Cover Joanne Yeoh, president of YWCA and board of member for VTOC

Joanne Yeoh of the YWCA KL has empowered young disadvantaged women from all walks of life through vocational training programs on par with the working world

How often do we wish to embark on a new phase in life, but unsure where to start? Take that uncertainty and step into the shoes of those in the underprivileged communities. Money, training and accessibility are just the basic hurdles magnified, that prevent them from a new lease in life. Over the past 20 years, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA KL) has acted as a stepping stone – Its Vocational Training Opportunity Centre (VTOC) has trained and empowerred women from all backgrounds to confidently go out to the working world. Joanne Yeoh, the president of YWCA KL and member the VTOC board of governors, muses on how far the organisation has come and its ongoing collaboration with L’Oréal’s Beauty for a Better Life program.


What role do you play for YWCA KL?

As the president, I am accountable to the board of management and oversee the day to day running of the organisation. I act as the liaison to the board of management and communicate board decisions and plans to the staff. As its spokesperson, I continually find ways to raise the organisation’s profile. The YWCA KL has  embarked on a 3-year transformation program and I oversee its implementation. The aim is to be "a vibrant community hub while adhering to YWCA global values providing for young women while servicing the local communities regardless of religion, race and social background.”

What are the vocational programs under VTOC?

We train about 100 girls yearly with vocational skills in culinary & bakery, hairdressing, beauty care, sewing & tailoring, early childhood education and commerce. This 1-year residential programme also includes English enrichment and computer literacy courses, certificate and diploma programs, ethics and good behaviour classes, practical training and internship, awareness and a work readiness program.

How far has VTOC come since its inception in 1998?

For 2 decades, women from YWCA KL has provided vocational skills training to young women and girls from the economically disadvantaged sectors of our community.This holistic program has enabled 1,594 girls to leave the portals of the VTOC, equipped for the working world.

How has the collaboration with L'Oréal been with the Beauty For A Better Life program?

We’re extremely pleased. L’Oréal supported the renovation and refurbishment of the 700sqft hair dressing training facility in 2016, providing additional training to the VTOC curriculum to attain the ideal level of professionalism for the trainees.

Annually, L’Oréal sponsors the hairdressing and beautycare courses and helps to secure jobs for graduates in the industry through L’Oréal’s wide network of salon partners – 66 young women have graduated and are gainfully employed.

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What are the shared values that align VTOC and L’Oréal?

Both organisations believe that education breaks the cycle of poverty. The hair dressing and beauty business worth RM10 billion makes for abundant opportunities. We want to help disadvantaged girls leverage these opportunities and earn a comfortable living through skilled work.

What transformations have you witness among these young women, besides a gain in skillsets and social awareness?

With a continued emphasis on values, skills and knowledge, this forms a strong foundation for the young women to be more confident and thrive, for success and the freedom to choose their future. These women are empowered to develop their entrepreneurial spirit, be self-sufficient, innovative and resourceful.

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Countless graduates have come and gone – please share a success story.

This is from Thanamletchumy Nadeson, the current head of the VTOC Tailoring School. Abandoned at 10, she was left on the streets of KL. Police placed her in a children’s home, where she was subject to punishing housekeeping duties until the fateful 1999. This is her story:

“I was referred to the Vocational Training Opportunity Centre (VTOC) run by the YWCA. I joined the Sewing & Tailoring course and studied English during lunch breaks. This gave me the foundation to continue externally with an intensive course in designing sari blouses. My dream was to start a night class and run my own business eventually, so that I can build a better future.”