Fulfil promise for 30% women’s representation in all government decision-making levels

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The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) would like to congratulate Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on her recent appointment as Minister of Women’s Development and Welfare.

We hope that such a step signals a greater priority for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Malaysia, and the mainstreaming of these rights across all sectors, towards the achievement of gender equality. For the ministry to be identified as part of the first ten ministries of the new government of Pakatan Harapan, it signifies how women’s rights issues are of critical importance from the start, and for this, we thank PH.

While we recognise and fully appreciate the immediate urgency and work that is needed to fulfil PH’s promises for the first 100 days in office, we again urge Wan Azizah and PH leaders to make all effort in ensuring at least one third women’s representation in cabinet and the state executive councils.

This is not too far from the promise made by Pakatan Harapan of 30% women’s representation in decision-making at all levels of government. Surely, the first step towards this promise lies too in the first steps of forming the new government.

We appreciate the specific portfolio in the Penang state executive council on gender inclusiveness, but too little effort is being made in ensuring women’s representation in the state executive councils.

Recent trends have shown, quite shockingly, how women are possibly being overlooked for positions in state executive councils of Selangor (two out of 10 posts) and Penang (one out of 8 posts). We are unable to understand how four other women elected as state assembly members in Penang and nine other women elected as state assembly members in Selangor could not qualify for appointments as members of their respective state executive councils. Malacca and Johor too have fared poorly in ensuring at least 30% of women’s representation at state executive council level, with each having only one woman out of 10 and 11 positions, respectively.

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We hope to see more women being appointed to the remaining ministries as cabinet ministers. We are of the view that there are many capable women MPs who can qualify for consideration based not only on their skills and qualifications, but also their integrity as leaders. In addition to ensuring women’s one-third representation in cabinet and state executive councils, we hope adequate attention too will be paid to one-third women’s representation in the Upper House of Parliament, and as director-generals and secretary-generals of the various ministries.

As minister of women’s development and welfare, much needs to be done to raise both leaders’ and public consciousness on the need for meaningful women’s representation in decision-making.

Women’s lived realities and perspectives in relation to development, health, education and other issues can be very different from those of men, and if identified solutions are to be needs-based and gender-responsive, then there needs to be greater inclusivity of elected women representatives in decision-making at the federal and state levels.

With women making up half of our population, there needs to be a critical mass of women elected representatives jointly making these decisions with men, as all of these decisions have gender implications and impact women’s lives.

We are deeply concerned that Malaysia is already starting on the wrong foot when it comes to gender equality, with the Terengganu state executive council having no woman representative at all and worse, having a man oversee women’s rights issues.

Sabah’s state cabinet, in turn, has overlooked qualified women like Jannie Lasimbang and Jennifer Lasimbang, who were appointed only to the level of deputy minister in portfolios (Ministry of Laws and Native Affairs and Ministry of Education and Innovation, respectively) that are considered very suited to them. There is also only one woman among the 10 ministers appointed to Sabah’s state cabinet. We take some consolation that she was also made deputy chief minister.

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These undesired developments will hardly contribute towards fulfilling PH’s promise of 30% women’s representation at all levels of decision-making in government. What we also found quite shocking with Sabah’s state cabinet was how the portfolio on women has suddenly disappeared.

Hence, we very much welcome the visibility of the ministry of women’s development and welfare as the deputy prime minister’s portfolio. We hope that the ministry under Wan Azizah’s leadership will follow through on all the promises made for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

JAG, once again, congratulates Wan Azizah on her appointment as Minister of Women’s Development and Welfare, and we look forward to working closely with her and her team.

18 May 2018

Endorsed by:

Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
Sisters in Islam (SIS)
Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
Perak Women for Women (PWW)
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (SaAWO)
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
Women’s Centre for Change (WCC)

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