Political parties urged to endorse recently launched Women's Manifesto

PETALING JAYA: Political parties and candidates are urged to endorse the recently launched Women's Manifesto to champion women's rights in Malaysia.

The Women's Manifesto was launched on International Women's Day by Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower) with support of non-governmental organisations under the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG).

"We hope to see political parties endorsing our Manifesto over the next few weeks, in time for the 14th General Election," said Empower executive director Angela Kuga Thas at the launch in Gerakbudaya on Thursday.

Angela said that 40 civil society organisations have already endorsed the Women's Manifesto, and hopes to see more political parties and organisations being added to the list.

The three objectives of the Women's Manifesto is to have election candidates champion women's agenda, inform Malaysians on the state of women's rights, and to demand for change from the government to create a better environment for women's rights.

The desired outcome is to ensure the effective redistribution of income that not only closes the income gap between the top 20 per cent and the bottom 40 per cent income categories, but also close the gender income gap between men and women.

The manifesto is divided into 10 themes: Sustainable, Inclusive and People-Centered Development; Good Governance and Participatory Democracy; Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Harassment; Human Rights Education; Employment and Work Conditions; Health, Bodily Autonomy and Well-being; The Judiciary and Equality In The Law; Displacement, Migration and Foreign Spouses; Safe and Non-Discriminatory Educational Environment; and Culture and Religion.

Activist Maryam Lee, who was at the launch, said that she supports the Manifesto's point of having a participatory democracy.

"If we had more women MPs, maybe more children's rights and women's rights will be talked about in Parliament," said Lee.

To that point, lawyer and activist Siti Kasim said Malaysia needs notable women who are unafraid to speak up on sensitive issues.

"We need women who are brave to speak up in Parliament," said Siti.

Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) Vice President Meera Samantheer said that sexual and gender based violence is a big issue in Malaysia.

"WAO just launched our Invisible Women campaign about women who are facing discrimination in the work force, like pregnancy discrimination. This issue is something lots of women can relate to," said Meera.

The recently launched Women's Manifesto is the second to be launched.

The first Women's Manifesto was introduced in 1990 to articulate civil society's aspirations to improve the status of women in Malaysia.

Many of the previous demands are still relevant, and the new Women's Manifesto builds on those previous issues.

For more information on the Women's Manifesto's demands, visit their website http://www.manifestowanita.empowermalaysia.org/our-demands.

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