Selangor Journal
Silhouette of women. — Picture by UNSPLASH

Levelling the playing field

By Nasuha Badrul Huzaini

SINCE 1911, International Women’s Day has been celebrated around the globe on March 8.

The over-a-century-long idea to commemorate women’s rights and contributions have been pivotal in providing a platform to get voices heard and raise awareness about gender equality.

Themed Break the Bias this year, IWD celebrates women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements regardless of their religions, beliefs, or skin colour.

In Malaysia, the 2022 National Women’s Day celebration will be held from March 6 to 8, aiming to highlight the importance of achieving equality and to ensure that women’s potential is optimised for the country’s sustenance and future.

In an interview with Selangor Journal recently, Wanita Berdaya Selangor (WBS) chief executive officer Siti Kamariah Ahmad Subki shares her ideas and elaborates on the women empowerment initiatives at the state level.

According to Siti Kamariah, the theme Break the Bias itself has provided women with a voice, an amplified one that hopes to narrow the gender gap and provide avenues for women to keep advancing despite any situation they face.

“As a women’s empowerment-oriented organisation, WBS has a role to play, which is to ensure that women’s rights in Selangor are well taken care of through gender mainstreaming.

“By continuously educating, they can provide a clearer approach for policy makers, decision makers and stakeholders to always be inclusive of women. This practice has been ongoing at the Selangor state level and I hope it will be expanded to other states as well,” she said.

Representatives of Pusat Wanita Berdaya from various districts displaying their Hasil Suri Selangor (HaSSeL) products at the Pusat Wanita Berdaya sales area, after the launch of Wanita Berdaya Selangor and the officiation of the HaSSel Expo, at the State Secretariat Building in Shah Alam, on April 26, 2021. — Picture by ASRI SAPFIE/SELANGORKINI

Initiatives

Siti Kamariah said WBS’s initiatives are the women empowerment programmes carried out through its Wanita Berdaya Centre (WBC).

“Programmes such as Women Leadership Academy and Women2Win were initiated to empower women in Selangor to have more skills to ensure that they can maximise their potential in their respective fields.

“In the 2022 Selangor Budget, the state government has allocated RM5 million for women’s agenda and we have come up with a comprehensive line-up of programmes which tentatively will be held throughout the year.

“This includes the Selangor Housewives’ Crafts and Products Expo (HaSSel) that provides a platform for small and medium-sized female-led enterprises, mainly made up of single mothers and housewives, to introduce their products to be commercialised.

“It is not an easy journey for the women. The analogy is like the women are in a marathon run, not a sprint,” she said.

Changing mindsets

The Selangor government has a Gender Mainstreaming Project which is already in its second year of implementation.

“The project aims to promote women’s rights and address discrimination towards the group, apart from changing the mindsets of decision makers and government servants to form public policies that are more gender sensitive,” Siti Kamariah said.

Delving further, she said WBS is also planning to introduce a new programme known as the Selangor Women Assembly Programme (SWAP), where 56 women will be selected to represent the 56 constituencies in Selangor to discuss several motions related to women’s issues.

“This programme will provide some exposure to the participants on how to debate at the Selangor State Assembly or during a decision-making process. They will undergo capacity development training to get them ready for a real debate during SWAP.

“This is part of our efforts to accelerate the process of having 30 per cent of women as policy makers or state representatives,” she said, adding that the programme also aims to polish leadership skills among women in male-dominated sectors.

Siti Kamariah said a large chunk of the state’s budget for women will be used to implement programmes throughout the year.

“We will also collaborate with several non-governmental organisations to run the programmes,” she added.

Selangor state executive councillor for public health Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud (left) and Wanita Berdaya Selangor chief executive officer Siti Kamariah Ahmad Subki launch the SELamat domestic violence hotline, at the Selangor Public Library Corporation in Shah Alam, on November 22, 2021. — Picture by REMY ARIFIN/SELANGORKINI.

Technology as a means

In November last year, the SELamat hotline was set up under the management of WBS to offer crisis support to victims of domestic violence and has been in operation since. The hotline operates 24 hours and is managed by WBS staff and volunteers.

“Domestic violence victims can opt for counselling sessions and serious cases, the hotline will help to provide temporary shelter for the victims,” she said.

In line with current trends and technology advancement, online platforms have been the preferred communication method for WBS to spread the latest information about their programmes or assistance needed by women in Selangor.

“Social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the way to go as they can deliver messages faster. With all the systems in place, we are hopeful that more women will be well informed and exposed to our empowerment programs,” she said.

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