Encourage Women To Contest For Local Government Election
4 June 2018
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) applauds YB Zuraida Kamaruddin, Malaysia’s new Minister for Housing and Local Governments for pushing for local government elections. According to the interview by BFM 89.9 on 31st May 2018 titled “Return of Local Government Elections”, YB Zuraida affirmed this action towards ‘changing Malaysia’s image as a very progressive nation’, with the conviction that the Malaysian government is ready to practice full democracy.
Local government elections will help increase accountability to the people, as these will be elected leaders rather than political appointees. Local government elections can help bring about more effective representation, not only in ensuring diversity in our leaders, but diversity in perspectives in addressing issues. Women’s experiences and lived realities are often very different from men. From experiences of all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, to experiences of being paid less than men for work of equal value. Social valuing of family and children often play out very negatively for women in the work place. Solutions for issues therefore must include multiple perspectives in discussions in producing any solutions. While there has been some acknowledgement of the need to including the perspectives of minorities and marginalised communities, there persists much resistance to effectively including women at the decision-making table as a marginalised majority.
In light of YB Zuraida’s affirmation for local government elections, EMPOWER urges the government to commit to encouraging women and members of marginalised communities to participate in these elections. We suggest a temporary special measure to be enacted in the election process, to have 50% women to be fielded as candidates of the election process. This minimum percentage will encourage women to participate in politics and face a higher likelihood of becoming elected representatives. Women who make up half of the population and in most states, more than half of the voters, should not remain in the background as supporters or voters. We hope such a temporary special measure would normalise fielding women as candidates during elections for political parties in Malaysia, and for women themselves to come forward, as independent candidates if necessary.
Again, we remind Pakatan Harapan to fulfill the promise in its Buku Harapan manifesto. Iltizam Khas Untuk Wanita 5 speaks of the aim to ‘democratise the political system to encourage more women leaders to step forward’, and promise number two speaks to ensuring “at least 30 percent women as decision makers at every level”. Research has shown that it only takes the political will of a leader who is committed to making this change happen, that is, to bring about a more enabling environment for women to become decision-makers in policy and law-making, that will witness better and more effective representation of women in seats of power. If the Pakatan Harapan government is really committed to gender equality, then the starting point should be ensuring women’s equal political representation.
We hope to see a gender-responsive Local Elections Act tabled in Parliament as soon as possible. Having an equal representation of women in local councils can help bring about the paradigm shift that is needed towards a more participatory democracy that Malaysia can no longer deny is a necessity.