By Karen Bong
KUCHING, March 9: It is time to bring balance to work and family in women’s lives as this will benefit families and society at large.
Minister of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah emphasised the need to empower women so that they could improve the economic aspects of their lives while also contributing to the socio-economic development of the society.
According to statistics, she shared that the current population of Sarawak is about 2.8 million and out of that, 1.35 million are women.
“For many women, their chances of earning a decent income is way lower than their chances of having a family. Most women want both and those with families need more income, especially if left to bring up their children or look after their elderly parents on their own.
“With better secure income, women can find the balance between caring for their family, meeting their own personal aspirations, contributing to the community and save for the future,” she added.
Fatimah highlighted this at the presentation of grants to women entrepreneurs, launching of e-Preneurs Wanita app and Empowered Women Forum held in conjunction with state-level International Women’s Day celebration at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Balance for Better’. The celebration was officiated by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
Besides entrepreneurs’ grants under the Women and Family Department, she revealed that the department in collaboration with SOCOE Sdn Bhd had developed the e-Preneurs Wanita app to help women entrepreneurs, especially in promoting and marketing their products and services online to both domestic and global markets.
“Give mothers the means to have an income and you directly help children. This is why we created the e-Preneurs Wanita as we want to lift women out of poverty and with them their children.
“We want women to be able to trade online and go beyond the Sarawak shores,” she added.
With more educated and professional women in society today, Fatimah emphasised that they faced challenges to return to the workforce when they have families and children.
To enable women to return to the workplace after giving birth, she said more registered childcare centres, especially at the workplace, as well as accessible and affordable transport were needed as these were known issues that hindered women from taking up employment.
“There are 234 registered childcare centres in Sarawak, while only 12 of this facility are available at the workplace.
“There are two departments with a lot of women employees, namely the Education Department and Health Department. There are 20,104 female teachers in Sarawak while female staff in the Health Ministry in the state is 15,171,” she elaborated.
Fatimah pointed out that employers must see childcare centre in workplaces as a support system needed to be created.
She added that this would not only benefit women but also society as when women had a fair and equal chance to enter the workforce and progress, society became richer.
“We are thankful that the state government has allocated special annual early childhood education grant of RM5,000 to all registered childcare centres to provide healthy and balanced meals for children, implement fun learning and teaching programmes and various activities that engage parents as well as funding training and courses for educator and carers,” she said.
Quoting the World Bank, she added: “Gender equality is a critical component of economic growth … it is clear that giving space to women leads to richer societies.”
Men and women, she said, needed to work to achieve this balance because by doing so, it would help Sarawak make strides to meet several United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which Malaysia, along with other countries, was striving to achieve by 2030, and most importantly, following the SDGs theme of `Leave No One Behind’.
Chief Minister’s wife, Datin Patinggi Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang, Fatimah’s husband, Datu Dr Adi Badiozaman Tuah, State Legislative Assembly Speaker Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar, Assistant Minister of Community Well-being Datuk Francis Harden Hollis and Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian were among those present.— DayakDaily