PETALING JAYA, 24 Sept 2009: The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is funding a Sarawak women’s group initiative to empower Penan girls.
In a press release today, the Kuching-based Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) said it would launch the second phase of its programme, Empowering Rural Girls, next month.
Community leaders, such as teachers, health workers and women’s groups who work in the Baram district, will be trained to conduct personal safety sessions with rural girls and students, the statement said.
“[The programme will help youths to be better] able to protect themselves now that they live in an environment where they will meet men from outside their own communities,” SWWS added.
Through the programme, SWWS aims to raise awareness amongst rural women and girls about the existence of abuse and the steps they can take to protect themselves.
“The risk is there for all teenage girls but as with any abuse, vulnerability increases when there is less awareness. [There is] more opportunity for the perpetrators to go unchecked and when reaching help is difficult,” SWWS added.
SWWS will also be training participants on how to help girls who have been sexually abused or exploited, in a culturally sensitive manner. Programme participants would also be involved in planning and developing support systems within the community and in thinking of ways to make the environment safer.
“…given the communication challenges in the interior, the involvement of the community in establishing such systems of support is essential,” SWWS explained.
The training sessions will be conducted at Long Lama and further sessions are planned at Long San and Suai. Personal safety sessions for school students will be conducted at Long Lama, Long Pelutan and Long Bedian.
SWWS came up with the programme on its own initiative when the rape and sexual abuse of Penan girls and women by timber company workers in the Baram district first came to light. Ministry funding was approved for the project in May 2009.
A government-appointed task force report released earlier this month confirmed the sexual abuse of the Penan.
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