As we mark International Women’s Day this year, the theme #ChooseToChallenge from the official website strikes a chord.
Indeed, “we can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively we can all help create an inclusive world.”
In Malaysia, women can vote, women can drive, women are doing well in education, women can work. The Federal Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, and yes, at one point, for a brief period, we even had a woman deputy prime minister. Syabas, indeed!
Yet I think of the thousands of women for whom direct and indirect discrimination occurs and for whom the struggle for justice continues. In particular:
I think of the woman who waits to be reunited with her child, taken from her over 10 years ago, despite a recovery order from a high court.
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I think of the woman who waits to know the truth about her husband’s forced disappearance four years ago, allegedly by rogue state agents.
I think of the woman who was shot dead in her sleep by her angry husband a few days ago.
I think of the woman who is differently abled and her struggle for recognition and inclusion.
I think of the woman who is struggling with poverty, especially at this time of Covid-19.
I think of the trans woman who is struggling with her identity and keeping her faith.
I think of the girl child married and pregnant before she reaches 17 years of age.
I think of the women workers who are fighting for fairer contracts and work conditions.
I think of the refugee woman who has little protection because she has no status in this country.
I think of the woman who will lose her land, culture and livelihood as ‘development’ takes over her land
I think of the woman who struggles with immigration requirements so that she can be with her family.
I think of the women suffering with the double burden of paid and unpaid work.
I think of the girl child disclosing sexual abuse but not being believed.
I think of the woman who is struggling to access justice in court for the sexual crime committed against her.
I think of the woman whose husband or father or son has died in police custody.
I think of the woman and the girl child suffocating under the tyranny of patriarchy.
I think of these women and girls and many more.
On this International Women’s Day 2021, while we celebrate women’s achievements, let’s also remember how hard the struggle is for so many women in the country and the pressing need for real commitment to address the many injustices against women. There is a long way to go.
‘Choose to challenge’ and join the journey for a more just and humane world.
Happy International Women’s Day.