Harapan, fulfil your promise to increase female policymakers


Harapan, fulfil your promise to increase female policymakers
By Zan Azlee

Yes, we are all aware of how big a change May 9 was for Malaysia and for Malaysians. It is a date that now signifies hope. A couple of weeks have gone by and now the euphoria is slowly (very slowly!) fading away. Now, work has to be done.

Almost immediately, we could see the changes happening and one of the most hyped changes was the pursuit of the 1MDB scandal. Investigations into former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak began instantaneously. His homes were raided, cash confiscated, himself interrogated.

And the argument began.

“Pakatan Harapan is going against their promise!” my wife Sheril said.

“What promise? They are already starting the fight against corruption,” I replied.

“Yeah what about their promise to have 30 percent women representation?”

“Oh! It will come. They have 100 days to do it. They’re just going down their priority list.”

“Are you saying gender equality is not important? Are you saying the 1MDB scandal is more important?”

“Err.. all I’m saying is that the 1MDB scandal and corruption has been Harapan’s main fight at the moment and so that’s what they started with. They haven’t even picked a full cabinet yet.”

“You misogynist!”

“Err… ok.”

So in my defence (and since I am the one writing this article!), I am all for gender equality and I am totally pushing for the 30 percent women representation in government.

I just feel that politics is populist and opportunist, so Harapan’s promise may have catered to that.

But I also realised that the 30 percent quota was part of their manifesto and I obviously want them to fulfil it. But I was also sceptical. I thought, how could Harapan fulfil the quota if there weren’t even enough women candidates voted into office?

So I told Sheril that if she can get me the data to show that Harapan could actually fulfil the quota, then I would do everything in my power to highlight the issue and pressure the Harapan government to honour their manifesto promise.

And so she set off on her mission and engaged her feminist minions to do her bidding. I was tagged and retagged, attacked and reattacked online and it looks like the data does show that we do have more than enough qualified women candidates available. Society has spoken!

Federal representation

Let’s take a look at the federal level. The current number of ministers is 13. How many are women? Three. Rina Harun (photo) is the minister of rural development, Zuraida Kamaruddin is the minister of housing and local government, and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is deputy prime minister.

If we do the simple maths, three out of 13 comes to only 23 percent. Again, simple maths will tell you that 23 percent is 7 percent short of the 30 percent quota promised in the Harapan manifesto. Sure, the full lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but then they better make sure to get to it!

There are more than enough qualified women Members of Parliaments to pick from. There are a total of 20 Harapan women MPs to pick from. Here is a list of just a few:

• Nurul Izzah Anwar (Permatang Pauh, PKR)

• Hannah Yeoh (Segambut, DAP)

• P Kasthurirani (Batu Kawan, DAP)

• Teresa Kok (Seputeh, DAP)

• Zuraida Kamaruddin (Ampang, PKR)

• Fuziah Salleh (Kuantan, PKR)

• Teo Nie Ching (Kulai, DAP)

• Alice Lau (Lanang, DAP)

• Yeo Bee Yin (Bakri, DAP)

• Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis (Kota Belud, Warisan)

State representation

Now let’s look at the states. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just take two states that have been Harapan strongholds in the past two general elections – Selangor and Penang. Both have already announced their state exco line-up.

Penang has 10 state exco members and only one of them is a woman (photo). But if we look at the number of Harapan state assemblypersons in Penang, we see that there are five women. So how do you explain yourselves, Penang state government? Have you not read your own manifesto?

Selangor has 10 state excos and only two of them are women. Compared to Penang, Selangor has 12 state assemblywomen. So what’s the deal now, Selangor state government? Why aren’t you fulfilling your promise?

Okay, so the investigations into the 1MDB scandal are already well underway. It’s time for Harapan to pay attention to the rest of their promises. 100 days isn’t that many so they better start cracking. I don’t see how today, gender equality can still be pushed so far on the backburner.

A few days ago, after our “argument”, Sheril and I sat down to talk about all the data that she had gathered.

“Let’s do this! Let’s push Harapan to fulfil the 30 percent quota!” I said to her.

“Okay-lah. I guess I was a bit emotional when we first talked about this. I’m just glad you have always been on my side and I don’t have to fight you on things like this,” she sighed.

And yes, I do choose to end the article this way to justify and exonerate myself from accusations of being a misogynist, because I’m the one writing it anyway. But jokes aside, it is absurd to see how women can just be simply overlooked. So Harapan needs to be on the ball.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

Get Zan Azlee’s latest book ‘JOURNO-DAD: The chronicles of a journalist who just happens to be a dad!‘ today!

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