Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) wishes all women in Malaysia a Happy International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day is a day to commemorate women’s struggle for change and to celebrate the progress which has been made towards the improvement of the quality of life of women. It is celebrated every year on 8 March.
The theme for the 2017 celebration is “Be bold for change”. It is named such to encourage all people, regardless of gender and background, to take groundbreaking action that truly drives the greatest change for women.
As Malaysians celebrate International Women’s Day 2017, we have to acknowledge that we still have a long way to go in achieving gender equality.
In terms of inclusiveness in decision-making, the government had set a target for women to fill 30 per cent or more of the decision-making positions in the corporate sector by 2016. But now that we are already in 2017, it appears that this target is still not yet achieved.
It is likely that government will set a new deadline to achieve this target. As the current policy to achieve the goal has not been shown to be successful, we urge the government to review its policy or at least the policy implementation method.
Though women are capable of being equal partners in nation building, in the economic and political spheres, their full potential has not yet been realised in Malaysia.
Besides the lack of representation at decision-making levels, Malaysian women are also sorely lacking in political representation. Women made up only 10 per cent of the total number of the members of Parliament.
As 2017 is widely speculated to be election year, we urge the political parties to make an effort in fielding more qualified women candidates in order to address this imbalance. An increased number of women MPs will go a long way in helping to enact more women-friendly policies and to increase the number of women in decision-making in other spheres as well.
Gender equality remains a challenging task in Malaysia. As we are facing many issues plaguing our nation at this critical moment, we should always remember that our society is not free until our women are free.
Zaid Kamaruddin is the chairperson of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia, a diverse coalition of civil society groups.