If Malaysia is to reform itself into a functioning democratic nation, women must be a part of the decision-making processes, and society must allow women to take on leadership roles, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.
The voters of Permatang Pauh have spoken and have chosen dignity over conceit, honesty over corruption, coherence over the illogical.
By now, Malaysians from all walks of life have heard of PKR President Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s victory in the Permatang Pauh by-election. She won with a majority of 8,841 votes and defeated Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Suhaimi Sabudin. Her victory symbolises the yearning Malaysians have for much needed political reforms, ending tyrannical regimes, upholding social justice and above all, restoring democracy.
But for the women of this country, her triumphant return into Parliament symbolises a newfound hope that Malaysians are more than ready to discard a traditionalist view and are keen on accepting women in leadership roles. Wan Azizah, herself, acknowledged how essential women’s roles are in supporting socio-political reform movements: “Women’s political, social and economic rights are an integral and inseparable part of their human rights.”
As a multi-cultural country like Malaysia and one on the brink of modernity, we can no longer afford to ignore the important roles women have in contributing to our country’s growth.
Malaysian women make up over 50 per cent of approximately 30m people and while 51.7 per cent of registered voters are women, the number of political representatives is still considerably low. According to reports, the percentage of Malaysian women in parliament is roughly “10 per cent lower than the global average”.
We still tend to view our society as being somewhat male-dominated; therefore, sometimes, we come across men who are visibly threatened by the notion of women participating in the decision-making processes.
Wan Azizah’s return to the parliament also means that our issues as well as interests will be given more weight, more consideration and the respect we rightfully deserve. Her comeback also means we now have one more woman in parliament. This self-proclaimed ‘accidental’ politician is seen as a beacon of hope, a figure so well revered and loved, an articulate leader who emanates eloquence and composure. Her presence can placate even her darkest enemies.
Never forget that democracy isn’t just about ballot boxes; it is also about providing inclusiveness and taking in differing views from various groups. If Malaysia is to reform itself into a functioning democratic nation ― one that is adamant about creating a more just, free and unbiased society – women must be a part of the decision-making processes, and society must allow women to take on leadership roles.