WAO welcomes the establishment of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, as this is recognition of the political strength of Malaysian women. Malaysian women and its women’s movement should be congratulated on mainstreaming women’s issues, as this will be our ministry.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs should act as national machinery for the advancement of women by mainstreaming a gender equality principle in all policies and programmes of government and public sector. This Ministry should monitor, advocate and work with all ministries and its agencies to promote gender equality by eliminating discrimination.
Globally the national machineries for women have had varying success because of the lack of resources, funds and a perception that women’s issues are less important. WAO hopes that Malaysia will not suffer the same fate, and from the start the Ministry must be assured that it will have adequate resources in terms of budget and staff capacity.
Furthermore it is imperative that all personnel within the Ministry undergo gender training and institute gender training for government policy makers including the cabinet. If the Ministry is going to mainstream gender it must first of all understand gender and sadly we have seen varying levels of understanding and conviction that gender equality is the right of every woman.
WAO is also concerned that a deputy minister for this ministry has not been appointed, as it indicates that this ministry has yet to have the same capacity of senior personnel as other ministries. One may conclude that that there has not been forethought and planning.
The appointment of the Datuk Shahrizat as the Ministry’s first minister is not surprising as she has since her appointment in December 1999, as the Deputy Minister of the Women’s Affairs Department in the Prime Minster’s department been profiling women’s issues and events. Datuk Shahrizat has displayed an open door policy and has welcomed input from NGO.
The Ministry of Women Affairs is a herstorical event and WAO calls on women in Malaysia to speak up and shape the mandate of our ministry. On our part WAO will continue to advocate and monitor and work with the government to respect and promote women’s rights.
Update (March 01):
The New women’s ministry will be called the Ministry of Development of Women and Family