KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad paid tribute to the country’s first woman Cabinet member, Tan Sri Fatimah Hashim, saying that her work in politics had opened “floodgates” and created new opportunities for Umno to gather support from Malaysian women.
He said more books should be written about people who had fought for the country’s independence, adding that such books could become guidelines for future generations.
Dr Mahathir said Fatimah’s hard work in her constituency in Kedah had helped to strengthen Umno’s support in the state.
“I feel very lucky because I inherited a very safe constituency and also a stronghold of Umno, thanks to her,” Dr Mahathir said at the launching of a biography titled Tan Sri Fatimah: Portret Seorang Pemimpin (Portrait of a Leader) at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here.
The book was jointly written by Professor Dr Rokiah Talib and Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Nik Safiah Karim, both of whom had previously collaborated in the biography of Datin Seri Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamed Ali.
Fatimah, was the longest serving leader of Umno’s Kaum Ibu (now Wanita Umno) after being elected as its chief in 1956. She served for 16 years. She created history as the first female Cabinet Minister when she was appointed Welfare Services Minister in 1969.
She is the widow of Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Yusof, who was Law Minister and Attorney-General.
Dr Mahathir said Fatimah, 78, persevered in her wish to serve the people despite having only a Primary Five education.
He added that she gathered knowledge on her own and and was willing to be appointed as a people’s representative although most people then were wary of becoming politicians.
There were not many women in politics then. But Fatimah’s decision to join Umno had opened the floodgates of women who were interested to make a change for the country.
“We must remind ourselves that 50% of the country’s population are female and their contributions can help our country for the better,” he added.
Earlier, Fatimah’s eldest son Mohamed Shah Abdul Kadir said in his speech that his mother wanted to leave a legacy for the country’s future leaders.
He said the book tells of Fatimah’s willingness to help her fellow countrymen to improve their lives.
“She realised that the most effective way to helping the country’s women was by joining politics,” he added.
Mohamed Shah said an exhibition on his mother’s life and activities would be held at the Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman.
The ceremony was also attended by Datin Seri Dr Siti Hasmah, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz and other dignitaries.
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