10 January 2022
The All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) and the Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW) have announced a cooperation agreement, in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to better support survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). This agreement formalises processes of mutual exchange in expertise, manpower and information between AWAM and MASW to help survivors who reach out to AWAM’s Telenita helpline. Whilst MASW will provide volunteer social workers who will accompany and link clients to relevant service providers such as hospitals, shelters and police stations, AWAM will facilitate this process by providing the necessary legal information to these volunteer social workers and arranging for counselling sessions for clients if needed.
Founded in 1973, MASW aims to establish professional competency in social work practice, education and research, primarily through advocacy, professional support resource provision to its members and engagements with local and international governments and non-governmental agencies.
To sustainably and holistically address GBV, AWAM provides free counselling and legal information services to all survivors regardless of gender, conducts public education and outreach initiatives to increase GBV awareness, as well as works directly with government agencies and ministries to advocate for policy change.
“Social workers can provide psychosocial support, which is important in helping these survivors cope with what they have experienced,” said Professor Dr. Azlinda Azman, President at MASW. “Holistic and integrated GBV services for survivors remain lacking. We are thus very glad to be able to partner with AWAM to fill this gap, which will lead to better GBV case work and management,” added Dr. Azlinda.
“This collaboration will also bridge gaps in accessibility to assistance in cases of abuse, especially in remote areas. Volunteer social workers will be able to provide immediate help to survivors,” said Mrs. Amy Bala, Vice President at MASW. Amy also said that 12 social workers have already signed up, ready to provide support to AWAM for GBV cases.
This collaboration is aimed to be symbiotic, where both AWAM and MASW will gain from the partnership, especially in the form of better service provision and capacity-building for staff.
The partnership is also timely, as the Social Work Professions Bill is currently being drafted. “It is hoped that the Bill will be tabled in March this year”, said Dr. Azlinda. With such legislation in place, Malaysia will have a more regulated social work sector, with more qualified social workers in handling cases. Regulation will also allow for better management of cases and ensure that social workers are not bogged down with cases. The Bill will also encourage more volunteers to gain professional qualifications as social workers, thereby widening their scope of knowledge and skills and in turn, allowing them to handle cases better.
Uplifting the status of social workers to professional status, specifically via advocacy for the tabling of the Social Work Professions Bill, has been one of MASW’s core agenda. AWAM fully supports the swift tabling of the Bill in March 2022.