WOMEN in Malaysia came together on Thursday to celebrate International Women’s Day and remind the world that they are a force to be reckoned with.
There was singing, there was dancing, there was live music, but the loudest voice of all was the voice of solidarity that resonated throughout Limkokwing University campus just outside the capital Kuala Lumpur.
Several female leaders took to the stage to tell their stories and mentor others who needed guidance. The resounding message was: “You are not alone.”
Women, Family & Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim spoke of the innovative ways women were earning more money through the use of technology, and introduced new app Kiddocare for mothers who need extra help at short notice when the pressures of motherhood and work get too much.
She also talked up the introduction of the Gender Equality Act that Malaysia is yet to introduce but is currently in discussion. Details of the Act, however, were few and far between but the minister did say that all cases of discrimination would be handled under it, previously a legal quagmire in which getting justice has proven difficult for women in the past.
The first female British High Commissioner for Malaysia Victoria Treadell was also on hand to share some wisdom on getting ahead in a male-dominated workplace.
“So often we see job paths that have always been filled with a long line of men. We have to question, why should that be the case?”, encouraging women to fight against the status quo.
Treadell also encouraged women to look out for each other in the workplace and promote those women around you rather than just focusing on changing the mindset of men.
She said at the opening ceremony:
“We need to know what our rights are and use them for our advancement and protections.”
“We are 50 percent of the human capital on the planet. When we harness the energy of that 50 percent, we will be unstoppable – and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The only challenge the women did face on the day was when male moderator and Treasury secretary-general Irwan Serigar Abdullah dropped some clangers during his Q&A session, questioning why women go for “easy jobs” like nursing and teaching, and not the “more challenging roles, like flying a plane?”
Rohani was quick to shut him down, however, responding that women could do and were doing these jobs, but were often overlooked by their male bosses due to ingrained sexism and the “mindset of the males” they work with.
Successful businesswoman and president of Alliance Francaise de Kuala Lumpur Tengku Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah also had shared her experiences and raised a call for women to take control.
“It’s not about, men do this and women do that anymore. It’s about people doing want they want,” she said.
“It’s time for women to stand up and say, ‘I have a dream that should not be suppressed’.”