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COMMENT | Key steps to better protect Malaysian women

COMMENT | A year ago on March 8, many of us were still reeling from the shocking collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government and watching the Covid-19 pandemic unfold. As countries began to close their borders, few of us could conceive how our lives would change over the next 12 months.

So here we are. A year later.

In the past year, there have been many announcements made about the various packages and incentive schemes to kick-start the economy. It would be interesting to know what portion of these schemes and incentives have actually benefitted women in particular.

What we do know is that the pandemic had a disproportionate effect on the lives of women. It has precipitated a rise in unpaid care work. We also know that the tension of being isolated in close quarters, financial stress, and other factors have created circumstances ripe for physical and sexual violence against women and resulted in an upsurge of such violence.

Women are also being impacted financially by the pandemic. A Unicef report estimated that over 32 percent of female heads of households are unemployed and 57 percent of women are not protected by EPF or Socso.

In allowing these inequities to exist, we are not only putting women at greater risk of economic instability and gender-based violence, but we are also creating environments that put children at risk of malnutrition and with a lack of access to education. Additionally, about eight percent of Malaysian households have members with disabilities or chronic illnesses.

The International Women’s Day 2021's (IWD) theme “Choose to Challenge” is a call to challenge the status quo and this has to happen on a personal, institutional, and policy level...

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