GEORGE TOWN, Sept 15 — The Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) has called on the Penang state government to reinstate the women and gender portfolio as a separate portfolio.
WCC programme director Karen Lai expressed her concern that the women and gender portfolios had been incorporated under the new social development portfolio in the recent state exco restructuring exercise.
Lai said portfolios in the state exco function as an important platform and rallying point for public discourse and multi-stakeholder collaboration.
“Women and gender should therefore be named as specific portfolios which apply across all aspects of social development,” she said in a statement.
She pointed out that many countries have these specific portfolios such as South Korea (Ministry of Gender Equality and Family), India (Ministry of Women and Child Development) and the Philippines (Philippine Commission on Women).
Lai said Penang has done well in its efforts to promote gender equality and women’s development, including the setting up of the Penang Women’s Development Corporation, implementing gender inclusiveness policy and continuing to push for women’s representation and participation in leadership and decision-making.
“Nonetheless, with only two women at a time represented in the exco since 2008, one of whom also happens to hold the women and gender portfolio, and number of women councillors in local government well below 30 per cent, we still have a long way to go towards achieving full gender parity,” she said.
She said by placing the women and gender portfolio under the wider social development portfolio, there is a risk of the state diluting the visibility and impact made to-date.
She called on the state to continue with its good work and hoped it will reinstate the women and gender portfolios separate from the social development portfolio.
Lai was responding to the state government’s announcement last week of a reshuffle and restructuring of the state excos’ portfolios.
The women and family development, gender inclusiveness and non-Islamic religious affairs portfolios, under Chong Eng, were streamlined to social development and non-Islamic religious affairs.