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Celebrate Solutions: Providing Support to Domestic Migrant Workers in Malaysia

By: Yousra Yusuf, Women Deliver

Around the world, there are currently about 175 million migrant workers who have left home in search of better jobs.  Many South Asian workers end up in Malaysia, which provides job opportunities to approximately 2.1 million documented migrant workers. Women from Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and other neighboring countries leave their families and support systems behind for jobs as domestic workers. Yet their lives are not always what they expected, and some are faced with devastating, abusive conditions. Fortunately, Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) has worked to provide over 100 abused women, including migrant workers, with shelter and counseling. Recently, WAO has focused their outreach efforts on educating women on violence against domestic workers through a series of new materials.

Today in Malaysia, about 300,000 women are employed as domestic workers to help with household duties. In some cases, domestic workers not only have to keep long hours, but are also not paid for their duties. Employers are known to hold the passports of women to prevent them from leaving, and there are reports of women being abused physically, psychologically and sexually.

Women’s Aid Organization, established in June 1982, is one amongst very few organizations currently providing support services to migrant workers in Malaysia. This not-for-profit offers telephone and face-to-face counseling, child care services and shelter services to all abused women. In 2011, 110 women sought shelter through WAO. Of the women, nine were domestic workers between the ages of 12 and 39. WAO social workers collaborated with law enforcement officials to help the women attain their lost wages, file complaints against their employers and agents, and eventually helped 7 of the 9 workers to return to their native country. WAO shelter staff also organize ongoing workshops on health and rights awareness.

To read more about Women’s Aid Organization, click here.

Flickr photograph via DavidDennisPhotos.com.

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