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Indian blueprint conveniently forgets women empowerment

Kasthuri Patto  |  Published:  |  Modified:

"I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but so those without a voice can be heard… we cannot succeed when half of us are held back."

- Malala Yousafzai.

MP SPEAKS | Regrettably, the Malaysian Indian Blueprint 2107 launched by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his loyal MIC henchmen is nothing more than election goodies.

One must know that after 60 years being under big brother Umno, from the era of VT Sambanthan to Dr S Subramaniam, MIC has come up with at least six blueprints to empower and uplift the socio-economic status of the Indian community in Malaysia, and has failed all six times to implement them successfully. And the Indian Malaysian population of seven percent is a mere 2.1 million of the national population.

Reading between the lines will show that this new blueprint is a crying shame for women empowerment as women make up slightly more than men in the Indian Malaysian community.

Unemployment of Indian Malaysian men stands at four percent and women at 5.2 percent. This is in stark comparison to unemployment rates for women nationally at 3.2 percent.

What are the reforms that will take place under the BN government to ensure that the numbers of unemployed women, including Indian women, are reduced?

As many know, the number of single mothers is on the rise, in tangent when men are not at home and unable to contribute to the household income. From the number of men who are serving time in prisons, deaths and disabilities due to road accidents and illnesses, deaths due to gang-related crimes to divorces, women are left by themselves to bear the burden of both father and mother, husband and wife, employer and employee.

There is nothing in the blueprint to assist single mothers in need. Most are also working mothers who have to juggle between meagre salaries, high cost of living and a lack of support systems and care for them and their families.

According to the blueprint, in 2014, Indian women were victims in domestic violence cases making up 22 percent or 159 cases, compared to Malay women who made up 56 percent at 409 cases, Chinese women at 13 percent and the remainder at nine percent. In that same year, a total of 518 Indian children or 12 percent of all reported cases were classified as children who are in need of care and protection.

How does the government propose to “ensure reported cases of abuse and domestic violence within Indian Malaysian households is on a downward trend”, as stated in the blueprint, when the numbers of domestic violence cases are on the rise, year after year.

Many who fall in the B40 category, especially single mothers, can hardly make ends meet to send their children to affordable childcare facilities as most, if not all, are working, single parents.

Nothing is mentioned in the blueprint to assist single mothers by providing accessible, affordable childcare facilities. In fact, in my budget debate last year, I suggested that there be a separate allocation for single mothers, under the Welfare Department, to help these women stand on their own two feet as they single-handedly juggle their family, work-life and social life.

Needless to say, I was disappointed with the answer given by the Women Development, Family and Community Ministry that there will be no separate allocation in the national budget specifically for single mothers. It proved to me that there was a lack of political will and empathy towards empowering single mothers who are clearly at the worst end of the bargain.

Should have been done decades ago

The blueprint serves to empower Indian Malaysians in the next 10 years and is full of an alphabet soup of initiatives dished out by the government, beginning with the Cabinet Committee of Indian Participation in Government Programmes (CCIC) in 2008; the Special Implementation Task Force (SITF); the Action Plan for Future of Tamil Schools (PTST); the Special Secretariat for Empowerment of Indian Entrepreneurs (SEED); the Unit for Socio-Economic Development of the Indian Community (Sedic) and also the likes of Kar1sma, Tekun, and many others, to assist the Indian community that make up about 10 percent of the national population.

Reforms within the cabinet and government agencies for the oppressed, marginalised and downtrodden communities within Malaysian communities should have been done decades ago, not in 2017 with the general election looming.

If all these initiatives had succeeded in what was supposed to be done in the past six blueprints over 60 years for a minority community, endorsed by MIC, then there would be no need for one now to win the hearts of the Indian Malaysians.

This therefore is evident that the Malaysian Indian Blueprint is a hollow document and lacks originality and substance, with no clear solution, except to pull wool over the eyes of Malaysians.

Once again, I see fancy, feel-good rhetorics and a lack of political will and determination in the Malaysian Indian Blueprint, for I see nothing serious, concrete, realistic and attainable, particularly for women.

The prime minister and the MIC are all in need of some serious "gender equality" training, which the Penang Women's Development Centre is happy to give at any time for them to be gender sensitive and to foster respect for men and women.

How do the prime minister and MIC, self-proclaimed defenders of the Indian community, plan to achieve a developed, educated, culturally rich community when the rights of women, especially single mothers, have been clearly neglected and forgotten?

KASTHURI PATTO is Wanita DAP publicity secretary and MP for Batu Kawan.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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