AN INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY MESSAGE BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
What makes Penang great is its people. Women are one half of our people, and today, 8 March 2016 – celebrated worldwide as International Women’s Day – is a particularly meaningful time to honour them.
When we think of women, we remember our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and friends. We are incredibly grateful for their presence and contributions in our lives, for what would we be without them?
This year’s global theme for International Women’s Day is “Pledge for Parity”. It is a theme that the Penang state government is proud to support. The state government is committed to social equality, where everyone, male or female, irregardless of race, religion and political affiliation are given the best support to achieve their highest potential.
We believe that both men and women are equal partners in developing our society as a whole. In other words, both men and women working together is pivotal in our quest to build a better Penang.
This makes sense because a society which alienates women from the economy, from public life, from nation-building, is like an aeroplane with only one wing functioning.
Research has clearly demonstrated that gender equality is good for all; it benefits women, men, children and the entire community. In a September 2015 report, McKinsey and Co. found that globally, if women and men were given equal opportunities, $28 trillion or 26% could be added to the global annual GDP by the year 2025.
In Malaysia, female labour participation rate is 52.4% in 2013, which means, we are only utilising half of our women’s power. But it is not enough for the federal government to tell women to participate in the workforce. The government must match its words with real actions.
Thus, for example, in Penang, recognising the critical link between childcare and women’s participation in the workforce, the state government established two State-funded Pusat Jagaan Kanak-Kanak (childcare centres) on the island and mainland respectively, adopted a State Level Childcare Policy and Action Plan, and set up the Taska D’Komtar, a subsidised childcare centre for State Government employees in KOMTAR.
When we say we want to encourage women to be able to pursue the career of their choice, we backed it up with practical support, with family-friendly policies.
Here in Penang, we not only encourage women to participate in the workforce, we also provide the opportunity for women to lead.
The number of assemblywomen in the Penang state assembly increased from three in 2008 to six in 2013, a 100% increase, while in the backbencher, it has increased five times from one persons in 2008 to five persons in 2013.
The number of female local councillors have also increased from four in 2015 to eight in 2016. Both the current heads of our local governments are women – the first mayor of Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang (MBPP), Dato’ Hajjah Patahiyah Binti Ismail, as well as President of Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai (MPSP), Dato’ Maimunah Binti Mohd Sharif.
Key state agencies are led by capable women leaders, notably, InvestPenang’s General Manager, Miss Loo Lee Lian, Penang Women’s Development Corporation’s Acting CEO, Datin Rohana Weiler, George Town Heritage Inc’s Acting General Manager, Dr. Ang Ming Chee and Penang Green Council’s General Manager Miss Thing Siew Shuen.
The Penang state government’s pledge for parity are backed by real policy actions. When we talk about building a more equitable society, we meant programming this into the most fundamental activity of the government: Budgeting. After successfully piloting it since 2013, both MBPP and MPSP have institutionalised Gender Responsive and Participatory Budgeting (GRPB) in their respective budget cycle. The Penang GRPB programme was so successful that our experts have been invited to consult with governments all over Asia. In June 2014, the Penang GRPB programme achieved international acclaim when it won a Special Mention Award from the International Observatory for Participatory Democracy.
In order to further strengthen women’s participation in public life especially at the grassroots level, each state constituency is allocated RM30,000 this year for Briged Wanita programme. This will cost a total of RM1.2 million. Briged Wanita is a women voluntary corp launched by the state government to promote activism, advocacy and leadership among women on the ground.
We are also proud to support women through our welfare programme, for example, the ibu emas programme which provides RM100 annually to single mothers and homemakers under the age of 60. This is groundbreaking in every way as we are the first government in Malaysia to formally recognise the contribution of these women in care economy. Women who are above the age of 60 will be enrolled into our senior citizens appreciation programme.
Penang is also the first state to recognise and organise an annual month-long Penang Goes Orange campaign in November and December to stop violence against women. Indeed it is our aim to create a Cleaner, Greener, Healthier, Safer Penang for both men and women.
We pledge to continue to recognise and support the important achievements, contributions, roles and place of our women in building our beloved state and country.
Happy International Women’s Day to all.
—-Mandarin Version —