Women's Aid Organisation
Women's Aid Organisation or WAO is a Malaysian non-governmental organization that fights for women's rights and specifically against violence against women. It was founded in 1982 and continues to play a leading role in the Malaysian women’s rights movement working within the fields of advocacy, public education as well as law and policy reforms.
WAO is a non-profit organization that helps homeless and poor women of the Malaysian Joint Action Group (JAG) and within this group it has been involved in the lobby for the Domestic Violence Act in 1994 in Malaysia.
In 1979, the late Tan Siew Sin was honored with the Tun Razak Award for his contribution to the country. He donated his cash award of RM 30,000.00 to establish a shelter for battered women and their children. A Protem committee headed by Puan Sri E.N. Chong had its first meeting in November 1981. It took nine months to lay the groundwork and to form a core group of volunteers. These pioneer volunteers worked as a collective to formulate the operating principles of self-help and self-empowerment for battered women who turned to WAO for help.
In June 1982, WAO received temporary registration as a society and a single storey house was rented as WAO’s refuge and office premises. The Malay Mail published the first article about the planned Refuge and soon after in September 1980 WAO received its first resident at the shelter.
Core services and projects
WAO consists of three different centers that all fulfill specific tasks.
1. The Refuge
The refuge was the first center of WAO and is a house where battered women and their children can find a shelter. In the past years it has also become a shelter for abused migrant workers, trafficked women, asylum seekers and single mothers. There are professional social workers who provide assistance to those women and who also give face-to-face counseling sessions for those who seek counseling but may not want to move into the shelter. There is also professional telephone counseling for women who face domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse and as well for those who have questions on marriage and divorce. The average number of phone calls being handled per year by the social workers is 1,500.
2. The Childcare Centre (CCC)
As the first of its kind the CCC was founded in 1990 and since then it created a home for the children of former refuge residents. Those women have decided to live and work independently, but are not yet capable of taking care of their children at the same time. Within the CCC the children receive a home, education and a support system that meets their physical, mental and emotional needs.
3. The WAO Centre
This office is mainly responsible for administration, research and advocacy and serves as the public face of the organisation.