COMMENT | We address this to the prime minister and Pakatan Harapan chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
It can be said that the outcome of the 14th general election is as momentous as the formation of Malaysia 61 years ago.
Defying all odds, the people have willed into reality our deep longing for a new nation. Voters have entrusted Harapan with the responsibility to right all that has been wrong for so long in Malaysia, and this includes the lack of women’s representation in cabinet.
GE14 saw registered women voters outnumber men in all but two states, and one federal territory. Women, historically and in the recent election, have played a pivotal role within the opposition, which led to its stunning and historic success.
These women gave their best to bring about a new dawn in Malaysia, despite the low number of women candidates fielded for parliamentary and state seats. This is a testimony of women’s desire to see change that will address their issues and concerns.
Women’s participation in the electoral process cannot largely remain only as voters. There needs to be more substantive participation, especially in the decision-making processes. It would be glaringly unjust if women are overlooked, yet again, in the formation of a new cabinet.
Since Fatimah Hashim was appointed as the first woman minister 49 years ago, in 1969, we have not seen more than three women appointed as full ministers in any administration.
This has had major negative implications for Malaysia, where women are often left outside of decision making in various sectors, which in turn affects all women across ethnicity, religion, geography, socio-economic status and other markers.
For example, women have for too long been left out of decision making in relation to Islamic family law. As a result, Muslim women continue to face institutional inequalities in terms of their rights to divorce and maintenance.
We hear and laud your commitment to eliminate discrimination against women in your speech on the eve of GE14. While we celebrate Harapan's decision to make Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail Malaysia’s first woman deputy prime minister, her appointment alone is not enough.
We have waited too long for meaningful representation in cabinet and can no longer accept the justification that women are not ready to lead ministries. The new cabinet will be largely made up of people, including men, who have little or no experience in the federal government.
This presents a great opportunity to reflect the new government's commitment to include women in key decision making posts, commensurate with their potential and experiences to contribute to good governance.
For appointments of ministers, we ask you to consider from Harapan's 20 women elected parliamentarians. We highlight some of the strengths of the following candidates:
Nurul Izzah Anwar (Permatang Pauh)
Hannah Yeoh (Segambut)
Kasthurirani Patto (Batu Kawan)
Maria Chin Abdullah (Petaling Jaya)
Teresa Kok (Seputeh)
Zuraida Kamaruddin (Ampang)
Fuziah Salleh (Kuantan)
Teo Nie Ching (Kulai)
Alice Lau (Lanang)
Yeo Bee Yin (Bakri)
Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis (Kota Belud)
The list above is far from exhaustive. There are many other well qualified candidates, but these names are suggested to illustrate that there are enough capable women whom you can appoint as ministers in the new cabinet.
Transformation can only happen with greater inclusion and leadership of diverse women in this country. This should be a core aspect of Malaysia's commitment to gender equality, to reflect this equality in the cabinet.
The people have chosen. We trust that your wisdom, informed by the will of the people, will guide you to choose well.
This call to our new prime minister is prepared and signed by the following women’s rights advocates and activists: Angela M Kuga Thas, Jac sm Kee, Juana Jaafar, Rozana Isa, Rusaslina Idrus, Tan Beng Hui, Thilaga.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.