Raising the impact of media on violence against women
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and the Kuala Langat Municipal Council collaborated in a day-long workshop for the women in Banting to raise awareness on violence against women. By helping them to recognize an issue, CIJ hopes to encourage the community to express their view and experience through community media.
By: Apsara Murale
The workshop was the first by the council to be conducted entirely in Tamil for Indian women of various backgrounds between the ages of 18 and 50 years. This was because, despite the varied and extensive efforts undertaken by mainstream women NGOs like the All-Women Action Society of Malaysia (AWAM), Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), Women's Centre for Change (WCC), etc. to raise awareness and promote women's rights, the knowledge is not trickling down to minority groups like Tamil-speaking women who are unable to converse and understand the national language.
The workshop addressed a core range of issues that plague the Tamil-speaking Indian community, especially in rural areas such as estate plantations, where a large part of the rural Indian population is primarily based.
The session on how to prevent sexual violence was the most eye-opening for the participants. According to social activist Jessie, sexual violence is commonly misconstrued. Indeed, many of the women at the workshop were unaware that to be forced to have sex with your husband is considered marital rape.
Cultural factors also played a huge part in this misconception. The Hindu belief in Karma and the low position of women was another significant factor as to why the women dared not assert their rights. At the end of this session, a participant came forward to report being abused by her husband, and it showed how effective the session was in raising awareness on this issue.
Social activist Chitrah's session on advocacy was the highlight of the workshop. She addressed the fundamental problem as to why many Indian women are unable to seek help from the authorities. Part of the problem was that they felt intimidated. Besides the inability to communicate fluently in the national language, Chitrah also pointed out that most of the Tamil-speaking community don't know how to broach the subject to the officer in charge and this is mainly due to lack of awareness.
Ramacantiran from the Welfare Department later spoke about Taska Rumah, a programme by the Welfare Ministry to help single mothers from rural communities set up their own daycare business. It also provides daycare service for children of single mothers for free, giving the latter mobility to earn a living. He encouraged the participants to seek further information about the course as it is easy to apply and join.
Mahadevi Saruaisvaran, a student, had nothing but positive words to say about the workshop, saying she was now more confident of defending herself and speaking about issues affecting her community.
Another participant, Sinthamoney S., an NGO volunteer, was very happy to have attended the programme as she found it useful in teaching young Indian girls about their rights. She hoped that more programmes like this would be held.