DECEMBER 18 — Contrary to Isma’s beliefs, Malaysia will never achieve a high-income nation or even a developed nation status, if gender stereotypes continue to perpetuate our society, especially in matters that concerns the economy and honoring basic human rights. Their idea of solely depending on men as breadwinners and reducing women to child rearing duties is defective and discriminating to all Malaysians – regardless of gender.
The statement made by Dr Nur Farrah Nadia Najib, who heads the group’s family and society bureau, “A high income nation must not rely on women as the major contributor but rather men should lead the workforce and put their biggest effort in shaping the nation” is flawed as it demoralises the struggles Malaysian women work so hard to overcome.
Climbing the corporate ladder and pushing for equal pay has always been important issues for women’s rights advocacy and it is a continuous work in progress which needs support from the all levels of our society. There is no denying that education plays a crucial role in setting the template of success and attainment but even though, the number of women enrolled in tertiary institutions is currently higher than men, the opportunities for women to progress in the local workforce are different. To some extent, these opportunities may not even exist at all.
However, encouraging women to participate in the workforce is not enough. There must be pro-active measures by the government to guarantee that half of this country’s populations’ skills and talents are fully utilised in order to spur positive economic growth. Having more women at work can only be advantageous to our country, as differing perspectives supports diversity and innovation which are key dynamics needed to compete in an increasingly competitive globalised economy.
In 1995, Malaysia ratified the United Nations Convention On The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) also known as Treaty for Women’s Equality, which emphasised on the importance of increasing the number of women’s participation in the workforce and to promote healthier, gender-balanced decision making. The convention presents the foundations for comprehending equality between women and men through ensuring equal opportunities in various aspects such as politics, education, health and employment.
In 2000, Malaysia joined the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a global initiative aimed to promote gender equality by the year 2015 — which is only a few weeks away. This initiative is regarded as a highly important measure to honor and celebrate the immeasurable efforts women have made in society.
Despite all of these efforts, in the 2014, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap report stated that Malaysia’s ranking had dropped significantly and now joins 10 other nations whose gender equality practices are amongst the lowest in the world. This is not good for the economy and definitely not good for this country’s morale.
Comparing our country with Japan, whose population is approximately 127.34 million (in 2013) is unsubstantiated. Since 1989, Japan has been experiencing a population decline due to issues and other complexities associated with modern developed and industrialisation. For Isma to conclude that “the Japanese have illustrated to us beautifully that we can achieve the status of a high income nation and be ‘family first’ as well” is not well researched and pre-maturely analysed. Japan is a conservative nation that practices patriarchal values and systems. The nation still adheres to strict gender roles, which limits a woman’s freedom, mobility and rights. These factors may very well contribute to the low number of women in the workforce and there is nothing beautiful about that.
Most recently, re-elected Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has pledged to actively encourage more women to participate and contribute to the workforce. This is a sign that Japan has come to a realisation that their country needs women as much as they need men to help drive a struggling economy and it is time that Malaysians realise this too.
* Syerleena Abdul Rashid is DAPSY Bukit Bendera secretary and DAP Wanita Bukit Bendera political education director.
**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.