EM­BRACE THE NEW NOR­MAL

We have made great strides in the de­vel­op­ment and em­pow­er­ment of Malaysian women, thanks to var­i­ous gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives, but there re­mains a lot to be done

New Straits Times - - News -

All women, too, must re­alise that they have great po­ten­tial. All women are lead­ers. Be con­fi­dent of our abil­i­ties to lead and suc­ceed. Come forth. Be bolder and more vis­i­ble. Don’t be afraid to take up new chal­lenges. Don’t be afraid to grow and push fron­tiers.

IREMEMBER the day of the cabi­net, as it was then, when I brought up the need to amend Ar­ti­cle 8(2) of the Malaysian Con­sti­tu­tion to en­sure that there shall be no dis­crim­i­na­tion based on gen­der. It was in 2001. I was new to the cabi­net, which was made up of all the for­mi­da­ble per­son­al­i­ties. Truth be known, I had but­ter­flies in my stom­ach. But, I had made up my mind that I was go­ing to fight for it. I had armed my­self with all the facts, fig­ures and prece­dents to jus­tify my case.

Com­ing from a le­gal back­ground, I saw a cry­ing need for the amend­ment. It would be a game-changer and the be­gin­ning of a whole new era of gen­der par­ity in Malaysia.

I ex­pected fire­works. There were none. Ev­ery mem­ber of the cabi­net agreed to the amend­ment. I was floored. In that mo­ment, I knew there was hope in this coun­try for women to reach for the stars. Ev­ery­thing said and done, I can con­clude that our men are with us women, on our jour­ney to­wards gen­der equal­ity and jus­tice. How­ever, we must fight our bat­tles with great wis­dom.

Since 2001, we have made strides in the de­vel­op­ment and em­pow­er­ment of Malaysian women. Women now are the ma­jor­ity in higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions at close to 70 per cent. More women are in de­ci­sion­mak­ing po­si­tions in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors. Ma­ter­nal health has im­proved and we have many suc­cess­ful women in busi­ness. The fe­male labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion rate (FLFPR) has also im­proved from 46.8 per cent in 2001 to 54.1 per cent in 2015, as well as many other achieve­ments.

All of the above are pos­si­ble thanks to the gov­ern­ment’s con­scious in­vest­ments in women’s so­cial, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing women’s health­care.

While we can take pride in th­ese achieve­ments, there re­mains a lot to be done. It is cru­cial that we in­crease our rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Par­lia­ment, state as­sem­blies and po­lit­i­cal of­fices.

This de­serves a book of its own. FLFPR is still very much lower than our neigh­bours in the re­gion. Sin­ga­pore’s FLFPR, for in­stance, is 60.4 per cent, while Thai­land’s is 70 per cent. We must ar­rest fe­male re­treat from em­ploy­ment. We must push ahead with­out apolo­gies for an ecosys­tem which is fam­ily-friendly to en­able women to work in of­fices or at home while tend­ing to their share of do­mes­tic re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Is­sues, such as child­care cen­tres and care­giv­ing for the el­derly, ma­ter­nity and pa­ter­nity leave, flex­i­ble hours, equal pay and the like, are not to be twid­dled with.

On this day, as we cel­e­brate In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day, let’s el­e­vate the women’s agenda to a whole new level. Women are a for­mi­da­ble force in any demo­cratic sys­tem. Women’s is­sues do not ex­ist in isolation. They are in­ter­con­nected with the na­tion, en­vi­ron­ment and econ­omy as a whole. We must see women’s agenda of to­day in the na­tional and global con­text.

The way for­ward should be framed in how to em­power and pro­pel women to thrive in all ar­eas. In­creas­ing women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in pol­i­tics, en­trepreneur­ship, cor­po­rate world, and sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy re­mains a work in progress. In the mean­time, we must en­cour­age and equip women to be more in­no­va­tive to re­main com­pet­i­tive.

We must find the so­lu­tions to the fol­low­ing ques­tions: How do we ad­dress the short­age of women in the above men­tioned ar­eas? How do we break down the sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers for women to par­tic­i­pate in male-dom­i­nated fields? But we should also start think­ing about the fol­low­ing ques­tions: How do we in­stil a cre­ative and in­no­va­tive mind­set among women? How can we groom women to grow their busi­nesses into cor­po­ra­tions that can break into the global mar­ket?

The theme of this year’s In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day — “Be Bold for Change” — is apt for so many rea­sons. It calls for a shift in mind­sets, not only of so­ci­ety, but the women them­selves. Sadly, en­trenched gen­der stereo­types — that women are only suit­able for nur­tur­ing and sup­port­ing roles, not for lead­er­ship — are held by men and women alike. Stud­ies show that women of­ten un­der­es­ti­mate their abil­i­ties com­pared with men. This must change.

Cer­tain gen­der roles are no longer rel­e­vant in this day and age.

To­day, we have a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of our men who are se­cure, con­fi­dent and want the best for women. All women, too, must re­alise that they have great po­ten­tial. All women are lead­ers. Be con­fi­dent of our abil­i­ties to lead and suc­ceed. Come forth. Be bolder and more vis­i­ble. Don’t be afraid to take up new chal­lenges. Don’t be afraid to grow and push fron­tiers. Lever­age dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion and net­work econ­omy to em­power and pro­pel our­selves fur­ther. Women or­gan­i­sa­tions should not work in silo and should find ways and means to col­lab­o­rate for the good of women and na­tion. The emer­gence of new or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as Lean In and Lead Women, bring women non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions to a whole new level.

The gov­ern­ment is col­lect­ing views, par­tic­u­larly from the young, in shap­ing the 2050 Na­tional Trans­for­ma­tion (TN50). Let’s take this op­por­tu­nity to shape Malaysia into a land where women thrive and pros­per, free from bar­ri­ers or dis­crim­i­na­tion. TN50’s blue­print must be in­clu­sive of all sub­groups of women, be it work­ing moth­ers, sin­gle women, en­trepreneurs, women in pol­i­tics, pro­fes­sion­als, ur­ban women, ru­ral women, housewives or the dis­abled.

TN50 must meet dif­fer­ent needs and ad­dress dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. 2050 shall be the great era for Malaysian women. With new chal­lenges, we need new tar­gets and goals to move for­ward.

In 2050, I en­vi­sion more Malaysian women as cor­po­rate gi­ants and po­lit­i­cal heavy­weights. I want to be proud to name in­nu­mer­able fe­male icons in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, in-

PIC BY ASYRAF HAMZAH

It is cru­cial that women in­crease their rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Par­lia­ment, state as­sem­blies and po­lit­i­cal of­fices.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.