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WAO Voices Concern About the New Women’s Affairs Ministry’s Stance on Women’s “Traditional Roles”
WAO welcomes the setting up of the Ministry of Woman’s Affairs and the appointment of YB Datuk Shahrizat as the first minister. However the Minster’s opening statements on her role have diminished this triumph for Malaysian women and its movement.
WAO is appalled by Datuk Shahrizat’s statements in the STAR 19 January 2001, Bringing Women’s Issues to the Fore, that she has identified that among the areas that the Ministry will be looking into is “to reinforce the women’s basic and traditional functions” and when asked to elaborate “ we must not forget the traditional functions of women like cooking and caring for the household”.
Are women to be valued because they can cook and clean?
Datuk Shahrizat appears to make conflicting statements, while on the one hand she wants to mainstream women’s issues and bring women to the fore she also plans to remind women of their traditional functions.
Women have worked hard to break the burden of traditional roles and to claim the right take on roles outside of the home. To reinforce traditional roles for women is step backwards as it implies that a woman’s primary role is to cook and clean even as they pursue careers and interests outside of the home. Household tasks are no longer a woman’s responsibility but a shared responsibility of both men and women. The Ministry should be looking into eliminating discrimination by breaking stereotypes and freeing women from their traditional roles to take her rightful place in the mainstream.