Archive for the ‘Gender Gap’ Category

Agong pleased to see more women appointed judges

Thursday, December 5th, 2019
His Highness Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah was pleased to present the official appointment letter to the Court of Appeal President Datuk Rohana Yusof at the Judgment and Appeal Ceremony of the President of the Appeal Court, Federal Court Judge, Appellate Court Judge and Court Judge High in the Royal Palace today. — BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR: Federal Court Judge Datuk Rohana Yusof was today appointed as the new President of the Court of Appeals after receiving the official appointment letter from Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

She received her letter of appointment at the Istana Negara together eight other judges, five of whom were women.

Three other Appeals Court judges namely Datuk Zaleha Yusof, Datuk Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Datuk Hasnah Mohammed Hashim were appointed as Federal Court judges while High Court Judge Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail was elevated to Appeals Court judge.

Meanwhile, also appointed as Appeals Court Judge were Datuk Abu Bakar Jais and Nantha Balan a/l E.S. Moorthy who were both High Court Judges.

Also appointed as High Court Judges were Datuk Seri Tun Abd Majid Tun Hamzah and Datuk Azmi Abdullah who were both Judicial Commissioners.

Among those who witnessed the ceremony were Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ismail Bakar.

Chief Comptroller of Istana Negara, Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in a statement that Al-Sultan Abdullah also expressed his pleasure at the appointment of more women judges which reflected the commitment of the federal administration to feature more women in the judiciary.

By Bernama.

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Women given equal chance for major positions in public services – Director

Thursday, November 28th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The government is committed to ensure women are given equal opportunities to hold major positions in the public services.

Sabah Public Services Department (JPAN) director Datuk Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai said the State government is consistent in its effort to empower women and has given critical positions to women in several departments.

He asserted that the appointment to hold top leadership should no longer be based on one’s gender but on their merit and ability to administrate and lead.

The number of women in the Sabah public service department, he said, currently stands at 33 per cent – 16 per cent in the Jawatan Utama Sektor Awam (JUSA), 38 per cent in Management and Professional group, and 32 per cent in Support group.

“We take great consideration in women’s involvement and acknowledge the significant roles they play in the administration of Sabah.

“The high percentage recorded was the first in Sabah public services and our hope is to maintain and balance the numbers so that gender will no longer be an issue in the public services,” he said.

This year, he underlined that the government, through JPAN, had sent 24 women officers to attend courses overseas while 54 had undergone various trainings in the country.

He added that as of Nov this year, the State Public Sector Training Institution has given training to 2,632 women officers out of the total 5,931 to strengthen their skills in various field including public administration.

“We believe officers who had attended these training now have positive skills and knowledge to improve their performance in delivering quality services to the people,” he said.

Speaking of balancing work and family among women, Rosmadi further urged State departments to take the opportunity of the RM30 million allocation from the federal government to set up care centres in workplace.

“State government offices are encouraged to apply for the provision from the Malaysia Welfare Department via Sabah Public Welfare Services Department for the purpose.

“This is an initiative that is sensitive to the needs of women which is very positive to ensure women continue to excel in their careers,” he said when closing the Program Bicara WOS: Kewibawaan dan Cabaran organised by Sabah Women Affairs Department (Jhewa) here on Wednesday.

Also present were Jhewa director Masturah Jamrah, permanent secretary of Housing and Local Government Ministry Masnah Matsalleh and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia former vice-chancellor Tan Sri Datuk Seri Dr Noor Azlan Ghazali.

A total of 114 participants from various organisations took part in the programme.

Masturah, in her speech, said women need to continue working hard, and urged the government to consider appointing more women who are qualified to be part of the administration’s top leadership.

While the number of women in the public service is growing, she stated there are currently only four women holding major positions, including as permanent secretaries, in several ministries.

“One of our Key Performance Index in Jhewa is to reach 20 per cent women among the local authorities but it seems that we have only reached 15 per cent.

“This, however, is beyond our control as the appointment relies on the assemblymen’s recommendation therefore what we can do is provide training to help women so that they could be appointed as councillors.

“I was also informed that there is no woman in the State Civil Service Commission; we previously had three, therefore we pray to the director to appoint women to join.


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Mind the gap!

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

MALAYSIA has a woman deputy prime minister. We have women in the Cabinet. But there is still a lot more to be done to have gender parity in the general labour force, where women make up only about a third.

“Are women facing challenges? I say yes, ” says Mahuran Saro Sariki, deputy chief executive officer of Talent Corp Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp), the national agency driving Malaysia’s talent strategy under the aegis of the Human Resources Ministry.

Mahuran says that many women will come to a point in their careers where they have to strike a balance between work and starting a family.

“There are some women who then decide to take a break from the workforce because their support systems are probably not strong. For example, they don’t have access to childcare or their company does not provide flexible work options, ” she says.

The report found that although there are more women than men enrolled in tertiary education institutions, and girls generally perform better at school, women comprise only 39% of the total Malaysian labour force.

A lack of accessible and affordable child and elderly care services were found to be among the main reasons keeping women from working.

Acknowledging this limitation, Mahuran says TalentCorp is working at promoting childcare services in the workplace, and helping women who wish to return to their careers after a break by engaging with industries and providing training.

“For smaller businesses like SMEs (small and medium enterprises) that may be unable to provide childcare services, they have to provide an accommodating environment for their staff.

“This can include flexible working hours. Not only for women, but also for men, ” she says, acknowledging the shared responsibility at home.

The government’s policy is for all its agencies and departments to set up childcare centres in their respective offices.

Mahuran herself spent two years out of the workforce to care for her children and understands that returning to one’s career can be challenging.

“When women take a break from the workforce for a few years, the skills that they have from a few years ago may be obsolete. So there is a need to improve on that, ” she says.

Upskilling or re-training for a different sector can help in such situations.

Sharing her own story, Mahuran says that she specialised in Human Relations prior to her career break. However, she began learning about and specialising in economics and the labour market after returning to the workforce.

Among the suggested reforms in the World Bank report are prohibiting the dismissal of pregnant women, requiring 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, providing accessible child and elderly care services, and introducing paid paternity or parental leave.

Mahuran is holding an optimistic view that these reforms are achieveable.

“I would say we can do it. The commitment must be there and that is shown by the current government, ” she says.

Breaking down

gender biasesThe narrative that housework is “woman’s work” has to be changed immediately, says Izza Izelan, executive director of female youth empowerment non-governmental organisation (NGO) Women:girls.

“I urge that we do not make childcare and housework women’s issues, because they are not! They are everyone’s issues.

“Until we can internalise and understand this, no progress will be made, and any kind of system or policy will not be sustainable, ” she told Sunday Star.

Izza explains that both women and men must work hand-in-hand to help women progress.

“If women want to make it at work and still be there for their kids, they have no choice but to multitask and this causes them to become lethargic.

“Lethargy will then lead to women not being able to give 100% in the things they decide to do and, consequently, may cause them to feel like they are not ‘good enough’, ” she says.

This sentiment supports the findings of a Khazanah Research Institute report released on Thursday titled “Time to Care: Gender Inequality, Unpaid Care Work And Time Use Survey” which found that women face a “double burden”, as they carry more responsibilities for unpaid care work despite working similar hours of paid work as men.

Women feel the weight of the burden on their shoulders, and this may deter them from advancing in their careers or become added barriers for them to match men in the workforce, says Izza.

The best way to develop the concept of shared responsibilities is at home through good parenting and in school, she says.

“As children grow up, they look at mothers and fathers managing house chores around them and this is how the profiling or stereotyping process starts for them.

“It is important for parents to demonstrate and instil in their children the spirit of helping each other out and respecting others regardless of their gender or any other intersectionality – this is the core of the gender issues that we are facing, ” she says.

There are many benefits that the country can reap if it looks towards positive childcare solutions. The Khazanah report detailed how higher investment in the care sector could yield considerable returns, including an increase in women’s labour force participation to 63% within five years.

Furthermore, it could potentially create over 16,000 jobs in the childcare industry and increase real gross domestic product (GDP) growth by as much as 0.4% annually.

Apart from recognising carework as a productive sector of the economy, the Khazanah report also suggests the government introduce subsidies to stimulate demand for formal childcare and enact labour policies that encourage mothers and fathers to share care responsibilities.

Need for anti-discrimination law

According to the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), one barrier to women’s workforce participation and career progression is pregnancy discrimination.

“A WAO survey found that over 40% of women had experienced pregnancy discrimination – they were fired, denied promotion, demoted, placed on prolonged probation, and made redundant, ” says Tan Heang-Lee, WAO Advocacy and Communications Officer.

Additionally, about 40% of women surveyed had been asked by job interviewers if they were pregnant or had plans to become pregnant in the near future, says Tan.

“There is currently no law that specifically prohibits gender discrimination or other forms of discrimination in the private sector, ” she explains.

“The Human Resources Ministry has said that the government is still considering the proposed anti-discrimination provision for job seekers in the Employment Act. We urge the government to include the provision in the Employment Act amendments, which are expected to be tabled this month, ” she says.

In her speech at the World Bank Report launch, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said that her ministry is in the midst of drafting two pieces of legislation aimed at increasing protection for women: first, a Bill to prohibit all forms of discrimination against women, and second, a Bill to address the issue of sexual harassment within and outside the workplace.

More women leaders

It is essential that more women are placed in decision-making positions because women’s representation in leadership helps ensure decisions and policies are sensitive to women’s needs, says Tan.

“As a case in point, the passing of the Domestic Violence Act in 1994, a landmark advancement of women’s rights in Malaysia was made possible by the leadership of the late Tan Sri Napsiah Omar, the then National Unity and Social Development Minister, who was a fierce advocate for women’s rights, ” she explains.

According to the World Bank report in 2017, only 22.1% of managers in Malaysia were female, and in 2018, only 15.7% of board members were women at a typical Malaysian public-listed firm.

On a national policymaker level, while the Pakatan Harapan government has five women as full ministers and four as deputies in its Cabinet, it still falls short of the 30% representation quota that it set for itself.

Having women in decision-making positions is not just for optics. Tan describes how women in leadership positions also break ground and act as role models to other women and girls.

“Seeing someone like themselves in leadership positions helps women and girls envision themselves as leaders too and expands their imagination of what they could be, ” she says.

Getting women back to work

Because many women face challenges when trying to return to the workforce, it is not only important to assist them by removing barriers but supportive policies should also be introduced, says women’s advocacy platform Lean In Malaysia.

“Pro women policies are important as catalysts to ensure women, or talent in general, are retained in the workforce, ” says Abir Abdul Rahim, co-founder and director of Lean In Malaysia, a non-profit organisation that works to educate and empower women.

Abir says that some women feel a lack of confidence due to their absence from their field of work for a while.

“They tend to worry that they might not be up to date on developments in their profession or industry, and they worry this may impact their level of employability, ” she says, adding that this then creates self-doubt and becomes a barrier to relaunching their careers.

Many employers are also unconsciously biased when they see a gap in a woman’s resume and her chances of being hired are lowered, Abir explains.

This is where groups like Lean In can help by teaching women who took a break how to relaunch their careers via masterclasses, workshops, dialogues and other programmes.

Encourage caring corporations

There is an urgent need for top level commitment in order to realise the diversity agenda, says Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar, chairman of the Institute of Corporate Directors Malaysia.

“Chairmen and CEOs must make gender diversity a component of their business strategy and ensure appropriate policies are in place to retain, develop and promote women into senior roles, ” the former Securities Commission Malaysia chairman tells Sunday Star.

Apart from providing flexible work hours, extended parental leave and care services, Zarinah says that the board and management of companies can also institutionalise the need for gender diversity through policies, setting targets for the company, and measuring the performance of managers.

“During my time in Shell, country chairmen were held accountable for delivering on gender diversity targets, ” says Zarinah, who spent more than two decades with the oil and gas giant.

She explains that gender diversity has to be addressed in the same way as companies address other key business goals.

“A gender diverse board is a business imperative. And that’s why investors are increasingly holding boards to account on diversity and inclusiveness.

“Major institutional shareholders are beginning to vote against male candidates to all male boards, ” she says.

One of the initiatives that took off during Zarinah’s time in Shell was the creation of the Shell Women’s Action Network (Swan), which was a forum that connected the women in Shell.

“We also worked closely with management to develop female talents through mentoring, identified women role models that young women could aspire to, got advice and networked on a social basis, ” she says, adding that Swan also organised speaking engagements, awareness sessions and lobbied for changes in human resources policies to help retain women in the workforce.

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Special award for Most Supportive Man at Women’s Day ‘do’

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

KOTA KINABALU:  The Sabah Advisory Women’s Council (MPWS) has decided to present an inaugural special award to a man who has helped women’s careers and development, including upholding their rights, at this year’s State-level Women’s Day celebration on Oct. 23.

“It is high time that men who support women be appreciated by giving this ‘Anugerah Khas’ (Gender Balance Award) to those who had given full support to women in several aspects including moral, facilities, finance and related matters,” said new Chairperson Datuk Noni J. Said (pic).

“We decided to introduce this special award in line with the theme of the celebration of  ‘Balance For Better’ and to show that men and women need to help and support each other to go forward and achieve excellence.

“But of course, only one man will be decided for this special award after scrutinising candidates submitted by anyone who fits three criteria, namely

1) Best personality supporting women and family in workplace;

2) Fostering gender equality in the workplace; and

3) Practising a charter against violence and sexual harassment against women,” she said.

Noni disclosed this at a press conference after a luncheon talk “MPWS Meet the Media” here, Tuesday, where the new line-up of MPWS and Sabah Women’s Affairs Department (Jhewa) were made known as well as their functions and roles.

Noni said the public can nominate suitable names which should include information on his background and achievements when nominating for the special award to Jhewa’s office at Wisma Wanita.

The other four awards are “Anugerah Tokoh Wanita”, “Anugerah Wanita Cemerlang”, Excellence Women Association Award and Excellence Women Entrepreneur Award.

All nominations must be sent to Jhewa before Oct 5.

“The criteria for Anugerah Tokoh Wanita and Excellence Woman Award is that she must be a Malaysian aged 35 onwards, originate from Sabah or has resided in Sabah for 15 years.

“The candidate must be involved in more than any one of the following fields of work and service like education, social work, women’s organisation, business, corporate sector, research, literature, art, sports, government, and professional, among others.,

“The candidate must has achieved advancement in her field of work in the midst of economic, social or professional challenges and possess qualities that make her a role model for women in the State,” Noni said.

According to her, the Excellence Women Association Award is to give recognition to Women Associations which have contributed excellently, especially in women development and society as a whole.

Those selected would be based on the following criterion, namely association’s organisational structure, number of members, frequency of the Committee Meeting and compliance to the date of Annual General Meeting in accordance to the association’s constitutions, financial status of the association, internal and external activities of the association, and contributions towards women socio-economic development.

The Excellence Women Entrepreneurs Award is to recognise their participation and contribution in economic development to show that women could be icons and an inspiration in the field of business.

“The criterion for Excellence Women Entrepreneurs Award is that the business must be initiated or started by a woman or women, must be fully or majority owned by a woman or women, the nominee or applicant must be the Chief Decision Maker or Managing Director or CEO and the nominee or applicant must be a Sabahan or hold a Permanent Resident for at least 15 years.

“The applicant’s business must be home grown, registered, located and operating in Sabah and the business has flourished or extended beyond Sabah would be an advantage.

“Also the business must in operation for at least three years with audited financial statements for the last three years or financial statements for the last three years submitted to Inland Revenue Board (IRB) and the applicant must have a good track record in business.”

To a question, Noni said all these five special and excellence awards provide cash prizes worth about RM60,000 and other side such as trophies and certificates on the awards.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal would be the Guest of Honour at the event at Magellan Sutera Harbour on Oct 23.

She said MPWS would be organising a roundtable discussion on sex-disaggregated data and gender analysis matter (s) in advancing gender inclusion so as to get data and statistic on number of women on certain aspects so that we have facts when we want to show concern that need to be addressed.

“There will also be a seminar on responsibilities of parents towards their children and on social issues, talks and visits to Taman Seri Puteri, conducting ‘Majlis Jalinan Mesra’ with NGOs especially women organisations, press conferences, interview by RTM TV and RTM Radio.

“We will also continue with the legal literacy programs so that women in Sabah continue to be exposed with their rights and know what to do,” she said.

MPWS would also organise a short story competition on untold stories or unsung heroes on achievement and struggles of women as well as how they face challenges in life and a new competition of short videos for two-minute each on challenges and success of women.

She said the winners for the two competitions would be decided by the MPWS Wanita and Media committee’s and the cash prizes would be given on Oct 23.

By: Hayati Dzulkifli.

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Gender parity a work in progress in energy sector

Thursday, September 19th, 2019
The number of women on oil and gas boards reached 14 per cent in 2019, double the level in 2009. EPA PIC

FOR years, the energy sector has been male-centric and has come under increasing scrutiny for lagging behind other industries on gender parity.

New research shows that women still occupy less than one-fifth of senior leadership spots. Progress has been made, but there is still work to be done

If the energy sector maintains its current pace, 50-50 gender parity won’t be reached until 2058.

S&P Global’s new report — #ChangePays in Energy — showed that there are signs that gender diversity in the global energy sector is improving and has accelerated in the past 10 years.

The number of female board members has nearly doubled since 2000 to reach 15 per cent.

Geographically, there is significant variation across countries and regions when looking at female representation among the most senior leaders in energy companies — the C-suite, board members and senior managers.

When looking at the share of female C-suite executives at energy companies globally, Malaysia with 20 per cent of its leadership made up of women is second only to the Philippines in the S&P Global BMI Energy (Sector) Index.

In addition, Malaysia outperformed the regional average in the Asia-Pacific region, achieving roughly 23 per cent of women board members and senior managers at energy companies.

The country ranks above a majority of the global developed markets, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. Looking across the region, others that significantly outperformed the regional average include the Philippines, Thailand and Hong Kong.

South Korea, Japan and Pakistan were listed lowest globally at around three per cent of women board members and senior managers in the energy sector.

When broken down into subsectors, utilities with women accounting for 17 per cent of board members beat the energy-sector average, slightly ahead of renewable electricity and other sectors, including independent power producers, oil, gas and coal.

While oil and gas slightly trailed, significant progress hasbeen made, but from a lower base. The share of women on oil and gas boards reached 14 per cent in 2019, double the level in 2009.

Comparing the energy sector with the S&P Global Broad Market Index as a whole, which takes into account other industry sectors, the energy sector has closely tracked the broader swathe of industries when it comes to female board representation since 2013.

To complement the report, we spoke to senior women industry executives and regulators to hear their opinions on gender parity in the energy sector and how equality can be attained.

One theme that consistently stood out is the lower share of women in STEM specialties. As with many industries, our data shows that one reason there aren’t more women in the C-suite in energy is because there are not enough women a step below to promote.

These leaders suggested instrumental factors to get female managers into the organisational pipeline, which leads to leadership positions, including increased focus on sponsorship, mentorship programmes and networking groups in energy companies and expanding the pool of candidates for promotions.

In Malaysia, one of the key priorities of the government’s 11th Malaysia Plan is to improve the female labour participation rate by five percentage points to 59 per cent by 2020.

We oticed the government is already leading the initiative by implementing policies in its 2018 Budget that will improve the quality of education and better alignment of learning opportunities with evolving business needs, which is expected to help lower skills mismatch.

This report, #ChangePays in Energy, is part of the #ChangePays initiative launched earlier this year at S&P Global, focusing on the economic benefits of more women in the workforce.

Our research showed that greater women participation in the workplace could lead to stronger, healthier and more advanced economies.

We forecast strengthening the number of women in the labour force would add US$5.87 trillion (RM24.5 trillion) to the global market capitalisation.

Global gross domestic product could increase 26 per cent if women matched men in the workforce, which would benefit both advanced and developing countries.

The case for greater gender parity has become even more compelling. The numbers in #ChangePays in Energy show that lack of gender parity is a worldwide phenomenon.

Though there has been increased corporate attention on greater workplace inclusivity, there is still much work to be done to address diversity in terms of culture and definitions of gender roles. For real change to be made, the drive for gender equality needs to start at the top levels of organisations and be embodied throughout corporate culture in an authentic way.

By advancing this conversation and demonstrating the benefits of greater workplace inclusivity to the business bottom line, we can make the case that change will have wide-ranging benefits both to businesses and the global economy.

Change will contribute to the long-term success of the energy industry, and now it is up to companies to make it happen.

By Sarah Cottle.

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First woman in Sabah to head fire station

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Agustavia: Meaningful National Month.

KOTA KINABALU: This year’s National Month celebration is indeed a memorable one for Agustavia Joe Guasi as not only her birthday falls on National Day but she was also appointed as the Chief of the Lintas Fire Station, here, on Aug 1.

The appointment was especially significant as it made Agustavia, 37, the first woman in Sabah to hold the post.

Sharing her story, the mother of four said she started her career in 2001 merely because she needed a job, but as Lady Luck would have it, she now heads a fire station.

Agustavia said before joining as a recruit, she had never thought about being a firefighter and was not even clear about the real job of firefighters, just relating it to fire extinguishing and helping out during road accidents.

“But I promptly fell in love with the job during my recruit training,” said the former student of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Mat Salleh, Ranau.

Talking about her career path, the firefighter, who hails from Kampung Nalapak, Ranau, said she started recruit training at the Sabah Fire Academy for a year before being placed in the training department until 2007.

“Then I was transferred to the Sabah State Operations and Rescue Division from 2007 to 2009. A year later, I worked here (at the Lintas Fire Station) before working at the Sabah Operations Centre from 2011 until July,” she said.

Amazingly, her busy schedule did not stop her from reaching for the stars. Agustavia is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Public Administration degree at Universiti Utara Malaysia.

On significant moments of her career, she said among the tasks she has handled are the “Ops Gempa” in Mount Kinabalu and “Ops Kemarau” in Papar district in 2015 as well as the frequent fires in squatter areas around Kota Kinabalu.

As the head of the fire station, she said, a big task looms for her as she is not only responsible for the staff and the running of the station, but also acts as the front line in dealing with the community.

“Those who are interested to be firefighters, especially women, should be mentally and physically prepared to be able to carry out their duties as firefighters. This career is not as easy as wearing a uniform; this job means constantly putting your life at risk while carrying out the task.

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Tengku Maimun is Malaysia’s first woman CJ.

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

PETALING JAYA: Federal Court judge Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat has been appointed as the Chief Justice, the first woman to take on the role.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the Prime Minister and after consulting the Conference of Rulers agreed to the appointment of Tengku Maimun as the Chief Justice.

The appointment is effective Thursday (May 2), it said in a statement.

The Prime Minister’s Office also expressed appreciation and thanked Tan Sri Richard Malanjum for his service as previous Chief Justice.

Malanjum retired after serving 27 years in the judiciary.

Malanjum, the first Sabahan to hold the judiciary’s top post, served as Chief Justice for nine months and 12 years as the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak.

He attained his constitutional retirement age of 66 years in October last year and was given a six-month extension which ended in April.

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Achieving women empowerment by 2030

Monday, April 1st, 2019
ENALA Ngulu was married to a man of 47 who had two other wives. She was 13-years-old. At a time when she should have been in school, she was forced to grapple with adult responsibilities like marriage and childbearing. At 15, Enala gave birth to her first child and subsequently had five more daughters.

This is the story of around 375 million women alive today who were married or partnered before their 18th birthday.

What makes Enala unique is she did not let it hinder her aspirations. She enrolled herself in primary school at 29 with six children. She continued her studies and received a Malawi school certificate of education in 2012.

She now works for the Foundation for Community Support Services as a Field Officer in Karonga. But her education and career were not her only dreams and desires — she was also determined to keep all of her six daughters in school and not be forced into marriage.

It is the resilience of women like Enala which inspires me to advocate on their behalf at the highest levels to ensure their stories are not forgotten.

Women’s equality is a key source of a country’s economic growth but social perceptions and discriminatory laws continue to impede their full participation. This ugly reality inspired me to pursue a legal career and left me determined to help empower women and girls in every way possible.

In 1997 I entered the House of Lords as Baroness Scotland of Asthal and throughout my ministerial career in the Foreign Office, Lord Chancellor’s Department, Home Office and as the first woman attorney-general of England, Wales and Northern Ireland I continued my efforts towards gender equality and women empowerment. At the Foreign Office between 1999 and 2001 we created the Forced Marriage Unit, the International Child Abduction Unit and the Human Rights Panel to help support young people around the world

In 2003 I then chaired the Inter-Ministerial Group on Domestic Violence. Through its work we developed a multi-agency approach to deal with the pernicious nature of this crime. We introduced the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act and worked together with other government departments, local authorities and charities, and ultimately reduced domestic violence by 64 per cent while the cost of domestic violence dropped by £7.1 billion (RM37.81 billion) a year. Up until this point the issue was wrongly assumed by many to belong in the private sphere rather than to be tackled by governments.

Three years ago, in 2016, when I became the first woman to whom 53 heads of government entrusted the responsibilities of Commonwealth secretary-general, I reaffirmed my commitment to women’s equality — an urgent priority for our member countries, as endorsed in the Commonwealth Charter.

A 2016 World Bank Report found that 41 of the 46 Commonwealth countries studied had at least one law impeding women’s economic opportunities. Systematised legal inequalities such as these, based on gender, are barriers to full participation in society by women, and multiple detrimental effects ensue.

Without official identification, a person can struggle to access financial services such as opening a bank account or obtaining a loan; social benefits including cash transfers; healthcare; education; political and legal rights such as voting, owning property or receiving an inheritance; and prevention of early and child marriage.

In order to remove these impediments, the Commonwealth in collaboration with UN Women is developing a global strategy to eradicate discriminatory laws; it is called “Levelling the Law”. Within this framework, we help member countries enact, amend and reform laws to protect the rights of women and girls in the Commonwealth and beyond.

We cannot afford to lose the skill, energy and passion of each woman and girl. We must build on such social capital if increased wealth and improved health are to be assured for the long-term. Every woman and girl deserves an equal chance to shape her future, whether she lives in a small country such as Nauru with only 10,000 people, or in the most populous, India, with 1.3 billion people.

It is encouraging to see powerful advocacy by the Commonwealth and other partners resulting in these laws being reviewed and bearing fruit in policies which are more just and more equitable.

To advance women empowerment, we are working closely with our member countries on a range of programmes and initiatives which include:

Legal tools to overcome barriers to women’s rights to land and inheritance;

Tools to measure the economic cost of violence against women and girls such as loss of income;

The triennial meeting of Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers to help ensure women are seen as equal partners in the pursuit of economic development;

A Commonwealth checklist for gender inclusive elections to encourage greater inclusion and participation of women in the electoral process;

A flagship annual publicationn “Gender Equality in the Commonwealth” which reports country-by-country on the progress made; and

The biennial Commonwealth Women’s Forum which offers recommendations to our national leaders for addressing gender inequality throughout our 53-member family of nations.

Women empowerment is not a women’s issue; it is everyone’s issue. Investing in women means a future which is more inclusive, more fair, more prosperous and more secure.

This means millions of promises, with each and every one of us committing to eliminating child marriages, to no more girls out of school, to removing barriers for women to own a business, and to tackling violence against women and girls.

However, I am worried that if we do not implement gender responsive policies in time, it may slow our progress towards achieving the Agenda 2030 which is integral to women’s full economic participation.

We need fully to accept the harsh reality of gender-based barriers to women’s equality and empowerment.

These barriers for women and girls should not exist in 2019; yet harmful practices, discriminatory laws, domestic and sexual violence, cultural perceptions and lack of opportunities still remain. In fact one in three women will experience some kind of domestic violence in their lives.

If a pandemic were to wreak the same levels of pain and suffering across the world, the international community would mobilise to eliminate it; so why are we not rallying to eradicate this scourge?

We now have a plan based on empirical evidence to address unequal treatment of women with gender-responsive frameworks which will enable us to achieve women’s equality by 2030 — so we urge others to support us in every way possible.

Commitment and action by businesses, institutions and individuals, alongside bold, collective action by our governments and development partners, will deepen the understanding and implementation of gender-sensitive policies and particularly strategies to achieve measurable goals for women leaders.

The leaders of the many nations of our worldwide family have entrusted to me as Commonwealth Ssecretary-Ggeneral the tremendous task of coordinating greater global collaboration so that our 2.4 billion people can work together towards achieving a future in which every woman is able to realise her full potential with greater peace and prosperity in her community.

by Patricia Scotland.

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Women have potential, qualifications to be at par with men – Council

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Participants and speakers of the symposium held at Wisma Wanita yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Women have the potential and qualifications to be at par with men, said Sabah Women Advisory Council chairperson Datuk Dr Tarsiah TZ Taman.

She reminded that without women, the family institution would not function well, hence the need for programmes that would help raise the dignity and welfare of women in all aspects such as physical, economy, social, politics, health, psychology and spiritual.

Tarsiah also stressed the importance of cooperation between women and men, stating that they need to go hand in hand to strengthen the family institution, organisations and develop the state and the country.

She reminded that women were agents to the development of a harmonious and successful family and organization.

Nevertheless, she also said that women must endeavor to look for their potentials and abilities.

“Women must get to know themselves better and use their skills to raise their own respective socio-economy and status,” she said at the Women and Human Wellbeing Symposium 2018 held at Wisma Wanita yesterday.

She also urged men to fight for the rights of women.

At the same time, she hoped that women would continue being given the opportunities and space so that they can grow and contribute to the development of the state and the country.

Meanwhile, Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Datuk Stephen Wong said that women were no longer considered as the second line in developing the country.

“The role of women is important and they go hand in hand with men,” he said.

Stephen, who was represented by his assistant minister, Norazlinah Arif also stressed the importance of knowledge in raising ones’ awareness concerning their rights against discrimination.

“I hope the symposium can open the minds of all parties on the issues of women at the present time and the challenges that stop them from moving forward,” he said.

by Jenne Lajiun.

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Women to be given equal chance to excel – minister

Friday, September 7th, 2018

Stephen (fifth from right), Jannie (fourth from right) and Dr Tarsiah (sixth from right) flanked by the speakers and presenters at the Conference on Gender Inclusiveness and Equality.

KOTA KINABALU: Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wong has promised the highest commitment to address the gender inclusiveness and equality issues in the State.

“I believe gender perspectives have to be adopted in all development agendas,” he said at the closing ceremony of the Conference on Gender Inclusiveness and Equality held yesterday.

He assured that he would bring matters related to women in decision making to the higher level meeting of the State.

It was learnt that the Sabah government only had 10.6 percent women holding decision making positions last year.

The media was also informed that only five to six women held important decision making posts at government-linked organisations in Sabah.

According to Stephen, women should be given equal chance to excel.

Meanwhile, Assistant Law and Natives Affairs Minister Jannie Lasimbang said that it was now time to allow women to hold the position of ketua kampung or village head in Sabah.

She explained that the appointment of the respective village heads was under the prerogative of the state assemblymen/women.

She added that the position was traditionally given to men.

Sabah Women Advisory council chairperson Datuk Dr Tarsiah Taman said that the council hoped there would be a marked improvement in the near future for more women to hold decision making roles.

Dr Tarsiah also said that the council had developed an interactive module to address the increasing rate of young marriages (18 years old and below).

She cited that this was a first in Malaysia and with the collaboration of the Sabah Education Department, the council had conducted the training of trainers for 300 school counselors for schools within the vicinity of Kota Kinabalu.

“In the next few months, we will be conducting an awareness and advocacy programmes among parents and community leaders in addressing these young marriages,” she said.

She said that the council was also preparing an index on the wellbeing of women in Sabah, which is also a first in the country.

by Jenne Lajiun.

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