THE Federal Government’s plan to have 30% of women decision-makers in the public and private sectors should be extended to the political arena, says human rights activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.
She said it would be pointless to implement the ‘30% Club’ only in business when the real policy makers were politicians.
Marina said that while the move announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was to be lauded, it came almost 20 years after the nation ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
“We signed CEDAW in 1995, agreeing to allocate at least 30% of decision-making to women. Which means this 30% is a minimum, not a maximum,” she said at a women’s development forum in Penang organised by the Penang Skills Development Centre recently.
Muhyiddin had said that the Government wanted to establish a 30% Club to increase the participation of women in decision-making positions.
Marina said women only made up about 10% of Parliament and there were only two women in the 32-member Cabinet.
She said it was important to have more women in Parliament to ensure that laws protecting women and their rights were passed.
For example, she said a fundamental law such as the Domestic Violence Act took six years before it was passed by Parliament in 1994 and a further two years to gazette.
“If we had at least 30% of women in Parliament in the 90s, the law might get passed faster. Just knowing that domestic violence is a criminal act has helped a lot of women. In the eight years that it took, we need to ask how many women suffered,” she said.
To a question from the floor on how to advance the cause of women in politics in Malaysia when women like Marina herself who was sensitised to the political scene were reluctant to stand for election, Marina covered her face and laughed.
She replied that women need not be politicians to speak up about what was important, adding that local council elections should be brought back to start off many potential women leaders at that level who would in turn gain experience and train for the higher levels.
“Besides, women politicians need stamina and should start from young, and I’m beyond that age,” said the 57-year-old.
The forum, themed Women @ Work, was attended by 180 participants from the industrial sector, almost all of whom were women.
The other speakers were Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) director of education Tengku Azian Shahriman, Advanced Micro Devices Global Services (M) Sdn Bhd corporate vice-president of finance Boonsiri Somchit and performing arts group Kakiseni president Low Ngai Yuen.