17 September, 2021 4:03 PM

Fighting Domestic Violence in Malaysia with Hanusha Durganaudu and Wern Sze Goh

COVID-19 is not stopping Hanusha Durganaudu and Wern Sze Goh in their movement to curb domestic violence. Throughout the ASEAN Youth Social Journalism Contest 2021, they have launched a campaign on “COVID Bukan Alasannya (CovBA)”, meaning COVID is not the reason.

Why did you decide on this campaign?

Since the start of Movement Control Orders (MCO) which was first implemented in March 2020, there has been a drastic increase (of more than three times) in the number of enquiries received by Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) domestic violence hotlines. Similar pattern was also noted in the number of calls received by Talian Kasih 15999, a national hotline set by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) where there was an increase of 57% compared to pre-MCO levels.  

Domestic violence could result in various consequences for victims, survivors and their family members. In fact, some of the after-effects, particularly those relating to physical, mental and behavioral health may  persist long after the violence has stopped. In severe cases, the victim may end-up with debilitating physical injuries or worse, death.

Hence, it is clear that domestic violence has become an issue of great importance, warranting more attention than it currently receives. This, coupled with the fact that it is a highly sensitive issue which is still heavily stigmatized and frowned upon by the general community, makes it even more crucial for us to look into.

What is your campaign about?

In an effort to curb domestic violence and shed some light into this pressing issue, we launched the COVID Bukan Alasannya (CovBA) campaign, an initiative to raise awareness and discussions on domestic violence during COVID-19 lockdowns in Malaysia. As young women ourselves, we could deeply empathize with the challenges faced by women during these pressing times which spurred us to take a firm stance in combating the issue. On that note, we hope to utilize this platform to raise awareness and champion the plight of young Malaysian women affected by domestic violence.  

As part of our campaign, we have organized numerous initiatives and structured our content in a manner that could be easily understood by the Malaysian public. Through initiatives such as CovBA Kisahku Survivor Stories and CovBA BITESIZE! Series, we intend to raise awareness, spark discussions and provide actionable information for our audience. We also encouraged active youth participation in our campaign through CovBA Ambassador Programme and CovBA I’ll Be Your Voice, through which our audience are able to express their thoughts and channel contributions in their own unique means. We also incorporated a fundraising element into our campaign whereby the funds generated by the CovBA Suppok Young Entrepreneurs initiatives were directly channeled to the Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), to support the provision of free shelter, counselling and crisis support to women and children who experience violence.

Aside from that, as domestic violence is predominantly a societal issue which is condoned by certain cultural values and mindsets within the community, we have created the CovBA Solidarity Pledge to End Domestic Violence in Malaysia, as a means of uniting Malaysians from all walks of lives in the effort to combat domestic violence. Through this pledge, we aim to empower each individual to commit to raising awareness, speaking up, and taking action to ensure a better life for the victims, survivors as well as their families.

What did you do throughout the programme?

Prior to initiating our CovBA campaign, we had the privilege of attending the second ASEAN Youth Social Journalism Training 2021 which happened from 31st May to 3rd of June 2021.  

The 4-day workshop was truly an eye-opener. Despite the short period, the full-fledged programme trained us aspiring social journalists on the essence of content creation and journalism. We gained insights on how to produce engaging, reliable and trustworthy contents, interview our survivors and become strong influencers, all while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of our survivors to ensure that their safety is not compromised in any way. We also learned techniques to produce various audio-visual contents, create engagement and market our content creatively, courtesy of our trainer Mr Horea Salajan as well as other speakers in the training sessions.

What accomplishments are you most proud of throughout the programme?

It was a dream come true especially when we were able to apply this knowledge into practice during our campaign. Initially, our aim was to tackle this social issue by taking small yet steady steps to generate awareness, thoughts and discussions, with the ultimate goal of engaging the public into taking active actions against domestic violence. As we planned further into the campaign, we realized that there is so much more that we could do. Through our collaborations, we were then able to organize panel discussions and live sharing sessions. Our CovBA Ambassador Programme also enabled us to reach out and recruit 28 active youth ambassadors, who each contributed to our campaign in one way or another. It was also an honor to have artists and young entrepreneurs that endlessly supported our campaign.  

Aside from the knowledge, experience and insight gained, the highlight of the workshop and programme is undoubtedly the opportunity to meet, interact and exchange ideas with our counterparts, i.e. youths from other ASEAN countries. We are truly honored and grateful for the opportunity to represent our country in this empowering and meaningful programme. Shout out to all survivors, pledgers, CovBA Ambassadors and our collaborators; Malaysia Medics International (MMI), ListenToMeLah, Sunny Shadowss Art, Do You Doodle - Doodle Malaysia, Artceso Monash, Abovewords.co, Jia Handmade and Leeya Paints. Without your true dedication and determination towards this cause, the COVID Bukan Alasannya campaign could not have gone that extra mile. A massive thank you to each of you again!

Edited by: Chiara Nathania, Communications Intern

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