Women\'s Aid Organisation - 20 Years of Service to Women and Children

Posted on 20 September 2002

Women's Aid Organisation
20 Years of Service to Women and Children


WAO Beginnings
Our Services
Public Education and Outreach
Financial Support
Women of WAO

WAO Beginnings
In 1979, the late Tun Tan Siew Sin was honoured with the Tun Razak Award for his invaluable contribution to the country. He generously donated his cash award of RM30,000 to establish a shelter for battered women and their children. A protem committee headed by Puan Sri E. N. Chong had its first meeting in November 1981. After nine months, they laid the groundwork and formed a core group of volunteers who worked as a collective to formulate the operating principles of self-help and self-determination.

In June 1982, WAO received temporary registration as a society and a single storey house was rented as WAO's refuge and office premises. We had our first AGM in Jan 1984.

From there, as WAO's services became more known to the public, we initiated a building fund to purchase a new premise.

We moved into the new Refuge in 1989, and in fact, had to renovate it in 1999 because there wasn't enough space. Since 1982, WAO has provided shelter to more than 1,600 women; and at least 22,000 counselling calls.

Our services

WAO provides shelter and counselling to women in crises, focusing always on the philosophy of empowerment and self-determination. We also started the Anak Angkat scheme in 1985 where individual donors can sponsor a child of an ex-WAO resident for her or his schooling needs. This proved to be a successful programme, and to date, we have had at least 297 donors who have helped 430 children through their education.

In 1990, WAO opened a Child Care Centre to further support mothers who have chosen to leave their violent situations and lead independent lives. The children at the CCC are taken care of in all ways: food and clothing; schooling; tuition; fun and games; excursions; arts and crafts. The CCC also helps to support the child's emotional needs.



Soon after we opened our doors and phone lines, we realised that it wasn't enough to only provide direct services. There was no legal recourse for survivors of domestic violence as it was largely seen as a private and domestic squabble.

With that, together with a group of concerned individuals - both men and women - as well as the Federation of Women Lawyers, Women's Committee of Selangor Consumer Association, University Women's Association and the Women's Section of MTUC, a Joint Action Group Against Violence Against Women (JAG) was formed in March 1985.

A two-day workshop on Aspects of Legal Status of Women in Malaysia was held in June 1985, where among the points raised were amendments for the laws relating to rape; and the adoption and implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. This began a 10-year struggle to lobby for the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 1994, which was finally implemented in 1996. Since then, WAO has been monitoring the execution of the Domestic Violence Act.

WAO, together with other women's groups and activists - particularly with JAG now comprising of All Women's Action Society (AWAM), Women's Crisis Centre (WCC) Penang, Women's Development Collective (WDC), Sisters In Islam (SIS) and WAO - advocates for reform on laws and policies to end discrimination and violence against women. Advocacy on laws and policies include amendments to the Guardianship Act, laws relating to rape and incest, and the amendment to Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution, the lobby for a Sexual Harassment Bill, the lobby against the Terengganu Hudud Bill, and on the issue of Foreign Domestic Worker Abuse.

In 1998, WAO, partnering with the International Women's Rights Action Watch-Asia Pacific, WCC, SIS and together with law lecturers from the University of Malaya and UKM undertook a baseline report using CEDAW as a framework. This is still an ongoing project in examining the discrimination that women face throughout their life cycle within the family.

WAO received our first foreign domestic worker abuse case in 1988. She was a Filipina domestic worker who had been raped by her employer. Since then, at least one foreign domestic worker per year has sought refuge at WAO for physical abuse. We found foreign domestic workers to be among the most discriminated section of women in Malaysian society, and have actively advocated for the protection of their rights. WAO came out with a position paper on the abuse of foreign domestic worker in 1998.

WAO believes that our work should be transformatory; bringing about change in gender relations. We believe that the personal is the political, and our starting point is the human rights of women. This framework gives us the impetus to be involved in strengthening women's participation and perspectives in the cultural, economic and political life of the nation.

As a women's human rights group, we want to contribute towards building a just, democratic and peaceful society for ourselves and for the future generations.


Public Education and Outreach

The third vital component of WAO's work is public education, training and outreach. The media has been a key ally in helping us get the information on violence against women out to the public consciousness. In 1996, the Sunday Style ran a series on domestic violence; in 1996; in 1998, Section 2 of the Star newspaper ran a 16-days series on Violence Against Women; in February 2001, Vox of the Sun ran a series on V-Day and this year, WAO has collaborated with the Sunday Mail to publish a fortnightly article called Know Your Rights.

Other forms of media was also explored - radio, television, websites - to bring the message out to survivors and the public at large. In addition, WAO's website was launched in November 2000, and we have found the Internet to be a critical tool of empowerment and advocacy.

We also enthusiastically took to the streets to speak to people about violence against women and handed out informational brochures on several public education campaigns!


Financial Support

WAO is supported largely by individual donors and corporations who believe in our work. This includes donations of basic necessities such as rice and clothing, to jumble sales, to fundraising campaigns to monetary contributions. This has helped us keep our doors and phone lines open to women and children for the past 20 years. Thank you!


Women of WAO

What is WAO without the women who have shown courage, determination and dedication to end violence against women These are our founding members, the pioneer volunteers, the staff, volunteers, members, EXCO members and finally, our residents who have taught us the meaning of strength and solidarity.

Here's to the women of WAO!

If you have come
to help me
you are wasting your time.
if you have come
your liberation
is bound up with mine
then let us work

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