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Wednesday March 19, 2008

Yen Yen becomes MCA’s first woman minister


KUALA LUMPUR: If her father had had his way, Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen would have been married off at 17.  

Instead, her mother stepped in and insisted she continue with her studies. 

And now she is in the position to help ensure other women in Malaysia will have the same opportunities she had.  

Family woman: Dr Ng with her husband Dr Chin Chee Sue and second son Julian at Wisma MCA in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday.
The 61-year-old Dr Ng created history by becoming the MCA’s first woman minister yesterday, when she was appointed to helm the Women, Family and Community Development portfolio.  

“My mother was a strong lady and a disciplinarian. She did not believe in an early marriage and allowed me to go to university.  

“My father who was old-fashioned wanted to marry me off when I was 17 and there were already lots of dowries being offered for my hand,” she said. 

The grandmother of one added that she had over the years subtly built on gender understanding. 

“I was able to marry and raise my children. My in-laws were also lovely people who did not have a problem with what I did. This helped shape me and I was free to do what I wanted. 

“I created my own way. I guess it has been a charmed life although it is not to say there were no obstacles. I have had my political storms but I have grown stronger.  

“And I want to pass on this passion I have about life to everyone, not just the women. And also the strong family values,” she added. 

The ever-cheerful Dr Ng said she was initially surprised with her appointment as it had earlier been speculated she would be Health Minister. 

“But I am more comfortable holding this portfolio (Women, Family and Community Development),” she added. 

She also thanked MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting for proposing her name and added it was the first time an MCA party head had done so for a woman. 

“I also wish to express my gratitude to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for appointing me,” she said. 

Dr Ng said her new job was more than handling women issues as it invariably also included men, children and the community.  

She said she intended to have more participation from Malaysian men because they “made up the equation” where it would lead to strong families being formed and subsequently a better nation.  

Among her initial plans are to educate the community on gender equality, beginning from the schools; create a gender-friendly environment for working women; improve community development by working closely with the relevant non-governmental organisations; and also addressing issues faced by elderly women. 

Dr Ng said she would meet with her predecessor Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to seek her advice. 

“I will continue with the ‘road map’ put in place by her and add on what is necessary,” she added.  

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