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GE15 – Long way to go for Gender Equality

Sarawak Women for Women Society, Press Release - 7 November 2022

SWWS hopes voters will use the forthcoming general election to advance gender equality so we have a more just, caring and prosperous society.

The need to achieve gender equality has been a call from the United Nations in both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the earlier Millennium Goals as, when half the population are disadvantaged, there is more poverty and injustice.  Yet despite this we still have a long way to go if we are to meet the SDGs by 2030.

While some will be encouraged 127 women nationally are candidates for election across the different parties, this is still a small fraction of the 945 total. Women are nowhere near half.  Why? Voters should ask the candidates what they will do to enable women to advance to leadership positions. Overlooking women of merit is not confined to political parties – it is there in employment opportunities too and society’s old fashioned attitudes towards women. This needs to change.

Part of the problem is how women are criticized when they move into the world beyond their homes. Double standards operate. Men are not admonished for the language they use nor are comments made on their marital or parental status. It is assumed they can handle their work and family commitments but women are questioned. This also shows how many policy makers do not understand the needs of women or treat them as equal citizens.

Women do have the power of their vote and should use it to support candidates who support their cause.  Like men, women will have diverse views and characters but generally women understand that many of the issues close to them – equal opportunity; lives free of abuse; investment in health, education, social protection; social services and the cost of living – are issues which are important to all in society and when addressed will achieve more prosperity fairly shared so the wellbeing of all is lifted. They will also provide a better work/family balance for both women and men.

SWWS therefore calls on voters, men as well as women, to choose candidates who:

  • Will uphold gender equality as stated in the Federal Constitution by supporting legislation which (i) enables Malaysian women to pass on their citizenship to children born abroad with a foreign father and (ii) a Gender Equality Act so Malaysia upholds in local laws its signed commitment to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  • Provide resources to ensure the recently passed Anti-Sexual Harassment Act (2022): the new charge under the Penal Code making stalking a crime: the existing Sexual Offences Against Children Act and the Domestic Violence Act are implemented as intended and performance evaluated so improvements can be made.
  • Take the necessary action so that children who suffered learning loss, due to Malaysia having one of the longest school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic, is addressed with special attention being given to children who are struggling or have dropped out of education, so they can successfully find their way in life.
  • Provide accessible health care by promising to give all-party support to the postponed Health White Paper which was going to set up a Health Reform Commission with a brief to plan decentralization of health care and more primary health care. This is so crucial to Sarawak with our widely dispersed population and high poverty levels making equitable universal health care challenging to achieve.
  • Ensure that the review of Child Policy underway prior to Malaysia is called to account for its progress in upholding the Convention of the Rights of the Child, enables there to be a child protection service adequately resourced to meet the standards expected of a country as developed as Malaysia. This to include passing the Professional Social Work Act, which despite having had all-party support is still waiting to be tabled.
  • Take action so that at National level the processes to deal with applications for citizenship by non-documented people take into account the reality in Sarawak and have systems which are faster, transparent, humane and understand cultural factors and logistics within our State.

SWWS calls on all to exercise their votes wisely so that the Federal services which play such an important role in our lives – be it Education: Health: Police and to a considerable extent Social Welfare –meet the needs of our State. We also call on all those who will be elected on the 19th November, from whatever party, to give the above issues priority and ensure Sarawak’s voice is heard in Putra Jaya during the next Parliament.