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Women’s Aid Organisation celebrates 100 years of International Women’s Day

Petaling Jaya, 8 March 2011 – To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), in collaboration with Unilever and Guardian, held a festive celebration and launched the Pink Heart Campaign, which will provide vital funds to help the work of WAO in protecting and empowering women.

In 1911, the first International Women’s Day was recognised in Europe. Rallies were held to campaign for women’s right to work and vote and women called for an end to discrimination. For the last 100 years, International Women’s Day has grown to be celebrated worldwide.

WAO Executive Director, Ivy Josiah, said, “Although International Women’s Day is a day of celebration, we must remember that many women in Malaysia still endure violence in their homes.” She went on to note that, “In 2010, 137 women (along with 93 children) sought shelter at the WAO refuge. Of this number, 95 women were survivors of domestic violence.”

Josiah also pointed out that WAO does not just provide physical shelter for women and their children. “It also provides telephone counselling and face to face counselling for women seeking help and advice. In 2010, WAO social workers spoke with women either over the phone or in person on 1,689 occasions. A further 297 email enquiries were responded to from women seeking help. This comes to a total of almost 2,000 occasions on which WAO staff provided advice and assistance to women – and the majority of the cases concerned domestic violence.”

During the International Women’s Day celebrations in 1985, WAO was part of the pioneer Joint Action Group against Violence against Women (JAG) that initiated the call for a Domestic Violence Bill that was finally passed in Parliament in 1994. Josiah said, “Seventeen years after the passing of the Domestic Violence Act, we must celebrate the success of women’s groups in attaining a law to protect women from domestic violence, but at the same time we must continue to highlight the challenges faced by domestic violence survivors.”

Although the police and welfare department often assist women as best they can, there are nevertheless serious flaws and inconsistencies in the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.

WAO calls on the Malaysian government to take note of the following recommendations:

  1. Expand the definition of domestic violence to include psychological and emotional forms of violence.
  2. Standardise all relevant police and welfare procedures across states to ensure effective enforcement of the law and prioritise safety for the survivor of domestic violence.
  3. Ensure all survivors of domestic violence are made aware of the availability and process for obtaining an interim protection order (IPO), as well as their rights to shelter, medical care and transportation.
  4. Serve notice of an IPO on an offender within 24 hours of the order being made and notify the domestic violence survivor as soon as the order has been served.
  5. Discontinue the requirement that criminal investigations have to be ongoing in order for an IPO to be considered valid. A complainant should be given protection at all times regardless of the status of the investigation.
  6. Women and children should have the right to remain in their own homes and the offender should be required to vacate the premises.


WAO believes that improving the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act will better protect women from abuse. Today, on International Women’s Day, it is important to highlight these steps that still need to be taken to put an end to violence against women in Malaysia.


About Women’s Aid Organisation

WAO is an independent, non-religious, non-governmental organisation based in Malaysia, committed to confronting violence against women.

WAO was established in 1982 when it opened Malaysia’s first women’s refuge, providing shelter, counselling and child support to women survivors of domestic violence and abuse.

WAO opened a Child Care Centre in 1990, the first of its kind in Malaysia, to provide a home for children of ex-residents who have left both our refuge and their former abusive situations to start new lives. The WAO Child Care Centre aims to not only provide the children with their physical needs, but also to support them emotionally and mentally.

WAO is also involved in public education to create awareness of violence against women and women’s rights, and it undertakes advocacy on legal reform, in particular, policies and laws that discriminate against women.

The WAO Centre, which opened in late 2004, is an administrative and advocacy centre that also acts as a resource for the public. The WAO Centre is used for face to face counselling sessions as well as briefings for students, researchers, media, donors, volunteers and members.


Released by:
Ivy Josiah 
Executive Director
Women’s Aid Organsiation
Phone: 03 7957 0636 / 5636


Published on March 08, 2011

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