ENGENDER Consultancy and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) view positively the RM21 million allocation for domestic violence ‘local social support centres,’ as well as the MySTEP allocation for short term social workers and medical officers – in Budget 2021.
We thank the National Budget Office of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) for engaging in dialogue with civil society and considering input, to improve the lives of domestic violence survivors.
This specific allocation to respond to domestic violence is a welcomed step. Nonetheless, responding to domestic violence requires a holistic approach. To ensure that the aim of the RM21 million allocation – to improve the lives of domestic violence survivors – is achieved, we further recommend these five steps:
Ensure the RM21 million allocation is implemented well, monitored, and evaluated for impact.
As critical to creating a budget allocation for domestic violence shelters is ensuring that such allocation is properly implemented and monitored, and its impact evaluated. In order to do this, a committee should be created, led by the National Committee on Domestic Violence under KPWKM, and including representatives from government and civil society.
Such a committee could help ensure that the funds are disbursed in a way that maximises the availability and accessibility of domestic violence shelters for survivors. The committee could also conduct monitoring and evaluation to assess the impact of the allocation and distribution to inform future federal and state budget cycles.
Ensure domestic violence shelters adhere to good practices and standards (for example as outlined in the Domestic Violence Shelter Standards and Toolkit, created by WAO and KPWKM).
Currently, there is a lack of uniform standards for domestic violence shelters throughout the country. As a result, significant disparities exist in the scope of services provided by shelters and the level of security, among other aspects, and survivors’ experiences vary widely depending on the shelter to which they are referred or the one geographically accessible to them.
To address this issue and remedy disparities, it is critical that the government adopt uniform shelter standards at the federal level. Such standards are outlined in the Domestic Violence Shelter Standards and Toolkit created by WAO and KPWKM.
Adoption of these standards at the federal level–and required adherence by organisations receiving federal funding–could help ensure that key aspects of women’s experiences are consistent and uniform regardless of where they seek shelter.
Ensure other essential domestic violence services – like crisis hotlines – are resourced.
Critical to making domestic violence shelters accessible to survivors in need is the availability of complementary resources such as crisis hotlines. Such hotlines are often an entry point for survivors to seek advice and obtain information about what options are available to them–including where they can go in the event they are in imminent danger or are otherwise prepared to leave their abusive home.
Hotlines such as WAO’s 24-7 telephone and SMS/Whatsapp hotline and KPWKM’s Talian Kasih allow survivors to access help anytime of day or night, and make immediate assistance available to survivors who may be geographically isolated or who do not have a means of leaving their home and getting to a shelter without assistance.
As important as ensuring there are adequate numbers of sufficiently-resourced domestic violence shelters is ensuring that existing crisis hotlines are sufficiently resourced with staff sensitised to the needs of gender-based violence survivors and knowledgeable about available support.
Ensure investment for domestic violence response is regular.
Unfortunately, domestic violence is not a sudden or temporary phenomenon, and requires dedicated and ongoing investment by society to address. As such, investment into domestic violence response and infrastructure must be a key component of every annual budget allocation at the federal and state level, and various aspects of the survivor’s experience must be taken into account.
For example, while shelter is critical to survivors during the crisis stage when they first leave the abusive home, survivors often require continued support to get back on their feet and become financially independent. Thus, allocations for low-cost transitional housing for survivors after they leave the shelter, as well as for affordable childcare are also vital for the survivor’s long-term well-being and stability.
The proposed committee to conduct monitoring and evaluation of the RM 21 million allocation could also help assess the other areas of survivors’ needs and make recommendations to the government for future budget cycles.
Develop a coordinated domestic violence action plan through the National Committee on Domestic Violence
Finally, the RM 21 million budget allocation must be part of a comprehensive and targeted approach to addressing the issue of domestic violence. Such a coordinated action plan could be created and implemented by the National Committee on Domestic Violence.
This would complement the monitoring and evaluation of the RM 21 million budget allocation by contributing to an understanding of domestic violence survivors’ needs at various stages, and ensuring that these needs are adequately served through federal and state budget allocations–not only through dedicated allocations for shelters and other crisis support services, but through allocations for the police, welfare officers, and hospitals, all of whom play a critical role in domestic violence response.
About Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Since 1982, Women’s Aid Organisation has provided free shelter, counselling, and crisis support to women and children who experience abuse. We help women and their children rebuild their lives, after surviving domestic violence, rape, trafficking, and other atrocities. Learning from women’s experiences, we advocate to improve public policies and shift public mindsets. Together, we change lives.
Call the WAO Hotline at 03 7956 3488 or SMS/WhatsApp TINA at 018 988 8058 if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse. For more information, visit wao.org.my.
For more information, please contact:
Natasha Dandavati, Head of Campaigns
Rusni Tajari, Senior Advocacy Officer