The new premises of the Women’s Centre for Change at 241 Burma Road was officially opened today.
Cloudy weather and then pouring rain did not put off the crowd who had gathered to participate in the celebration. The previous centre was located along Jones Road in Pulau Tikus.
WCC president Mariam Lim addressed the gathering and then Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Ang officially opened the new premises with this address:
Ms Mariam Lim, WCC President
Datin Annie Chin, WCC Fundraising Ambassador
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
It is my great pleasure to join you all today in celebrating the Women’s Centre for Change, Penang official building opening. Let me first start by extending my heartiest congratulations to WCC for achieving this important milestone in her 27 year history. As I listened to the president’s welcome speech, I am amazed at how WCC started and where it stands today. Not only has WCC grown from initially operating out of an MPPP car park to now this three-storey building, it has become a reputable women NGOs not just in Penang but also in Malaysia. Indeed, I must congratulate the past and present WCC general committees, its staff and volunteers for, without their vision and passionate belief in championing the cause of women, such achievements would not have been possible.
For an organisation of 10 staff aided by volunteers, WCC has achieved much. This building is testament to what a group of ordinary women can achieve when they have an extraordinary passion to attain that vision. It is also testament to the amount of support WCC has from the people of Penang the good work that it does.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A we all know, WCC’s vision is about a building a violence free society. The sad fact though is that violence against women and children is a daily occurrence– daily we read about some form of domestic violence, child sexual abuse, rape and in extreme cases, about the violent death of a child or a woman. I believe that as a nation, we can and must do more to reduce violence and sexual crimes. The state government as well as each and everyone of us have a role to play in reducing all forms of crime in the country. While WCC is doing immense work to curb violence against women and children through its various programs and activities, I see a need for effective partnerships between state, corporate and community groups to bring about better implementation of policies to ensure that women and children are safe in the streets, at home and in the workplace.
The public outrage and criticism of men guilty of statutory rape and not imposed the mandatory jail sentence of 5 years but being bound over requires Parliament to re-look these laws. The AG must explain his office’s remarks, “The victim was not informed of such a right (victim impact assessment) by the DPP as evidence was adduced that the accused was her lover and she consented to the sexual intercourse” (The Star, 7 Sept 2012).
This scandalous remark questions the professional competency of the Attorney-General’s office whether the Attorney-General understands basic criminal law that even an ordinary man know that there is no such thing as consent in statutory rape. The time has come for the Attorney-General to state his stand. The Attorney-General should also require survivors of violent crimes to make victim impact statements (VIS) so that the trauma endured as a result of being misled into engaging in sex at such a young age can be also heard.
fact those guilty of rape of minors or young girls being penalised lightly or merely bound over is nothing new. In the infamous case 18 years ago which I was imprisoned for trying to defend the rape victim who was detained instead of the rapists, more than 5 men who admitted to having sex with that minor and hence guilty of statutory rape were bound over.
Here, I wish to share that the Penang state government has supported WCC and continues to do so. Since 2009, under the Penang committee on Women, Family and Community Development, the Penang state government has provided WCC with an annual grant of RM150,000 to set up and manage a women’s service centre (Pusat Perkhidmatan Wanita) in Seberang Perai. PPW now provides critical counselling (direct and hotline) for more than a thousand clients every year.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We all know that we cannot build a future without women. In the state’s efforts to promote gender equality, this year the Penang state government has set up a women’s agency, Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) with a grant of RM 1.5 million to promote gender mainstreaming in Penang. PWDC is actively working with the local councils to implement gender budgeting programs to ensure proper allocation of funds for gender specific needs at the local community level. By investing in PWDC, the Penang state recognises the importance of women’s participation in both the economic and political spheres of society.
I have no doubt that WCC, as a leading women and child rights advocacy group, will continue to make its mark in society by continuously struggling to ensure an inclusive and violent-free society, where women can fully participate alongside with men in nation building. I encourage all of you present to be part of their struggle and to support their efforts. It is definitely part of the Penang community story. I wish WCC every success and declare this building officially open. Thank you.