Plenty of activities were carried out to commemorate the centenary of International Women’s Day yesterday. Lau Shu Shi takes this opportunity to express respect for all women in their struggle for rights and dignity in a society shaped by capitalism and patriarchy.
Some of the concerns about women highlighted in the media over the last year include the following and they are of concern to us:
- According to the Human Resources Ministry, “2,600,000 women cannot get back to work due to household chores and this is our great loss as these women are highly educated and have working experience.”
- Only 10 per cent of the public sector is equipped with child care facilities. Cuepacs pointed out that many female employees are forced to apply for unpaid leave to spend time raising children.
- Representatives of the Chinese Malaysian community urged Chinese women to produce more children. According to a report by Sin Chew Daily dated 14 July 2010, it was felt that the decreasing Chinese Malaysian population might affect future Chinese representation in political parties.
- At least six pregnant women working in the private sector encountered difficulties that were created deliberately and so were forced to resign. The actual figure may be larger
- Najib, in announcing maternity leave of 90 days for female civil servants, up from the previous 60 days, with full salary, gave a reminder that this benefit was limited to 300 days, which means female civil servants can only get paid leave for a maximum of three childbirths.
- Women remain in a position where household chores and the raising of children are still almost solely the responsibility of women, and this is generally not out of choice and not limited to non-working women. At the workplace too, there is discrimination against female employees, in terms of appointments, promotions and dismissals.
- Women too are seen as objects in the promotion of goods and are not accorded due say over their biological functions. These attitudes, practices and perspectives are deep seated, centuries old and kept alive by institutions like the mass media.
The struggle for equality, for dignity, and for the right to make decisions is tough; it has seen slow progress over the years through the efforts of women’s groups among others.
The struggle for women’s rights needs to go hand-in-hand with the struggle for a better world – one in which the plentiful resources of the world are used to fulfil the needs of all and not the greed of a few. We need to change the capitalist system which breeds poverty and misery for the working people and wreaks disaster on the environment in the name of profit. Malaysia’s per capita income of RM24,000 amply shows that there is enough wealth in the country to ensure a comfortable life for all families if only it were distributed evenly.
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It shows that men and women don’t have to earn poverty line wages, and don’t have to work 12 hours a day to make ends meet. It means they can lead decent lives, spend time with their children and be active in society.
Equality for women! Workers of the world unite!
Lau Shu Shi is coordinator of the PSM Women and Gender Desk