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.

The legal information clinic is a collaboration between three non-governmental organisations partners of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) and the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Legal Aid Centres (KLLAC and SLAC) – AWAM (All Women’s Action Society), WAO (Women’s Aid Organisation) and SIS (Sisters’ in Islam).

The Legal Aid Centres also conduct other training programmes for the chambering pupils, covering issues such as family law, Syariah law and the Domestic Violence Act. These trainings prepare the young lawyers doing their chambering to provide legal information service to the victims and survivors who approach AWAM for assistance.  Pupils also learn about the feminist approach to legal theory and practice which questions the approach to equality and social justice in the body and interpretation of the law. This provides young lawyers with a critical lens when it comes to navigating particular laws (or lack thereof) that result in discrimination in legal treatment between men and women.

In 2012, two of the pupils serving at AWAM’s Legal Aid Clinic had written a guidebook for fellow pupils on applying the Domestic Violence Act for cases of domestic violence.  These pupils also assisted in the compilation of laws related to violence against women to be submitted to Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), USA, for their e-resource centre on Corpus of Law.

Today, in order to accommodate the different needs of different clients, AWAM dispatches pupils as a representative of the organization when possible, to assist victims of violence when they lodge police reports, especially in cases of domestic violence. We find that when pupils are on the scene with the victim, it eases the process as the pupil has all the necessary information.