THE World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 revealed that gender parity will not be attained for 99.5 years.
While women in Malaysia excel in education and healthcare, they continue to lag behind men in economic and political participation. Despite women comprising seven in 10 of our frontliners, for every RM100 in salaries and wages received by men, women only receive RM94.07.
Although we have made progress over the years, there is still much work to be done in ensuring women’s access to work and economic opportunities, legal recourse, property ownership, personal development and autonomy, access to culture, participation in decision-making and political representation.
In celebrating International Women’s Day, we call for the design, implementation and evaluation of policies, plans and programmes to promote gender equality and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Malaysia has an opportunity to employ the approach taken by South Korea, Namibia and Mauritius, which have all transformed their Ministries of Women, ensuring that women empowerment is a frontline issue advanced by all ministries in the government.
Promoting gender equality and equity, protecting the rights of children and enhancing overall well-being of families must be at the centre of all efforts to ensure resilient and inclusive Covid-19 recovery.
Malaysia has an opportunity to advance the end of gender-based violence and gender inequity by applying a gender lens to all policies and legislation beyond those under the purview of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. This would enable a qualitative leap in women empowerment and socioeconomic well-being towards more compassionate and inclusive societal norms.
In enabling increased women participation, inclusion by design can be fostered through:
1. The promotion and protection of the rights of women and children across all ministries;
2. Ensuring that all women, regardless of their age, physical condition, place of residence, income, national origin or ethnicity, are treated with respect and without discrimination at home, at work, in places of study and in public;
3. Providing legal recourse towards the eradication of violence against women in all its forms as and when it occurs;
4. Ensuring the participation of women in the formulation of policies and economic and social decisions;
5. Enabling the secure sharing of data across public and private sector organisations in order to develop data-driven actionable insights and improve public policy;
6. Implementing a cross-cutting gender perspective in public institutions;
7. Establishment of a resilient institutional infrastructure, conciliation and support for family policy and multicultural family policy;
8. Empowerment of youth with tools and knowledge to protect themselves, and encourage youth to stand up for each other, particularly in online spaces;
9. Initiation of gender-sensitive budgeting, i.e. mainstreaming of the gender dimension into all stages of the budget cycle; and
10. Ensuring the contents and methods of education are gender-sensitive.
All parties must work together to ensure gender equality and equitable socioeconomic development of women and men and the well-being of children.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RESEARCH INITIATIVE (SERI)
(Seri is a non-partisan think-tank dedicated to the promotion of evidence-based policies that address issues of inequality.)