Women’s issues, rights should be made mainstream for betterment of society, says SWWS

Screenshot of the SWWS website (http://sarswws.org/). — file pic

KUCHING, March 7: Society should not see women’s issues as only for women and only attended to once a year.

This call came from Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) president Margaret Bedus in conjunction with the International Women’s Day which will be celebrated tomorrow (March 8) and is themed #BalanceforBetter this year.

In a press release today, she pointed out that women’s issues needed to be mainstreamed into every sector and ministry, to be looked into and addressed to improve the quality of life for all.

Quoting the United Nations (UN) on the meaning of ‘balance for better’, she stressed: “Think equal, build smart and innovate for change. The aim of International Women’s Day is to promote such thinking into all planning everyday so everyone can enjoy a balanced, fair world.

“The UN stance is that the world will be a better place when there is more gender balance as this will enable everyone to live to their full potential and contribute their skills to society,” she added.

Margaret emphasised that currently, women still face more discrimination, poverty and domestic violence, while men have a tough time when they strive to have more family time or want to pursue work perceived as outside society’s expectations of them.

“The UN has long been calling for gender equality including in its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which Malaysia is aiming to reach by 2030.

“However, as shown in the recent UN review of Malaysia’s compliance with human rights treaties, there is still much to achieve,” she added.

To mark International Women’s Day, SWWS highlighted a few key steps Malaysia can take in the year ahead to gain more equality by empowering women.

These nine points emerged from the forums in SWWS’ ‘Women for Progress’ series which was held at the end of 2018.

Each month SWWS through social media will highlight one of the following areas:

1. End discrimination: Pass a gender equality Act: Such an Act is needed to comply with the country’s obligations under the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which Malaysia signed in 1995.

2. End child marriage: Girls —unlike boys— are still allowed to marry when legally a child and yet are not considered mature enough to vote, smoke or drink. Early marriage negatively impacts their life chances.

3. Develop opportunities for women and girls in rural areas: Access to jobs and services, including health care, is too far behind urban areas. This imbalance impacts on both men and women but arguably more on the women who are often left behind and have less say in decision making bodies.

4. Provide safeguards against violations of women’s human rights in all family, relationship and marriage matters and in the field of employment: Violations include the use of force and lack of natural justice. Women in all forms of relationships should be protected from domestic violence and sexual assault and have equal access to justice and adequate, apt maintenance should partnerships fail.

5. Time’s up — End sexual harassment: New legislation is needed to protect people in all settings from sexual harassment. The voluntary code established in 1999 has not worked.

6. Show respect — No consent means ‘no’: Attitudes as well as the law needs to change for the #MeToo movement to succeed. Sexual harassment covers a wide range of behavior from insensitive, offensive remarks to making promotion or continued employment conditional on sexual intimacy. Such misuse of power is a violation of human rights, causes mental distress and lowers productivity.

7. Let our women stay in Malaysia and raise their families here: In today’s global world, many Malaysians marry other nationalities but for women doing this, it is much harder for them to settle in their homeland with their spouse than for Malaysian men. This needs to change if family life is to be strengthened and women are to have the same rights as men.

8. Mothers to have equal rights as fathers regardless of nationality and ethnicity: It should be as easy for a mother to pass on her nationality and ethnic identity to her children as the father — this also benefits the child/children.

9. Share the care: Caring is important whether of a child or a sick adult. It takes energy, time, money and commitment. It needs to be shared across gender within the family and with external support. Too many female carers are left alone to care leaving them stressed, isolated and for some impoverished. They, like everyone else need a balanced life. — DayakDaily