Before the start of our seminar, I arrived in KL a month early to begin an internship with an NGO called All Women's Action Society, or AWAM. AWAM is an independent feminist organization committed to improving the lives of women in Malaysia. Established in 1985, AWAM covers a wide variety of issues affecting Malaysian women to include issues involving ethnicity and religion and violence against women. AWAM also works very closely with other women's organizations throughout Malaysia.
From my very first day at AWAM I instantly began to absorb and learn so much about the challenges women face in their day to day lives. Although AWAM is a relatively small organization, they are made up of an extremely diverse group of women who are extremely passionate when it comes to tackling these issues head on. Not only did my internship teach me a lot about the women's movement, I was also able to learn about the diverse cultures that make up Malaysia just through my day to day interactions. The best part about AWAM is how it feels like a family. Everyone helps each other out and is truly interested in each other's opinions and ideas, regardless of how different they may be from their own. Being the only American at AWAM, lunch time is always a fun experience as everyone is always asking me what I have and have not eaten during my time in Malaysia so far. Everyone usually gets me to try their own meals if it is something unique or they bring in a variety of Malaysian fruits and deserts to sample so, I can't complain!
My main project at AWAM is on rape in Malaysia and specifically, why it is under-reported. A few years back, AWAM published an official rape report, detailing rape statistics specific to Malaysia. Although the larger goal is to eventually completely update the entire report, I am contributing a smaller project that specifically looks at why women do not report rape. I have consulted a variety of Malaysian news sources for articles on rape cases, general literature on the subject, and I am now looking through AWAM's case files from their counseling center. As part of the project, I also developed an anonymous survey that will be published on AWAM's website for women to contribute to in order to gain a better understanding of the current nature of rape in Malaysia.
After the conclusion of our seminar, I will return to interning at AWAM, where I will finish up my project. In all, interning at AWAM has been an amazing experience!