudes. It is great to acknowledge those who believe in fighting against discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality.

So, who will be honoured this year at the Aiyoh...WatLah?! Awards 2013? We will find out at the awards ceremony on 26 May! Visit aiyohwatlah.tumblr.com to see the full list of nominees.

WAO is a coordinating organisation of the Awards and is a member of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).

p/s Here’s a statement made by one of the nominees when overturning the conviction of a kindergarten operator accused of raping a 4 year-old child - “We must not forget who is involved in this rape allegation, even if she is an adult, in which women have a tendency to exaggerate about a sexual act.”

Links:

Jan 19, 2013

What is Rape?

Dear friends of WAO

The recent case of a 23 year old student who was sexually assaulted on a bus in New Delhi shocked the world. She was brutally raped and beaten before being thrown off together with her male companion who also suffered injuries. This horrifying incident remains headline news worldwide. People are angry and disturbed by the brutality of this rape and murder of a young woman.

You might think that such rape cases only happen in less developed countries but here in Malaysia, rape is a dark reality for women too. I would like to quote a paragraph from the press statement issued by Malaysian women’s groups on 16 January 2013, “We remember Noor Suzaily Mukhtar, a 24 year old computer engineer who was raped and strangled in a bus by the driver; and Canny Ong, a 28 year old computer analyst who was abducted from a basement car park, raped and set on fire. We also remember our children – Nurul Hanis Kamil, a 16 year old who was brutally raped and murdered on the way home from school, Nurul Huda Ghani, a 10 year old, who was abducted and killed by a security guard, and 8 year old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, who was sodomised and murdered. Between 2001 and 2011, police statistics show that incidences of reported rape have increased from 1217 to 3301. These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg as research demonstrates that many victims do not report rape for various reasons including stigmatisation, victim blaming and fear of not being believed”.

When a man rapes society often believes that the perpetrator is ‘sick’ and has ‘problems’ therefore, unable to control himself while the victim should take responsibility for being the cause of rape. Why create excuses for the aggressor? Women, however, are told not to be out late and alone, not to wear make-up, not to wear tight fitting clothes and so on. Plenty of nots while rape still occurs.

According to our Social Work Manager, Su Zane, there are many cultural myths surrounding the issue of rape. “Women especially Asians are often told that they have to live up to the ‘good girl’ image and that their body is pure and sacred, their dignity is lost forever if their bodies are violated. It then becomes difficult for a woman to tell anyone let alone lodge a police report when she’s raped or assaulted because she feels that she is no longer clean”. Rape myths are damaging because they shift the crime from the perpetrator to the victim.

In an article ‘I Was Wounded; My Honor Wasn’t’, Sohaila Abdulali says “Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored. I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals”.

You and I, we can put a stop to this and be part of the solution. We can teach our children to understand their own bodies and respect others. We can teach young people that rape cannot be used as a colloquial word. We can eradicate sexism and educate the society on sexual violence and the reality of rape. We can be the change that we want.

For 31 years, WAO provides shelter and counseling to survivors of violence. Many women have sought our help because they have chosen to stop the cycle of violence. Be our advocates in stopping violence against women and lend your voice to the survivors. It’s time to stop rape and speak up. Women and men.

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Oct 23, 2012

Life is precious!

“If you are strong enough to end your life, then you are strong enough to live your life”. I was talking to Su Zane, our Social Work Manager about the hardships that domestic violence survivors had to go through that drove them to the edge in the end. Suicide is a somber topic for most of us but a frequent thought that lingers in the mind of survivors.

According to WAO’s Annual Statistics 2011, there were 110 women who sought shelter at the Refuge last year. Out of the 110 women, 36 of them considered suicide. Among the 36 women, 16 of them   attempted to end their life. A few of the 16 women had attempted suicide once and almost up to more than 4 times. How do we know?

A social worker analyses the women’s medical history before they reside temporarily at WAO’s Refuge. Many questions will be asked including the subject of suicide tendencies/attempt(s) and as you can see, the numbers shown above are quite alarming.

WAO’s social worker, Uma said “We always ask questions. We ask about their family background, their childhood and if they have seen anyone attempting suicide, where do they get the thought to end their life and so on. You are thinking why bring up all these sensitive topics? It’s very important for us to know every detail because somewhere somehow the suicide attempt or even the thought of it had stemmed from something in their life experience from as far back as their younger years. We try to trace the origin of the thought and with the information, we can then begin addressing their problem effectively. Social worker use different techniques when giving counseling to the women and every woman who comes to us are in different levels of emotion. I remember talking to one of our residents who was in a very vulnerable state and reminding her of her achievements in life especially her children. She began to smile. It was the greatest feeling. My work with her had not ended but the change of emotion was a good start. Not every case is the same though”.

Abused and battered women or even rape survivors experience pain not only, physically but mentally. Some of the women who chose death over life made that decision in their time of suffering when the hurt and humiliation was never ending; when they have lost trust in the person whom they can depend on and when they are on the edge of a cliff with no one holding them back. 

Learn to listen and learn to listen intently. During the recent WAO’s teambuilding exercise, we had a session called Coffee Talk and all of us were paired up. Everyone had a chance to talk about themselves for 5 minutes while the other person listened. It was then we found out how powerful it is to just be present and give the other person all the time that you have got. In the case of working with women who are overcoming adversity, the listening ability and empathy is extremely useful and important before the social workers can begin challenging their thoughts.

A suicide attempt is a desperate call for help and every attempt must be taken seriously. With your support, WAO continues to listen attentively and walk with survivors so that suicide doesn’t ever become an option or a solution.

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