SINGAPORE: The outstanding bilateral issues between Malaysia and Singapore were set aside yesterday as prominent women from both sides gathered here to discuss matters related to their gender development.
Both governments were not “spared” during the passionate discussion hosted by the Institute of South-East Asian Studies (Iseas) but the references were largely restricted to the manner in which women were being treated and the role accorded to them by the respective administrations.
Each of the five women panellists dealt with specific topics under the general theme of Women and Development in Malaysia and Singapore.
National Economic Action Council (NEAC) head of the special consultancy team on globalisation Prof Dr Mahani Zainal Abidin and Sisters in Islam (SIS) executive director Zainah Anwar shared the Malaysian experience.
Associate Prof Shirlena Huang of the National University of Singapore, MP Braema Mathi and social activist Constance Singam spoke for Singapore.
Prof Mahani, an economist at Universiti Malaya, said Malaysian women were fortunate as they had been given due recognition, adding that this was reflected in the number of senior positions held by them in various levels of government, including three Cabinet posts.
Instead, she said the situation in Malaysia was one of women “overpowering” men in some fields, namely education, with 66% of university enrolment comprising women.
Zainah spoke on issues involving women and Islam, hitting out at men who interpreted the Quran to suit their needs and those who practised “double standards.”
The republic’s panellists were, among others, unhappy that there was still no women representative in the Singapore Cabinet.
“This is not a good sign. We are already 37 years old as a nation. In Singapore, it is easy to be complacent ... there are many burning issues,” said Mathi, who is a nominated MP.