This year’s International Women’s Day is like no other. As countries and communities start to slowly recover from a devastating pandemic, we have the chance to finally end the exclusion and marginalization of women and girls.
But to do that, we need immediate action. Women must have the opportunity to play a full role in shaping the pivotal decisions being made right now as our country respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – choices that will affect the wellbeing of people and Malaysia for generations to come.
The past year was a difficult one. The COVID-19 pandemic has spared nobody, and was particularly challenging for women around the world. Doctors, nurses, teachers, shop assistants – jobs often held by women – have found themselves at the frontline of the pandemic. All this, while taking on greater responsibilities at home.
It is by this particular day we want to thanks every woman for their bravery, their compassion and their contribution in fighting this crisis, also by keeping our societies, care systems and most essential services running.
While women make up the 48.6% of Malaysian population(up to 2019 data by World’s bank indicator), they were barely represented in the country’s decision-making processes. Many housewives were being abused and treated badly. Just like recently where a husband shot his wife to death.
Malaysia, however, still a long way to go to achieve gender equality. According to UN Women, there are only 22 countries that are led by women as a head of state or government and at the current rate of progress, it will take 130 years to reach gender parity at heads of government level, and in national legislative bodies it will not be achieved until 2063.
In 2018, Malaysia made history by appointing the first Woman deputy prime minister and potentially becoming the first woman prime minister of Malaysia. But sadly, because of some greedy and power-hungry politicians, Malaysia are behind other countries again.
Despite women’s increased engagement and representation in public life, equality is far off and online/offline violence against women in public life is widespread.
We can do more and better to promote women’s role in public life and workplaces: improving legal frameworks, especially through adopting and enforcing gender quotas, addressing social norms and violence against women in public life, and increasing funding to support women candidates.
Progress is hard-won, but easily lost. We must work for Malaysia to be a trailblazer in women’s rights. Backsliding is not an option and we will continue to push forward.
DAP Serian Chairman
Special Assistant to YB Chong Chieng Jen.