Letter to the Editor
by The Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI)
19 January 2009
Kuala Terengganu: Why was a woman not fielded?
Malaysiakini, 19 January 2009
Simranjit Kaur Gilland, Honey Tan
The Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI) notes with concern the manner in which the Kuala Terengganu by-election campaign was run by both the Barisan National (BN) and the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) candidates.
There was so much focus on race, hudud laws, and distributive justice vis-a-vis the Terengganu and the federation of Malaysia.
We did not hear from either one of the candidates’ what their specific plans are to elevate the status of 50 percent of their constituency’s population: the women.
How did they plan to enable the women of Kuala Terengganu to improve their businesses, obtain better education, provide them with childcare facilities, have better access to healthcare and enabling them to participate in elections in leadership roles?
There are no women members of Parliament and only one woman state assembly person in Terengganu.
This state of affairs cannot continue if either coalition is serious in their rhetoric during the 2008 general elections in that they championed women’s rights.
It also cannot continue if the aim of having at least 30 percent of people in decision-making processes under the 9th Malaysia Plan being women is to become a reality.
It is not enough to have women in supporting roles (again). After all, women too are affected by the outcome of by-elections. Why was a woman candidate not fielded by either coalition?
Equal participation of women and men in power and decision-making are affirmed in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international conventions including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) which Malaysia had ratified in 1995.
Article 7 of Cedaw obliges Malaysia to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life to ensure not just participation, but representation in institutions such as parliament.
It is also not consonant with Malaysia’s commitment to implement the Beijing Platform for Action to provide women with equal access to be leaders in the political arena.
General Recommendation No. 23 of the Cedaw Committee on ‘Political and Public Life’ notes that the concept of democracy will have real and dynamic meaning and lasting effect only when political decision-making is shared by women.
The writers act on behalf of the Women’s Candidacy Initiative (WCI).