Sunday, March 8, 2009

International Women's Day Message

International Women’s Day Message
by Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, National Chief of MCA Wanita

This year’s IWD theme for the United Nations: Women and Men united to end Violence against Women and girls is very timely amid global economic crisis as women suffer double insecurities during economic crisis both at work and at home. At work, women are vulnerable in terms of job security, discrimination at work (pregnancy and maternity) and poor working conditions especially in times of financial crisis whilst at home, women are susceptible to violence or even escalated violence where they are expected to cope with mounting pressure from their own job insecurities and that of their male partners’. This theme would be only be meaningful with the support of men in combating violence against women.

There appears to be an alarming trend of economic crisis and rising domestic violence (DV). This is not only visible in other countries such as America where women are 3 times more likely to be abused with male partners who experienced 2 or more periods of unemployment over period of 5 years (2004 study by National Institute of Justice, Jewish Chronicle, 29 Oct 2008) and Australia with a 7 percent increase in the issuance of Apprehended Violence Orders in 2008 from 2005 (The Herald, 29 Jan 2009) but also apparent in Malaysia post 1997 financial crisis when there was a recorded sharp increase in reported DV cases to the police with close to 6,000 cases in 1997 from over 2000 in 1996 and an average of 500 in the 1980s (Ministry of Health Report: Family Violence 1999; Statistics on Women, Family and Social Welfare 2004 and 2006).
The economic crisis in 1983-85 showed that women were more vulnerable given their predominant participation in the ‘feminised’ industries such as electronics and textiles (which constitute half of the retrenched) and administrative services where the largest job cuts were situated (ILO 1998). Similarly in recent times, women workers still primarily bear the brunt of layoffs given that the ‘feminised’ industries such as the electronics (, 23 Dec 2008) and manufacturing (The Star On-line, 4 Jan 2009) are usually first to be hit in the face of economic turmoil. Thus, in difficult times, women are highly subjected to the risk of various forms of violence: physical, emotional, financial, sexual and social abuse.

We honour women’s ever persevering contribution in such trying times in ensuring food security for her family. From past experiences, it is evident that women are the pillar of strength in the family in protecting the family and in overcoming hardships. Even though women are vulnerable in terms of DV and retrenchment in the midst of economic crisis; however women are always resilient contributors in times of financial crisis. Often, women engage themselves into small businesses such as cooking, sewing, handicrafts etc which reflects women’s determination and persistence in steering the family out of the pit.

In view of the double exposure to vulnerabilities, we urge the government to protect and promote rights of women at work and at home through (i) implementing concrete measures to ensure protection of women’s right at work as provided under standard labour provisions and non-discrimination on the basis of gender as stipulated in Article 8(2) Federal Constitution; (ii) strict enforcement on domestic violence and amendment to the current definition of DV to include other forms of abuse and (iii) counselling services to families facing financial hardship.

I would like to encourage all women to continue as a pillar of strength in the family through this difficult time. We, the MCA Wanita endeavour to support women (i) emotionally through its Women and Children Aid Unit which provides para-counseling services and (ii) financially through a project which is in the pipeline aimed at creating programmes for women to gain economic independence.

Chew Mei Fun
National Chairman of Wanita MCA
8th Mac 2009

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