‘No women in new Sabah Cabinet a backward move’

KOTA KINABALU: Women’s groups have expressed disappointment over lack of representation in the new state government line-up, calling it a “backward move”.

Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group operations officer Amy Marcus said it was disappointing that not one woman was included in the state Cabinet.

“This shows the rock-bottom status of women. All the positions are taken up by men, including the social development portfolio, which is usually a ‘token’ position given to a woman politician,” she said.

Marcus said in the previous government, Datuk Christina Liew was deputy chief minister, as well as tourism, culture and environment minister, but in the new GRS-led Cabinet, women were considered “not qualified enough” even to handle social development issues Sabah.

“The message sent by the new government to women is loud and clear – they don’t think women matter at the decision-making level.“Women’s representation in the state assembly has been cut over the years and is now less than 10%.“Our message to the new government is: ignore women at your own peril,” she said.

Marcus also pointed out that countries with women leaders did better at combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

She cited examples such as Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand prime minister), Mette Frederiksen (Denmark prime minister), Katrin Katrin Jakobsdottir (Iceland prime minister), Sanna Marin (Finland prime minister) and Tsai Ing-wen (Taiwan president).

Marcus said women all over the world were taking their rightful places in leading their communities and countries in the 21st century.

“The question of whether women are capable to lead is no longer an issue, though in Sabah, this seems to be far from achievable.

“It is such a shame because when women are empowered, whole societies, including families and communities, will stand to gain,” she said.

Marcus called on the six nominated assemblymen to resign because as a country that practises a democratic electoral system, individuals who deserve to be nominated to the post should be those who had contested in the recent state polls.

“Despite losing, the six best women candidates very much deserve to be appointed as nominated assemblymen because they actually captured between 35% and 42% of total votes cast in their constituencies,” she said.

The state government appointed five men and a woman, including a leader from PAS whose party did not contest in the election.

“The six appointed should show a sense of fair play and justice to make way for the women politicians who stood but lost in the polls,” Marcus added.

Nominated seats are a form of affirmative action to ensure the inclusion of all communities, to reflect the diversity and multiculturalism of Sabahans.

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