By Nurul Aqilah Azman, Executive Strategic Communications Division (Temp), Institut Masa Depan Malaysia
As the 15th General Election (GE15) draws near, almost every political party has brought up the 30 per cent women’s participation in our political scenario through their manifestos.
This so-called agenda of empowering women seems to work well only during elections where we can see women members of political parties going house-to-house, trying to build rapport with voters.
In all the manifestos, the need to appreciate more women’s participation in country’s development plans are highlighted.
The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (KPWKM) has stated that the implementation of gender responsive and women empowerment agenda has long been agreed upon since 2004.
It is said that Malaysia’s new direction is to localise UN Women’s goal to insert a more gender responsive and inclusion in public policy. Yet, after 18 years, there is no sign of progress and clear direction regarding this matter. It only remains as goals written on the papers.
The refusal of political parties to carry out the supposed agreed policy could be interpreted as a sign of distrust towards women’s competence within the political structure and leadership.
In Dr Sharifah Syahirah S. Shikh’s article published in the Journal of the Malaysian Parliament, it was suggested that strong patriarchal beliefs within political parties hinder the progression of more women-led political positions.
The writer further explained through patriarchy, the continued practice of viewing men as inherently better in status compared with women will continuously create a cycle of marginalising women’s voices in policy and decision-making.
Political parties are not alone in carrying this negative perception as this mindset can also be found within our own communities despite women-driven political groups and political leaders having shown strong commitment for their respective political parties.
Misperception or bias against women are not the only barriers to women’s quest for leadership. From an electoral perspective, voters may withhold support for women candidates because they perceive practical barriers to women successfully attaining political leadership positions.
As a result of perceived barriers, people may think that supporting women candidates will ultimately be futile.
While problems faced by women within society would not disappear overnight if the proposed policy were to take effect, I believe increasing women’s participation in politics, including those with diverse backgrounds, is crucial for the continuous development and upholding of women’s rights.