The process of lobbying for policy reform has taken decades and years.
As you know, AWAM was formed in 1985 but was only registered in 1988 after a long struggle with the Registrar of Societies regarding the name of the organization. However, in 1990, our members quickly realized that the road to change was a long one – especially in view of ‘Operasi Lalang’ in 1989-90 where hundreds of activists were detained without trial in the name of national security and harmony.
It was then that AWAM decided that we were going to provide help and assistance to victims of violence while advocating for policy reform. Thus, the idea of a services sector was born.
Among our membership were two members who were social workers with the University Hospital, Kuala Lumpur. Together with another member who had just returned from a visit to the Sexual Assault Centre of Ottawa, Canada with a manual on counselling, the three started to train AWAM’s own members in the area of counselling. The first batch of para-counsellors was trained and in 1997, AWAM’s Telenita Helpline was launched by the then Minister of National Unity, the late Dato (now Tan Sri) Napsiah Omar.
In 1994, the legal information was added to our Services department.