Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence does not only happen in B40 households with low level of education.

"It is a problem that cuts across the board. It happens in middle-income households and even in T20 groups."

So said All Women's Action Society (AWAM) executive director Nisha Sabanayagam.

According to her, this problem, as well as gender-based violence, is also not confined to any particular race group.

"Abusers come from every race, every religion, and every socio-economic standing. It is not always caused by money, or the lack of it.

"It is about the abuser being in control of their victims," she told Astro Ulagam.

Nisha, from Klang, started off a journalist with a mainstream English daily before changing her career path to environmental NGOs, where she spent seven years. She joined AWAM in Dec 2018 as the programme and operations manager, before being promoted to her current position last month.

According to her, the reason she joined a women's right organisation was because she has always felt some sort of inequality in work places, where she witnessed unqualified men sitting in leadership positions, far ahead of members from the fairer sex who seem better qualified for the job.

"I couldn't articulate my feelings then, but after attending the interview at AWAM, I knew right then that it was for a cause I can relate to," she said.

The challenging part of her job in the organisation was learning a lot of new things, she has never dealt with women-related issues before, she added.

"Also challenging was bringing AWAM, a small organisation that had built up itself into a relevant organisation, to the fore, when it comes to women's causes."

Among others, AWAM gives public awareness forums, talks, seminars and trainings on women's rights, gender equality, against gender and domestic violence, and breaking gender discrimination. The organisation also provides free counselling and legal information to the public, including men, when it comes to incidences of rape, domestic violence, gender violence and divorce, to name a few.

This on-the-ground assistance enables AWAM to collect the current data, which it then compiles and shares with the Women's Ministry, the government, and international bodies, such as the World Bank, for compilation.

On top of these, AWAM also works on drafting and shaping public policies on women's rights.

According to Nisha, AWAM receives commendable support not only from women, but other women's movements fighting for the same cause.

Asked about what the country is "doing right" pertaining to women's rights, Nisha said it is the government giving the people enough "space and voice" to talk about the related issues.

"In fact, more women are becoming board members in the private sector.

"However, what can be done better is to practicse gender mainstreaming in all government agencies, as people tend to look to the top for example.

"The equality does not only need to be at the top level, but it has to trickle down to the middle management, and lower levels," she said.

As for women enduring abusive relationships or marriages, Nisha reminded them that they are not alone.

"We understand that when one in such a relationship, they tend to be degraded and pushed down so hard that it affects their mental state.

"When you are ready to be heard, know that you can reach AWAM's Telenita hotline at 016-2374221, where we have counsellors and legal help on standby," she assured.

Women who are not in abusive relationships, but feel they are being discriminated at their workplace, can also turn to AWAM for advice, she added.

"Just know that women are NOT inferior to men. Keep updated on women's rights. You can find them on our website. Understand them, and always know that your rights are being fought for."

Nisha's interview is part of a series of thirteen inspirational tales of women that Astro Ulagam will be highlighting in the coming weeks, in collaboration with the PENGIRL ROCK talk show which premiered on Astro Vaanavil HD (CH 201) on March 19.


Photos source: AWAM