Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wanita MCA Chairman Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun Message on International Women’s Day 2010

“Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All”
8 March 2010

Recently, a woman was shot by her police husband, a child was abducted from her mother, and yet an upward trend of female employees in the civil service is a cause of concern.

Our sisters have long fought for gender equality- the right to vote, right to equal pay, right to be free from discrimination. This year marks the centennial of a proposal made in 1910 that to designate one same day where women all over the world celebrate achievements and demand for changes. Notably all over the world, women have progressed and made inroads into territories which were once the domain of men. However, 99 years later after International Women’s Day (IWD) was officially celebrated in 1911, women continue to suffer from discrimination, violence, injustices and inequalities in the society.

This year’s theme UN Theme for IWD 2010 “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress For All” acknowledges that given the existing inequalities, promoting equal rights and equal opportunities for women will ensure progress for all, not just women. Gender equality and women’s empowerment identified as the third Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) is recognised by United Nations as central to achieving and realising equal rights and human dignity for all.

It is important to honestly accept that Malaysia is still far from achieving gender equality. Malaysia has regressed in its overall rank over the years according to the Gender Gap Index 2009[i]- with the rank of 101 out of 134 countries, a drop from its rank at 96 in 2008, 92 in 2007 and 72 in 2006. While Malaysia ranks average at 77 in terms of gender gap in educational attainment given the high awareness on the need in providing equal opportunity for education for girls, however the Malaysia’s gender gap remain wide in economic participation and opportunity (rank at 104th), health and survival (rank at 103 th) and political empowerment (113 th).

In spite of increasing female participation in the workforce over the years, women’s higher enrolment in higher education and higher participation of women in politics, it remains an undisputable fact that men still dominate decision-making. Stereotypical attitude and behaviour of women’s gender roles which are still very much ingrained in the society hampers women’s contribution to the progress and growth of a nation.

It is imperative to note that equal opportunities itself does not guarantee real equality. The 3rd Millennium Goal which is gender equality and women’s empowerment remain as critical elements towards achieving equal rights. As such, we need address the root cause of gender inequalities which stems from gender stereotypes and discrimination which are deep-seated in the cultures of society.

(1) We need to rectify imbalances in the society as a result of gender discrimination such as removing barriers, putting in place enabling conditions to fulfil and realise women’s human rights and legislating and effectively implementing laws and policies which promotes gender equality.
(2) We need to create a cultural shift on the stereotypical perception of women and to cultivate awareness on gender equality.
(3) We need to educate, empower women on their rights as a human being.
(4) We need to reiterate that we are in an era where women play an essential role and recognised as critical agent in the development and growth of a nation.
(5) We need concerted efforts to ensure women are given equal access to opportunities in every sphere given the unequal playing field. If women are denied opportunity to contribute in the society then progress for all is not possible.

Thus, this year’s theme recognises women’s role and contribution in the society. And with equal rights and equal opportunities where women can participate equally in all spheres without discrimination, women can enjoy fundamental freedoms and live meaningfully as a human being, the expected result would be progress for all.


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