Empowering Women – Chong Eng

 Pakatan’s agenda in providing the fairer sex a more equal access to opportunities has been manifest from day one in office. DAP Women Chairperson and Bukit Mertajam Member of Parliament Chong Eng talks about some of the women empowerment steps made and the challenges faced in this area by PR in Penang.

The previous administration was nonchalant in empowering women’s rights. They would organise gender-related expos that promoted women’s products and line dance classes instead of educating the public on and addressing women’s issues. It was all a show and tell.

“Under PR’s tenure, we have appointed two women as local council presidents (YDP) and three other senior positions of the state government. There are currently only six women YDPs in Malaysia, and three of them are in Penang and Selangor. However, PR is looking at the substance of women’s participation in the state civil service, not just merely to make the numbers.

“We have formed an NGO called Good Governance and Gender Equality Society (3Gs) that is responsible for formulating and advising the state government’s gender equality and mainstreaming policy. Some of the policies include forming a gender mainstreaming ad-hoc committee in the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) to ensure gender fairness in the council’s policies and operations,” said Chong Eng.

In addition, PR has initiated the Gender Responsive Budget (GRB), first for Malaysia, to right the gender imbalance in decision-making and income parity in the state civil service. MPSP also has an ad-hoc committee that is studying on the implementation of the GRB.

New Paradigm and Aligning Expectations

PR is looking at hiring and promoting gender-sensitive candidates, not necessarily women, to higher positions. These individuals, with adequate gender-sensitive knowledge and understanding, will advance the gender equality and mainstreaming efforts as well.

As a new government, Chong Eng said PR is more receptive and bolder in taking initiatives in women empowerment efforts. However, public expectations of our abilities and capabilities to deliver in this area needs to be aligned; PR has only been in power for three years. The implementation efforts will need time.

In terms of assistance to women, PR supports the efforts of NGOs such as Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) which provides shelter and advice to womenfolk. In addition, two day childcare centres have been set up by the state government to cater for poor families who need assistance in taking care of their children. Progress to build more childcare centres is slow, as we need an adequate number of qualified and experience people to run the centres.

A lot more needs to be done to alleviate womenfolk’s burdens. However, PR has taken the right steps, which was never attempted previously.

Taking the Lead

Since 2008, Penang has scored several firsts for women empowerment in the country:

Leadership – Penang now has women filling up positions for two local council presidents, state legal adviser, district officer (DO), general manager for Penang Global Tourism and investPenang

Child care – two state government child care centres for helping low income families take care of their children

Gender budgeting – MPSP to implement gender responsive budgeting (GRB) by 2015. It aims to change societal patterns toward gender equality through the LC’s policies and programs. -The Rocket