You Can Make A Difference Now (YCMADN): Ivy Josiah on the WAO and the importance of making a difference

Posted on 12 October 2011

Upholding Women’s Rights


IVY Josiah has long learnt to not take herself too seriously. A good sense of humour helps in absorbing the pain and frustration of dealing with the issue of violence, and enables her to remain optimistic and inspiring.

“I don’t take myself so seriously, and if I get annoyed or angry, I will be the first person to apologise and then move on. Has it taken a toll on me? I think in the initial years it did, I put on 15kgs... but now, no.”

“I’m an eternal optimist and I’m really happy that I have a lot of fervour still, and a lot of passion for the work. I still have that sense of injustice, when I get calls from women on how their husbands are abusing them, when the system is so slow... the brutality of violence,” says Josiah, looking back on her 28 years’ work in the Women’s Aid organisation (WAO).


Counselling services are important as victims of violence need a lot of support. — Filepic

She says she has great admiration and respect for her colleagues and social workers for the work they do; she is proudest when her colleagues succeed in helping women in violent relationships. The bulk of Josiah’s work in WAO is now administrative.

“I deal with bureaucracy. I’m really very tired of handling the operational aspect, year in, year out – annual reports, evaluation, endless meetings. “But in terms of the issue of violence against women, no, I am not tired of that.

I think I have a really good support system. I have a wonderful family. I have friends whom I can laugh and be completely honest with, who never judge me.” Still, Josiah has started making plans to retire, and she has set the date at 2014. “I’ll be 59,” she says.


Apart from finding a successor, she also wants to ensure that WAO is secure financial-wise so that they can continue helping victims of violence.

“I want to be able to leave the organisation with two to three years of funds so the new executive director can focus on on-going campaigns, services and advocacy.”

Josiah said they had learnt the importance of ensuring that WAO has sufficient funds to sustain its operations. “In 2008, we only had six months of funds. It was scary, and the staff had to take a 10% salary cut. I’ll never allow that to happen again.

“One of my proudest moments have been when I successfully convinced the corporate sector to give us money for x number of years. Sime Darby is giving money for three years, and Malakoff is also a sponsor.”

WAO needs RM1mil a year to run its services and facilities. They get a RM30,000 funding from the Social Welfare Department, but the rest is made up of donations from the public and corporations.

“We need to raise between RM1mil to RM1.5mil a year. We’re hoping to get 600 new donors, and we want to expand the bank of donors. It’s a lot but very doable. We need to have savings, we need to have it for operational on-going costs,” says Josiah.

WAO is embarking on a campaign to raise funds to support and empower the women who seek their help. Called “You Can Make a Difference Now!” (MAD), it aims at raising RM300,000 by Dec 31.

Public support is urgently sought as WAO aims to upgrade and expand their services and facilities. “For instance, we want to renovate the the childcare centre premises, which will cost RM1mil,” says Josiah.

“We also want to review our social work and look at the after-care of the women. Once the women leave the refuge, they face issues like protection, housing, childcare maintenance and financial issues. They also join this large community of female-led households.”

Josiah says there is a need for support services for women who have left abusive relationships and need to learn to fend for themselves.

“It’s like we put on the band aid, protect you from your husband, and then we let you out in the world, and now you fend for yourself. Of course they should as it’s part of the empowerment process but I think we need to look at the policy for single female-led households. So, we want to improve the after-care aspect of our social work.”

Josiah says WAO is also looking to expand its work outside the Klang Valley, such as to Johor. “Refuges and shelters work in a city, where there’s anonymity. We want to start linking with women NGOs and groups in Johor and see how we can expand there. We want to take our refuge formula to other cities.

For many years, we’ve been giving people the handbook and manual on setting up refuges. But it may well be that WAO has to think wider, and set up refuges in the larger cities.

“So, that’s the vision. Changing the mindset, upholding womens rights in this country – and that’s really upholding democracy, freedom of speech and having women’s voices heard. We work very closely with other NGOs, as we want to strengthen our ties with other human rights organisations in the country.” – By Dzireena Mahadzir

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