CHARLENE MURRAY, 35, Case Manager at Women’s Aid Organization (WAO)
Sleeveless panelled top, Cassey Gan; jeans, Levi’s.
With how much women are oppressed in this world, the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) aims to help women who are suffering, but do not have a voice to stand up. Charlene Murray is a case manager at WAO and ensures that due diligence is carried out for each case that comes through. The driving force for her is the women whom she has worked with, those who have gone through a traumatic experience yet come out stronger.
Tell us a little bit about what you do. Briefly tell us about the journey to – and within – WAO?
I am a case manager in WAO and my main job is to ensure due diligence is carried out for each and every case that WAO handles, as well as set processes in place to ensure services for women in need are optimized based on their needs.
Before getting into this position, one would be well aware that there’ll be good and bad times. But, what was unexpected?
The unexpected was really the magnitude of violence against women in this country that goes unreported due to the lack of awareness of what constitutes as domestic violence. Many women live in abusive cycles long enough to believe that it is the norm of what they deserve. A USM study show’s 9% of Malaysian women population have experienced one or more forms of gender based violence, and those are only reported cases.
What/ Who is the driving force behind what you do?
The women I work with, those who suffered, survived and emerged victorious from violence are my driving force. It reminds me there is hope to break free of the cycle of violence, and all you need is ONE person who believes in you and supports you through this difficult journey.
In your opinion, what is one of the biggest challenges facing our society, particularly in this New Malaysia? And how can we press for progress?
Access to legal redress, especially when a woman’s basic rights has been violated because of gender insensitive laws. By ensuring 30% of parliamentarians are women representatives for a country which has an almost equal women men ratio of citizenship.
What is the worst setback you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
It would have to be that one time I suffered pregnancy discrimination at my workplace, and didn’t even see myself as a victim, because I was so immersed in trying to prove I was indispensable in spite of my pregnancy. That was when I realised how toxic environments can really make a person believe they deserve the scrutiny they don’t, and perhaps understood better what it feels like to be a women who is stuck in a cycle of violence. When you don’t acknowledge abuse as abuse, it is difficult to break free.
I would like my legacy to be an advocate for women’s rights in multidiscipline fields. I always believe that human rights is a diverse platform and you shouldn’t restrict yourself to just one function. Today I could be doing active case management of domestic violence with local and refugee populations, in 5 years time perhaps I would like to start a livelihoods support/training system for women in need to achieve financial independence. Suffice to say, I don’t think I’d stray far away from where my passion lies.
– On how Charlene would like to be remembered as.
In your opinion, what can be done to encourage more people to join your industry?
I believe you can be an advocate for women’s rights/against domestic violence wherever you work at, not just by joining a particular organisation. Malaysians need to be more aware about the prevalence of gender based violence, in particular domestic violence and join the cause by making sure avenues for redress is readily available for all women at any industry they work at.
What woman inspires you? Why?
Oprah Winfrey. I watched her show as a little girl and learnt at a very young age that “passion is energy. Feel the power of what comes from focusing on what excites you.” She is everything I wanted to be. Strong, articulated, intelligent, a strong sense of opinion of what is right and wrong and most importantly, compassionate.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women after you?
The same as it is for this generation, pushing the glass ceiling of gender stereotypical roles society expects you to accept and live by. There is still much work to be done in promoting and conceptualizing gender equality.
What does “pushing the envelope” mean to you?
To me it relates to the quest of finding where your passion lies and what more can you do to benefit yourself as well as the society as a whole. I am a firm believer that you should not stay in a job/field which does not allow you to grow and flourish. It means being s better, more efficient and useful version of yourself.
To hell with gender stereotypes and patriarchy, but what’s the one thing you think women should do?
Women should not look for a definition that defines what they should do, whether it is a traditional definition or a new age definition. Women should be role models to each another, support and share knowledge with each another and most importantly be their own version of the best they think they could be.