ADUN Kg. Tunku Donates RM10,000
to Tabung Kaunseling AWAM
Sexually assaulted in the LRT stations, sexually harassed at work by co-workers or bosses, receiving threatening text messages from ex-lovers, physically abused at home by spouses, parents and/or siblings, wanting a divorce but not sure how to proceed, needing a lawyer but unable to afford one – the list goes on and on.
These are amongst the many scenarios that is presented to the Services Division of the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), when people come in to seek legal information or counselling.
The Services Division today received a much needed boost of support from the Kampung Tunku ADUN’s office in the form of a cheque for RM10,000. The money will be used to kickstart the Tabung Kaunseling AWAM, a fund created by AWAM to support persons in crisis, specifically women. The cheque was presented to AWAM by YB Puan Lim Yi Wei, who is a stalwart supporter of women empowerment and the good work carried out by NGOs in general.
“We hope the funds provided to AWAM will enable them to continue their good work in supporting people in crisis,” said YB Lim.
“The clients receive immediate assistance when they call or visit AWAM. Clients are also provided with emotional and physical support for court cases or to make a police report. Our pupils and/or staff, accompany clients who need such support to the court/police station upon request,” said Nisha Sabanayagam, Programme and Operations Manager of AWAM.
AWAM’s counselling and legal services are free of charge and confidential. The client is free to return for counselling for as long as they need it. The services are available to all persons regardless of age, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, geographical location, income, ability, or status. Services are available in English and Malay, and, by appointment, in Mandarin. AWAM is looking to have counselling services in Tamil in the future.
“The funds received from the Kampung Tunku ADUN’s office will go a long way in ensuring that we can continue to provide the best aid possible to those who need it, “said Nisha.
The funds will be used to support women who cannot afford administrative fees, which is required even when a pro-bono lawyer is used. AWAM will also use the funds to purchase new phones for AWAM’s Telenita Helpline.
“The phones we use in the services division are ancient and they break down, sometimes during crucial phone calls from clients. You can see, how the funds from the Kampung Tunku ADUN’s office will immediately improve the quality of our services division,” said Nisha.
The services provided by AWAM are not just welfare services but are aimed at empowering their clients to take control of their lives. The counselling approach is person-centred, which means AWAM also educates their clients about their rights.
“AWAM established a Services division in 1997 because there were women coming to us for help, to stop the violence they were facing,” said Nisha. The division was established by Betty Yeoh, Elsie Lee and Barbara Yen through the introduction of the Telenita Helpline, which was launched by then Minister of National Unity, the late Tan Sri Napsiah Omar.
In 2018 alone, AWAM recorded a total of 168 clients, with 89 legal cases, 65 counselling cases and 14 cases that needed both services. The services division receives an average of five phone calls a day.
Domestic violence continues to be the most common case type that AWAM receive, making up 20% (40 cases) of all cases in 2018.
AWAM also said they were receiving more and more cases of sexual harassment, which indicates that (i) the prevalence of cases on sexual harassment in ongoing, and (ii) more and more women are seeking help to address sexual harassment issues.
“They come to us because they have nowhere else to turn. They can make a police report but sometimes this is too traumatizing for the survivors. Many are not brave enough to make reports within their own organizations for various reasons, including not being taken seriously or fear of losing their jobs,” said Nisha.
A new Sexual Harassment Act is much needed to address the gap in the current laws, to provide a clearer definition of what is Sexual Harassment and to make people aware on how to take action in addressing the issue.
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
25 JULY 2019