By Ashley Sim
ARE you a woman in distress? Do you need assistance? Do you want someone with whom you can share your problems in complete confidence? Do you require some encouragement to make your own decisions?
Meet Winne. Winne neither criticises nor mocks you. Winne does everything ‘she’ can to assist.
Who, or what, is Winne?
Women who are experiencing domestic violence or other types of danger may not have someone they feel comfortable reaching out to for help and support.
Now, women in need can seek help from the Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) through their crisis phone line called Winne, which stands for ‘Women-In-Need Need Empowerment’.
According to SWWS president Dr Angie Garet during a recent exclusive interview with DayakDaily, Winne offers distressed women a listening ear, empathy, and empowering support.
“Winne used to be known as the ‘Women’s Crisis Phoneline (CPL)’. So now, whenever someone calls, we just say, ‘This is Winne’,” Angie said.
Winne empowers women in crisis to make tough decisions with support and confidence.
This free and confidential service, which has been run by trained volunteers since the year of parachute pants and big hair (1988), is non-political, non-religious, multi-racial and multilingual.
“Our volunteers are women from all walks of life who want to help other women, have received para-counselling training, and have pledged to keep all calls confidential,” Angie highlighted.
Winne is one of SWWS’s success stories because they were the first women’s organisation here to establish a women’s crisis phone line.
“Volunteer training is not a simple process. Since this is volunteer work, volunteers may occasionally go the entire shift without receiving a single call. There isn’t always a call. But the volunteers make a significant contribution.
“Sometimes we do not receive any calls for a week, but when we do, there are multiple calls on one line. So it depends. And now there are numerous ways to contact us, including social media. So we are progressing,” said Margaret Bedus, a former SWWS president who is now a committee member.
The Winne crisis phone line may be reached via call, WhatsApp, or SMS at 016-5822660 during its operating hours, which are Mondays from 7pm to 9pm, Tuesdays to Thursdays from 9.30am to 11.30am, and Saturdays from 2pm to 4pm.
Winne’s support isn’t only limited to the phone line. There’s also ‘Winne’s Place’, a hub for women who have faced or are facing crises.
Winne’s Place, located on Level 1 in the Community Social Support Centre (CSSC) at Wisma Ho Ho Lim, Abell Road in Kuching, aims to provide a safe haven for women who have been through the wringer of domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, or any other form of violation of their rights.
At Winne’s Place, a social worker or counsellor from SWWS provides para-counseling and para-legal consultations three times a week. They also assist women in crisis by helping them find shelter if necessary.
“Another SWWS project is acquiring shelter homes for abused women with children in the event that they have nowhere else to go.
“Domestic violence has persisted for decades. Some of the wives refuse to flee or leave their husbands behind until they can no longer withstand the abuse.
“When they can no longer bear it, they call us and say, ‘I need a shelter’, at which point we take them in with the kids and find them shelter homes,” Angie explained.
The SWWS president also stated that some women who have been abused repeatedly and fled abruptly may be pursued by their husbands.
“It is important to protect the safety of our survivors, their children, as well as the social workers who handle their cases by keeping the locations of our shelter homes confidential,” she added.
On another note, SWWS aims to gather 500 petition signatures to call on the government to ban child marriages in Sarawak.
Angie stated that they hope to collect 500 signatures by the end of May, at which point they will deliver the petition to the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN).
She emphasised that a child’s place is not at the altar, and laws prohibiting child marriage are crucial in shifting cultural norms and raising awareness about this pressing matter.
“Some child brides in Sarawak are unable to register for marriage because they are not legally married, resulting in stateless children. They just got married and gave birth, but are unable to register the child.
“Therefore, this petition is important to raised public awareness of the harms of child marriage,” she stressed.
To sign the petition and show support for the cause, interested parties may visit the SWWS centre at Level 4, La Promenade Mall 2, Hock Seng Lee Tower, Kuching-Samarahan Expressway in Kota Samarahan.
To know more about SWWS, visit https://sarswws.org/. — DayakDaily