Impacted by Covid-19, WAO needs help to support domestic violence survivors

Samuel (not his real name) came to the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) shelter when he was three years old.

His mother Jennifer (not her real name), 48, had been in an abusive relationship with her ex-partner for 10 years.

When Jennifer decided to seek help, her family supported her but her ex-partner started harassing them.

The perpetrator would also harass Jennifer at her workplace and threatened to take Samuel from his kindergarten in an attempt to cause distress to the mother.

Samuel witnessed the abuses. He would wake up in the middle of the night and start crying.

When Samuel first came to the WAO shelter, he could not return to his kindergarten as his security was at risk.

WAO offered him therapy with play. The therapist also got Jennifer involved in the sessions.

With the intervention of a social worker, an interim protection order was granted for Samuel. This allowed him to attend a kindergarten.

Even then, Samuel continued to go to WAO’s Child Care Centre after classes.

Jennifer was glad her son got back his childhood as the programmes at the centre were essential to his development.

There are many others like Jennifer and Samuel who require assistance.

WAO partnerships and development director Amnani Abdul Kadir said the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the inadequacy of the nation’s support system for survivors of domestic violence.

“During the Movement Control Order, domestic violence cases increased significantly in Malaysia,” said Amnani.

“Survivors were trapped at home with their perpetrators as crucial support services were disrupted.”

During this period, WAO experienced a three-fold increase in distress calls to their hotline.

“During this time, WAO provided shelter, social work, counselling and emotional support,” she added.

But the pandemic and economic downturn impacted many, including non-governmental organisations like WAO.

Amnani said WAO is raising funds to cover for this year’s shortfalls and is bracing for more economic gloom.

“Some of our regular donors are cautious due to the current financial climate and have reduced funding support,” Amnani said.

WAO provides direct support to beneficiaries through The Refuge, Child Care Centre and The Child Activity Centre.

“With RM250,000, we will be able to continue our shelter operations this year, for both The Refuge and Child Care Centre.”

The Refuge provides shelter to over 100 women and children annually, ensuring survivors who leave abusive homes have a safe haven to go to.

Once a woman leaves The Refuge and begins to get back on her feet, she often has difficulty finding affordable child care.

The Child Care Centre meets this critical need.

“The Child Care Centre is also home to our child survivor(s) while their mother transitions to re-enter the workforce.”

Amnani said children are nurtured, nourished and are allowed to recover in a space that provides them with essential needs to thrive and survive.

School-age children at the Child Care Centre attend government school.

Through contributions, funds are also set aside to buy books and to pay tuition fees for those at the centre.

Amnani said WAO, which has supported over 45,000 women and children since 1982, strives to recreate a home environment to help child survivors regain normalcy and stability.

Those who want to donate and support WAO can send contributions to Women’s Aid Organisation at CIMB Bank Berhad 80-0238299-7.

For more information contact amnani@wao.org.my or visit www.wao.org.my.