Malaysia

Pakatan promises 10 women ministers under its rule

By Boo Su-Lyn
February 24, 2013

Zuraida holds up a flyer during an interview with The Malaysian Insider, in Petaling Jaya February 21, 2013. — Picture by Saw Siow FengZuraida holds up a flyer during an interview with The Malaysian Insider, in Petaling Jaya February 21, 2013. — Picture by Saw Siow FengPETALING JAYA, Feb 24 ― Pakatan Rakyat (PR) will appoint at least 10 female ministers based on its 30 per cent women’s quota if the opposition pact wins federal power in Election 2013, Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin said recently.

Zuraida said PR will implement the quota at all levels ― including in the 33 ministerial positions, parliamentary representation and corporate boardrooms ― in a bid to court women voters who form 49 per cent of the 13.3 million-strong electorate.

“Pakatan is committed to exercise (the) 30 per cent across (the) board,” said Zuraida in an interview with The Malaysian Insider at PKR’s headquarters here on Thursday.

“The quota is a temporary measure,” she stressed, when asked if the policy denigrated women’s skills.

Analysts have pinpointed women as fence-sitters who will determine the results of Election 2013 that is expected to be a closely-fought battle.

Zuraida noted that PR’s current nine women MPs, including her, were qualified to fill any minister’s posts. Four are from DAP, three from PKR and two from PAS. 

Besides Zuraida, who is the Ampang MP, they are Chong Eng (DAP – Bukit Mertajam), Fong Po Kuan (DAP – Batu Gajah), Teo Nie Ching (DAP – Serdang), Teresa Kok (DAP – Seputeh), Fuziah Salleh (PKR – Kuantan), Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR – Lembah Pantai), Siti Zailah Mohd Yusof (PAS – Rantau Panjang), and Dr Siti Mariah Mahmud (PAS – Kota Raja).

The Titiwangsa parliamentary seat was left vacant after PAS’s Dr Lo’ Lo’ Mohd Ghazali died from cancer in 2011.

There are 13 Barisan Nasional (BN) women MPs.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak appointed only two women ministers to a Cabinet of 30 – MCA’s Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen as the tourism minister and Umno’s Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil as the women, family and community development minister.

Najib took over Shahrizat’s post last year, however, after her senatorship was not renewed due to a cattle-farming scandal.

According to statistics from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, only 10.4 per cent of the country’s 222 federal lawmakers and eight per cent of the 576 assemblymen in state assemblies nationwide are women.

Zuraida said that a PR government would also implement a gender quota to ensure 30 per cent female representation in Parliament, which the United Nations’ (UN) Beijing Platform for Action document has said was necessary to reflect everyone’s needs and concerns in a country.

UN Women executive director Michelle Bachelet said last December that quotas were essential to promote women’s political participation, noting that only one out of five parliamentarians globally were women.

Of the 33 countries with 30 per cent or more women MPs, 28 have quotas, according to Bachelet.

Zuraida admitted, however, that PR could not find enough women to field as candidates for the coming national polls to fulfil the 30 per cent quota, saying that PR could only manage about 20 per cent.

“Women still understand politics as not their cup of tea, as something that’s dirty. As politicians, we’re there to serve the people, to become the people’s representatives,” she said.

Zuraida said that PR planned to field women candidates in about 30 per cent of the parliamentary and state seats in Selangor and Sabah, as well as at least two female candidates in other states.

Women will be fielded in at least 15 out of a total of 25 parliamentary and 60 state seats in Sabah, as well as at least 14 out of 22 parliamentary and six out of 56 state seats in Selangor.

PR’s women incumbents will defend their seats, while most of the new female candidates will be young professionals, said Zuraida.

Zuraida added that PR would raise political awareness among women by setting up at least one Women’s Empowerment Centre in each parliamentary constituency.

“There will be people’s programmes like economic training, business, financial and political awareness programmes, and social security units, where we want women to form support units in each area (to share issues) like family problems,” said Zuraida, pointing that there were 56 such centres currently in Selangor.

“After PRU13, I believe we’ll have more (female candidates),” she added, referring to the 13th general election by its Malay acronym.

Najib announced in 2011 that the corporate sector must have at least 30 per cent women’s representation at the boardroom level by 2016.

He said the move was an extension of a similar government policy introduced in 2004 for the public sector, which saw an increase in female participation from 18.8 per cent that year to 32.3 per cent in 2011.

However, as of 2010, only 13 per cent, or 91 women, were appointed as board directors in the Ministry of Finance Incorporated; of the 200 companies listed on Bursa Malaysia, women comprise just 7.6 per cent of the boardroom as of November 2010, and only six per cent in financial institutions as of April 2012.

Women’s groups had welcomed Najib’s announcement, but employers had baulked at the policy, saying that all positions should be earned by merit.