Organizations Fighting for Women’s Rights in Malaysia 

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Located in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is home to more than 31 million people. Almost half of the country’s citizens are female. In 2018, the country had more than 5,000 cases of domestic violence, and in 2017, more than 1,500 women and girls were sexually assaulted. The country’s child marriage rate is rising as girls are leaving school to marry. Many are forced into underaged marriages because of financial issues. This often means they are forced to cut their childhood short to help their family. These organizations are fighting for women’s rights in Malaysia.

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)

Founded in 1982, the goal of the WAO is to fight for women’s rights in Malaysia. Its goal is to change the perceptions of domestic violence and rape through public education. It has helped improve the Malaysian legislature by partnering with the government to improve the Domestic Violence Act. The organization has also contributed to research about the obstacles that are hindering the forward progression of women’s rights in Malaysia. Some of the covered topics are human trafficking, domestic violence shelter standards and perspectives on domestic violence.

The WAO is the first organization to build a domestic violence shelter in the country. The organization is now the largest service provider to the country’s domestic abuse survivors. It offers support through a domestic violence hotline, shelters and also employs social workers to support women and children. The WAO also offers programs for women and children that provide skill enhancement, recreational activities and help with improving their psychosocial skills. The organization also runs a child care center for mothers who need extra help after leaving the WAO shelter. 

All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)

Located in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, AWAM’s mission is to raise awareness about the violence that women in Malaysia face. They provide training to advocate for domestic violence victims as well as influence the Malaysian government to improve the legislature on domestic violence. The AWAM also offers counseling services and legal advice for women who are domestic abuse survivors. Its key focuses are on gender-based violence and the leadership of women and their political involvement.

The organization also aims to remove the negative stigma around women’s ethnicity and religion while providing women with access to legal and psychological services. The AWAM is also working to improve women’s rights in Malaysia by developing a curriculum to inform the public and officials, such as police officers, about women’s leadership and the domestic violence that women face.

Sisters in Islam (SIS)

The official religion of the country is Islam. First assembled in 1987, SIS focuses on the religious aspect of women’s rights in Malaysia and advocates for freedom and equality in a religion that is mainly dominated by males. The organization’s mission is to “promote the principles of gender equality, justice, freedom and dignity in Islam and empower women to be advocates for change.”

In order to improve women’s rights in Malaysia, SIS offers services such as legal advice, training on how to improve women’s rights and study sessions to learn about difficulties unique to women of Islam. SIS also provides resources on various topics, such as the hijab, Muslim family law, polygamy and child marriage.

Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)

Women who suffered domestic violence in Panang formed the WCC in 1982. It is working to improve women’s rights in Malaysia through service, outreach and advocacy. The WCC offers services such as counseling, temporary shelter and legal advice. The WCC also trains advocates to successfully educate people on issues of rape and domestic violence faced in the country. It also partners with hospitals to make treatment after a domestic violence situation easier on the victim. The WCC also provides school outreach programs to teach children about the domestic violence that women face.

The National Council for Women’s Organisations Malaysia (NCWO)

Founded over 50 years ago, the NCWO fights for women’s rights in Malaysia by advocating for a society that is free from gender discrimination. It believes that women in Malaysia deserve equal access to public amenities as well as a sustainable environment for women to develop and achieve their goals. The NCWO offers services such as advocating for new policies regarding laws pertaining to women and domestic violence, fighting for women’s entrepreneurship and promoting the idea of women in leadership roles.

Women’s Rights in Malaysia

Women’s rights in Malaysia still need improvement. The country suffers a wide gender gap, leaving many women living in undesirable situations. Furthermore, young girls are leaving school to marry. Women’s rights continue to suffer from high rates of domestic abuse and sexual assault. However, there have been many positive influencers working to improve women’s rights. These organizations have assisted in passing legislation, educating the public, offering victims shelter and empowering women.

Destinee Smethers

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


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