By Mahathir Mohd Rais
Equality between men and women has always been persistently awful to deal with. In Malaysia, we are almost equally divided in terms of gender, with males being 50.7 per cent and females being 49.3 per cent of the current population in our country. Even though the ‘equality’ seems to exist in numbers, females are still suffering in gaining opportunities, participating in Parliament and receiving equal salaries compared to their male counterparts even when they have the same experiences and qualifications.
The main reason why inequality exists has been debated by many. Some have said that it is because of the ideology that we grew up in, which states that women are generally ‘weaker’ than men or women should stay in their place, better seen and not heard. Another reason that is evident is due to the influence of extreme cultural beliefs that has destroyed many girls’ lives, not just in our country but countries across the world.
Nevertheless, as a man myself, to see how people have changed their views on women is the best thing that could ever happen to me. The reason being is because I can anticipate a brighter future for my daughter and sisters. The idea of women empowerment and the effort that is being put to increase this idea affects not only women but men too, in a good way.
So, the question remains, what can we do to tackle the issues of inequality that could negatively impact the progress that women around the world have fought for?
First and foremost, the government must do something to increase the opportunity that is given to women in every field possible. The increase in opportunity will encourage thousands of oppressed girls to stand up for their rights. This is very relevant for girls who are living with abusive families. Most cases of sexual harassment have been disappointingly ignored by the authorities due to the ‘taboo’ that lies behind it.
The government could start by giving more scholarships, public welfare and opening up a specific women-based governmental agency to tackle the issues that most women have. This could then give them a direct chance to ensure that their demands will be heard by those who are in power.
Changing a person’s life has never been an easy task yet as the leaders of our country, the authorities must try their best to satisfy everyone. We, the people, regardless of our gender, voted and hoped for improvements every time a new government is elected. This is why it is important for us to understand that the involvement of women in the parliament must be increased as soon as possible.
Malaysia has always been a bit late in advancing in terms of social issues. We are adamant in ensuring that our extreme ideologies must follow through even when the existence of new technologies and history itself has taught us differently.
This is a problem that we might have to face in the future. If the current reality can’t be accepted by the majority, the stakeholders will always be in misery.
In the Malaysian Parliament, the percentage of women that are on duty is less than 20 per cent. This basically means that we are living in a country that is led by men. There is nothing with that if we are led by people who are capable, but it does say something about the gender specified admission rate that has been generalised over the years.
Increasing the quota of women in parliament will give reassurance to half of the population of our country, which are females. The women in this country must recognise that they are capable to be leaders, just like any men out there. Leadership isn’t based on gender and race, but it is based on experience, patriotism, enthusiasm and qualifications. There are millions of women in Malaysia who have been forced to hide behind the shadows of unqualified people just because of the ideology that we have so dearly held on to.
When women are allowed to be part of the government, we see a great change in political stands. The reason being is because the women on the ground are finally allowed to look up to someone of the same gender, someone that they could relate to, to lead and guide them. Even the younger generation, no matter the gender, are starting to recognise the importance of having a government that is equal and fair.
Another issue that must be discussed and improved by the government is regarding the gender pay gap that is affecting the lives of thousands of women out there. Gender pay gap is simply the difference in salaries received by women compared to men. There are a lot of arguments that people make when it comes to this issue, however, most people don’t want to acknowledge how it affects women empowerment as a whole.
In 2017, women with excellent experiences and qualifications earned 6.6 per cent lower than men who are equal to them in terms of those stated above. The percentage is evidently increasing after the devastating waves of COVID-19.
This is a problem because women who have worked extremely hard to be where they are today and fought the norms of society that usually won’t accept them, are now again hit with another problem that will last until retirement. This hinders the progress that the Malaysian women are trying to overcome. It affects the possibility of changing our ideology and also it could reduce the enthusiasm that has motivated the women in our country to fight for their rights. The future females of our nation might have to start over when reforms are given up by the people today.
That being said, the government started collecting data from governmental organisations and private companies regarding this issue. If the gap is there, then those who are in power should compel the agencies to stop giving gaps in salaries just because of an individuals’ gender. A thorough analysis must be made to ensure that the oppressions at work could be reduced dramatically.
As a man who is currently living in the 21st century, I really want to live long enough to see gender equality become a reality in our country. I strongly believe that every person should be given the opportunity to be the best version of themselves. Constraints like gender, race and ethnicity should be lessened in order for us to create a utopia of our own. It is not too late for us to start improving and grant people their rights to fully live their lives here, on planet earth.
About the author: Mahathir Mohd Rais is the Bersatu Segambut Division Chief of Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.
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