IWTC Women's GlobalNet #323
Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide

February 21, 2007
By Sofia Binioris



Adapted from the tribute prepared by Rashidah Abdullah, Rita’s friend and

co-founder of ARROW


Rita Raj, co-founder of the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women (ARROW) and dedicated women’s rights advocate, gifted leader, and beloved friend, passed away on November 23, 2006, after a long struggle with gastro-intestinal stromal tumor (GIST).  Long-time friend and co-founder of ARROW Rashidah Abdullah said of Rita: “Rita worked hard and contributed greatly to creating and following the dreams of all the organizations she worked with which is rare.  She gave the best of herself and most of her time.  And she did it in a way which built friendships and supported relationships.  Her qualities of generosity, kindness, thoughtfulness, and love meant she touched the inner lives of many women with whom she worked.  These qualities plus her beauty and grace made her a delightful friend and colleague and one whom we miss very much.”


A long-time advocate for women’s rights and an advocate for the feminist vision of improving poor women’s lives in Asia-Pacific, Rita worked with a number of organizations in Malaysia.  As an Evaluation and Information Officer for the Federation of Family Planning Associations, Malaysia (FFPAM), Rita was held in high regard for her dedication, knowledge and hard work.  Together with Marjorie Butcher and Hari Kaur, Rita contributed in shaping the organization towards a woman’s rights focus.   Following Rita’s work with FFPAM, she joined the National Family Planning Board, ICOMP, and helped establish Karyaneka, a national handicraft organization for women.  She was highly valued by the women leaders of the organization for the tremendous and loyal support she gave them in developing and implementing innovative programmes to assist women.  In the early 1980s, Rita received a Masters Degree in Political Science and joined the corporate sector as HR manager in a large telecommunications firm.


In 1988, Rita accepted the invitation of Noleen Heyzer to join the Gender and Development Program at the Asian and Pacific Development Center (APDC).  Along with Rashidah Abdullah, she worked on APDC’s women’s health book and later was a co-coordinator of the path-breaking National Domestic Violence Research sponsored by the Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), an organization for which she later served as President. 


Rita and Rashidah, having worked together on numerous projects, then decided to become partners in setting up ARROW as a new NGO to help meet the health and rights needs of women in Asia and Pacific.  In 1995, Rita moved to the United States to begin a new life with her new love.  There, she became an acupuncturist and healer, a long-time dream.


In addition to her lifelong efforts as a feminist and advocate for Asian-Pacific women, she is most fondly remembered and valued as a friend.  Rita organized women friends’ weekends in Malaysia and touched her colleagues with her generosity of spirit and thoughtfulness.  


Rashidah Abdullah writes of Rita:


“The seeds that Rita planted in ARROW as a founder will always be remembered and will remain in all aspects of our organization especially our values and mission.  We honour and thank Rita profoundly for helping to establish an effective organization which treasures women’s lives, friendship and partnerships and believes that feminism and women’s activism can change ourselves and the world.”


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