Press­ing needs

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - WOMAN - –By dzireena ma­hadzir

IVY Josiah has long learnt to not take her­self too se­ri­ously. A good sense of humour helps in ab­sorb­ing the pain and frus­tra­tion of deal­ing with the is­sue of vi­o­lence, and en­ables her to re­main op­ti­mistic and in­spir­ing.

“I don’t take my­self so se­ri­ously, and if I get an­noyed or an­gry, I will be the first per­son to apol­o­gise and then move on. Has it taken a toll on me? I think in the ini­tial years it did, I put on 15kgs... but now, no.”

“I’m an eter­nal op­ti­mist and I’m re­ally happy that I have a lot of fer­vour still, and a lot of pas­sion for the work. I still have that sense of in­jus­tice, when I get calls from women on how their hus­bands are abus­ing them, when the sys­tem is so slow... the bru­tal­ity of vi­o­lence,” says Josiah, look­ing back on her 28 years’ work in the Women’s Aid or­gan­i­sa­tion (WAO).

She says she has great ad­mi­ra­tion and re­spect for her col­leagues and so­cial work­ers for the work they do; she is proudest when her col­leagues suc­ceed in help­ing women in vi­o­lent re­la­tion­ships.

The bulk of Josiah’s work in WAO is now ad­min­is­tra­tive.

“I deal with bureau­cracy. I’m re­ally very tired of han­dling the oper­a­tional as­pect, year in, year out – an­nual re­ports, eval­u­a­tion, end­less meet­ings.

“But in terms of the is­sue of vi­o­lence against women, no, I am not tired of that. I think I have a re­ally good sup­port sys­tem. I have a won­der­ful fam­ily. I have friends whom I can laugh and be com­pletely hon­est with, who never judge me.”

Still, Josiah has started mak­ing plans to re­tire, and she has set the date at 2014. “I’ll be 59,” she says. Apart from find­ing a suc­ces­sor, she also wants to en­sure that WAO is se­cure fi­nan­cial-wise so that they can con­tinue help­ing vic­tims of vi­o­lence.

“I want to be able to leave the or­gan­i­sa­tion with two to three years of funds so the new ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor can fo­cus on on-go­ing cam­paigns, ser­vices and ad­vo­cacy.”

Josiah said they had learnt the im­por­tance of en­sur­ing that WAO has suf­fi­cient funds to sus­tain its op­er­a­tions.

“In 2008, we only had six months of funds. It was scary, and the staff had to take a 10% salary cut. I’ll never al­low that to hap­pen again.

“One of my proudest mo­ments have been when I suc­cess­fully con­vinced the cor­po­rate sec­tor to give us money for x num­ber of years. Sime Darby is giv­ing money for three years, and

Malakoff is also a spon­sor.”

WAO needs RM1mil a year to run its ser­vices and fa­cil­i­ties. They get a RM30,000 fund­ing from the So­cial Wel­fare Depart­ment, but the rest is made up of do­na­tions from the pub­lic and cor­po­ra­tions.

“We need to raise be­tween RM1mil to RM1.5mil a year. We’re hop­ing to get 600 new donors, and we want to ex­pand the bank of donors. It’s a lot but very doable. We need to have sav­ings, we need to have it for oper­a­tional on-go­ing costs,” says Josiah.

WAO is em­bark­ing on a cam­paign to raise funds to sup­port and em­power the women who seek their help. Called “You Can Make a Dif­fer­ence Now!” (MAD), it aims at rais­ing RM300,000 by Dec 31. Pub­lic sup­port is ur­gently sought as WAO aims to up­grade and ex­pand their ser­vices and fa­cil­i­ties. “For in­stance, we want to ren­o­vate the the child­care cen­tre premises, which

will cost Rm 1mil,” says Josiah.

“We also want to re­view our so­cial work and look at the af­ter­care of the women. Once the women leave the refuge, they face is­sues like pro­tec­tion, hous­ing, child­care main­te­nance and fi­nan­cial is­sues. They also join this large com­mu­nity of fe­male-led house­holds.”

Josiah says there is a need for sup­port ser­vices for women who have left abu­sive re­la­tion­ships and need to learn to fend for them­selves. “It’s like we put on the band aid, pro­tect you from your hus­band, and then we let you out in the world, and now you fend for your­self. Of course they should as it’s part of the em­pow­er­ment process but I think we need to look at the pol­icy for sin­gle fe­male-led house­holds. So, we want to im­prove the af­ter-care as­pect of our so­cial work.”

Josiah says WAO is also look­ing to ex­pand its work out­side the Klang Val­ley, such as to Jo­hor.

“Refuges and shel­ters work in a city, where there’s anonymity. We want to start link­ing with women NGOS and groups in Jo­hor and see how we can ex­pand there. We want to take our refuge for­mula to other cities.

For many years, we’ve been giv­ing peo­ple the hand­book and man­ual on set­ting up refuges. But it may well be that WAO has to think wider, and set up refuges in the larger cities.

“So, that’s the vi­sion. Chang­ing the mind­set, up­hold­ing wom­ens rights in this coun­try – and that’s re­ally up­hold­ing democ­racy, free­dom of speech and hav­ing women’s voices heard. We work very closely with other NGOS, as we want to strengthen our ties with other hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions in the coun­try.”

nine out of 10 women in abu­sive re­la­tion­ships do not lodge po­lice re­ports. — Pic posed by mod­els

coun­selling ser­vices are im­por­tant as vic­tims of vi­o­lence need a lot of sup­port. — Filepic

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