Progress of Malaysian Women

The Progress of Malaysian Women Since Independence 1957 – 2000 Published by: Ministry of Women and Family Development Level 1-4, Block E Bukit Perdana Government Office Complex Jalan Dato’ Onn 50515 Kuala Lumpur Tel:03-29630095 Fax:03-26938498 E-mail:[email protected] gov. my Website:www. kpwk. gov. my With funding support from: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam Published September 2003 ISBN:983-41432-0-6 Printed by: Bar Code Design Network Copyright © 2003 Ministry of Women and Family Development.
All Right Reser ved. Request for permission to reprint any material should be directed to the Ministry of Women and Family Development. CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY FOREWORD CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION I. BACKGROUND II. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY III. METHODOLOGY IV. OVERVIEW OF THE REPORT V. GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT PLANNING VI ADMINISTRATIVE MACHINERY FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN VII. LEGAL STATUS OF WOMEN – Women under the Federal Constitution – Employment Legislation and Women – Other Laws Affecting the Status of Women VIII.
CONCLUSION CHAPTER 2 – EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF WOMEN I. INTRODUCTION II. FORMAL EDUCATION – Enrolment in Primary and Secondary Schools – Female Enrolment in Technical and Vocational Education – Tertiary Education – Education Attainment of Rural Women – International Comparison in Educational Attainment III. NON-FORMAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING IV. FUTURE CHALLENGES V. RECOMMENDATIONS VI. CONCLUSION CHAPTER 3 – WOMEN AND THE ECONOMY I. INTRODUCTION II.

TRENDS IN WOMEN’S ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION – Women in the Labour Force – Employment Status of Women – Employment by Sector – Employment by Occupational Category – Potential Growth Areas: Women in Business and Professional Services Page vii x 14 14 16 17 18 19 23 26 26 27 28 30 33 33 33 34 37 39 42 42 43 47 50 51 53 53 54 54 55 56 61 64 The Progress of Women Since Independence III. IV. V. – Women Entrepreneurs: From Micro-Enterprises to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) FUTURE CHALLENGES RECOMMENDATIONS CONCLUSION 5 67 70 72 73 73 74 74 74 76 78 79 79 80 80 82 82 83 84 86 87 89 90 CHAPTER 4 – WOMEN AND HEALTH I. INTRODUCTION II. GENERAL HEALTH STATUS – Indicators of Health Status – Maternal Mortality – Nutritional Status of Women – Fertility Trends III. REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES – Family Planning – Antenatal and Postpartum Care – Management of Cervical and Breast Cancers IV. HEALTH CONCERNS IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM – Health Needs of Older Women – Domestic Violence – Mental Health – The HIV/AIDS Epidemic V. FUTURE CHALLENGES VI.
RECOMMENDATIONS VII. CONCLUSION CHAPTER 5 – WOMEN IN DECISION MAKING AND POWER SHARING 93 I. INTRODUCTION 93 II. TRENDS IN LEADERSHIP AND POWER SHARING 94 – Political Membership and Leadership 94 – Political Candidacy 96 – Elected Offices and Appointments 97 – Representation in the State Assemblies 99 – Share of Leadership and Decision-Making Positions in the Public Sector 99 – Key Management Positions in the Public Sec tor 99 – Appointments in the Foreign Service 101 – Representation in Local Authorities 101 – The Grassroots Level 103
III. IV. V. – Management Positions in the Private Sector – Non-Government Organizations (NGO), Trade Unions and Cooperatives – Participation in NGOs – Participation in Trade Unions – Representation in Cooperatives FUTURE CHALLENGES RECOMMENDATIONS CONCLUSION 104 105 105 106 108 108 111 112 115 REFERENCES LISTS OF BOXES Box 1. 1 1. 2 1. 3 2. 1 3. 1 Titles Page Malaysia’s First Lady, Dato’ Seri Dr. Siti Hasmah bt. Mohd.
Ali – An Inspiring Role Model for Malaysian Women 12 Definition of Discrimination 30 Selected Relevant Declarations and Action Plans Signed by the Government of Malaysia 31 Scaling Up Micro-Enterprises, Department of Agriculture 46 Datuk Muhaiyani Shamsuddin, Founder and Managing Director of Muhaiyani Securities Sdn Bhd and Deputy Chairperson of the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange 66 Dato’ Sharizat Abdul Jalil – An Advocate and Solicitor, an Eminent Corporate Figure and a Cabinet Minister 91 Tan Sri Datuk Nuraizah Abdul Hamid – A Woman of Distinction in the Public Service 113 . 1 5. 2 LIST OF FIGURES Figure 2. 1 2. 2 2. 3 Title Page Primary School Enrolment by Sex, Malaysia,1957–2000 34 Secondary School Enrolment by S ex, Malaysia,1957–2000 35 Percentage of Males and Females in Primary and Secondary Schools, Malaysia,1957–2000 36 2. 4 2. 5 2. 6 2. 7 2. 8 2. 9 2. 10 2. 11 2. 12 2. 13 3. 1 4. 1 4. 2 4. 3 4. 4 4. 5 4. 6 5. 1 5. 2
Number of Students Enrolled in Year Six to Form Five by Sex,1991–1995 Enrolment in Vocational and Technical Schools by Sex, Malaysia,1957–2000 Proportion of Female: Male Students in Vocational and Technical Schools, Malaysia 1957–2000 Enrolment in Tertiary Institutions by Sex, Malaysia, 1957–2000 Proportion of Males and Females in Tertiary Education, Malaysia,1959–2000 Enrolment in Engineering Course, Malaysia,1991–1998 Output of Graduates in Engineering, Malaysia,l991–1998 Educational Attainment of Women by Stratum, Malaysia, 1970,1980 and 1991 Number of Students in Adult Education Classes by Sex, Malaysia,1958–1967 Literacy Rate by Sex, Malaysia,1970–2010 Percentage Distribution of Employed Persons by Occupation and Gender, Malaysia,1957–2000 Maternal Mortality per 1,000 Live Births. 1956–2000 Life Expectancy at Birth in Malaysia by Sex,1957–2000 Number of Pap Smears Read by the Ministry of Health, 1982–1998 Number of Reported Cases of Domestic Violence, 1984–1997 Number of Suicide and Self-inflic ted Injury Cases in Malaysia by Sex Number of Women Living with HIV and AIDS,and Deaths in Women from HIV/AIDS Percentage of Women in Elected Offices/Appointed Offices, Malaysia,1959–2001 Women in Top Management in the Malaysian Foreign Service 1992,1994 and 1999 7 37 38 39 40 41 41 42 43 44 63 75 76 81 84 85 86 98 101 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY i. Efforts to forge greater gender equality have resulted in Malaysian women achieving significant progress in key socio-economic areas since Malaysia gained independence in 1957. However, despite the progress made, new concerns on the role and status of women have emerged that could adversely affect the participation of women in the economy and social spheres. In light of this, the Government of Malaysia, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) jointly undertook a study to document and evaluate the progress of women in Malaysia during the period 1957–2000.
This study is intended to capture the achievements of women in education,health,economy, politics and power sharing, and decision making. Secondary data from the Department of Statistics surveys and administrative records from government agencies and nongovernmental organisations are used for the study. The report for the study contains five chapters, with chapters 2 to 5 assessing the progress of women in specific key areas while chapter 1 highlights the Government’s initiatives taken to advance women in development. Development planning for the advancement of women was introduced in the Sixth Malaysia Plan, which has a chapter on the development of women.
The Sixth Plan and subsequent plans contain strategies to incorporate women in the process of development in line with the objectives of the National Vision Policy on Women (NPW). Equitable sharing of resources and access to opportunities for men and women forms one of the objectives of the NPW. The formulation and implementation of an action plan to operationalise the NPW during the Seventh Malaysia Plan resulted in the implementation of more coherent and focused programmes to integrate women in development and elevate their status. Significant progress has also been made in the setting up of the required institutional and administrative machinery to plan, coordinate, implement and monitor the development of women. These include the Ministry of Women and Family Development, the Department ii. iii. vii f Women Affairs (HAWA), the National Advisory Council for the Integration of Women in Development (NACIWID) and the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO). In addition, the enactment of new laws and the continuous review and amendment of existing legislation have been undertaken to preserve, reinforce and protect the rights and legal status of women. iv. Malaysian women have benefited from increased access to education and training as indicated by the improvement in their literacy rates and net enrolment at all levels of education since 1957. The enrolment of female students at the primary level increased by more than three and a half times during the period 1957–2000.
At the secondary level, the enrolment of female students increased by more than 36 times to reach a total enrolment of 985,692 students in 2000. With regard to enrolment in technical and vocational schools the percentage of male students has always been higher than female students. The enrolment of Malaysian women in tertiary institutions reflected the evolution of tertiary education in Malaysia, which has been gradually expanding in total number and relative terms, especially after 1970. In 1959, female undergraduates comprised 10. 7 per cent of the total student enrolment in the University of Malaya, but increased to 51. 3 per cent of the total enrolment in local universities by 2000.
Non-formal educ ation in the form of adult education, home economics and entrepreneurial training programmes has improved the literacy rates of rural women and enabled them to acquire new knowledge and skills. Despite the increasing number of female student enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, the concentration of female students in non-technical courses is a major area of concern. The participation of women in the labour force has been increasing since 1957,they are engaged in paid employment or are employers, self-employed and unpaid family workers in all economic sectors. Overall, female employment accounted for 34. 7 per cent of total employment in 2000 as compared to only 24. per cent in 1957. An analysis of female employment by occupational category also shows a rising trend of women moving into occupations that require postsecondary education. However, the majority of women are concentrated in low-skilled and low-waged occupations. They are viii v. under- represented in top managerial and decision-making posts in both the public and private sectors. Gender-specific issues that continue to hinder the progress of women in the economy include traditional gender constructs, sex role stereotyping and gender division of work, multiple roles of women, gender segmentation and stratification, and gender discrimination at work.
To address these issues, more concrete steps will have to be taken so that women’s involvement in the labour market and corporate world can be more significant and meaningful. vi. Improvement in the health status of Malaysian women in the last four decades has been the key to their well-being and active participation in the economic, political and social development in the country. Efforts in expanding and developing health services targeted at women and the family have been successful in reducing the incidence of deaths arising from communicable and noncommunicable diseases. The average life expectancy of women increased from 58. 2 years in 1957 to 75 years in 2000. The maternal mortality rate, a direct indicator of women’s reproductive health, has declined by tenfold to 0. per 1,000 live births after 43 years of independence. However, new health concerns are emerging and these include the health needs of older women, occurrence of domestic violence, mental disorders and increased incidence of HIV/AIDS cases. Malaysian women’s share in power sharing and decision-making in politics and the economy has been on an upward trend since independence. There has been an incremental increase in women voters, membership in political parties, political candidates, and appointments to elected and appointed offices. However, a gender gap still exists between men and women in terms of access to highlevel positions and participation in decision-making.
The number of women holding top management posts in the civil service and corporate sector is still relatively small. Gender barriers leading to the under-representation of women in decision-making and powersharing positions include cultural and institutional factors, gender roles and ethnicity, political culture, limited platform for women in political parties, lack of a critical mass, and gender-blind elements in recruitment and promotion. ix vii. Dato’ Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil Minister of Women and Family Development Malaysia Since independence,women in Malaysia have actively contributed towards the development of the country. Over the past four decades, we have seen significant improvements in the status of women and in gender equality.
The educational attainment of women is at a higher level, their participation in the labour force has increased and legislation that grants equal opportunities for women and respect for their human rights has been adopted in Malaysia. The country now has a growing number of women Ministers and policy makers. This report documents the achievements of women in Malaysia since the country attained independence in 1957 and allow us a look into the past to gain invaluable lessons. I sincerely hope that this report will be an important source of information to everyone who has the interest of Malaysian women in their hearts. The report also takes the opportunity to x honour Malaysian women who were pioneers in their respective fields and achieved success, all in their own terms.
The accomplishments of these women will definitely be an inspiration to other women in Malaysia to strive for greater heights. While the progress attained by women in Malaysia is remarkable, there is still room for improvement in certain areas, especially in science and technology. We cannot afford to bask in the successes we have achieved thus far. We must never forget that the gains made to date may be reversed should indifference, complacency or negligence set in. The journey to enhance women’s status in Malaysia is a continuing one because we have an important role to play in supporting Vision 2020,that is, the Government’s aim for Malaysia to achieve a developed country status by the year 2020.
The report would not have come to fruition without the support and cooperation from individuals and organizations, the public and private sectors, and the non-governmental organisations. Therefore, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation especially to the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, members of the Steering Committee, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for the assistance rendered in preparing this report. Thank You. July 2003 xi The Progress of Women Since Independence Box 1. 1: Malaysia’s First Lady, Dato’ Seri Dr Siti Hasmah bt. Mohd. Ali — An Inspiring Role Model for Malaysian Women Dato’ Seri Dr Siti Hasmah bt. Mohd. Ali,wife of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, is a medical doctor.
She was the second Malay woman to graduate from the Faculty of Medicine,University of Malaya in Singapore in 1955,and in a way,set the record for women in her time. She attributed her medical achievement to the foresight of her father who encouraged his children to excel in their studies by sending them to the best schools. She was the first woman to be appointed a medical officer in the Maternal and Child Health Department in the state of Kedah, which had a high incidence of poverty in the early days after independence (1950s to 1960s). In 1974,she was the first woman to be appointed as the State Maternal and Child Health Officer. Thereafter, she became aware of the needs of women, the majority of whom were illiterate, suffering from ill health and living in extreme poverty.
Due to poor education as well as inadequate infrastructure, including health services, they were resorting to traditional birth attendants. According to her, in the early days, many women died during childbirth from a lack of health services. Stillbirths and infant mortality were common occurrences. Diseases like tuberculosis plagued the people, especially the children. Women were ignorant of the methods of family planning. This prompted her and her husband to pioneer the setting up of the Kedah Family Planning Association, a non-government organisation offering family planning services to women, thus providing them a means to plan their pregnancies.
Her efforts in promoting the health of women is evident in several articles she wrote on the socio-economic factors associated with pregnancy and childbearing in Malaysia. She has been accorded academic recognition as reflected by her appointment as the Chancellor of the Multimedia University in 1997 and the honorary doctorates she has received not just from local (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) but also from foreign universities (Indiana University, USA and University of Victoria, Canada). In 1992, she was chosen as one of the six Core-Group Initiators of First Ladies to champion the economic advancement of rural women,and in 1995, she Continued on next page 12
The Progress of Women Since Independence assumed the chairmanship of the Regional Steering Committee on the Economic Advancement of Rural and Island Women for the Asia Pacific Region (RSC-AP). In 1996, she took over the helm of the International Steering Committee on the Economic Advancement of Rural Women (ISC) as its president. According to her,just before independence the country was preoccupied with post-war reconstruction and during that time, health status was static. Health services were mainly provided through a limited number of government dispensaries (in urban as well as rural areas). There has been significant progress made in health services after independence.
This is reflected in improvements in health statistics and the easy availability of services, even in remote and rural areas. The progress is partly due to the peace that has prevailed since independence which had allowed the Government to channel continuous efforts into development in all fields. Education has been an important contributing factor. She says, “The woman of today is educated so that she can be economically independent. She is also healthy and is able to take better care of the family. Social and cultural barriers like marrying young, having big families and having to deal with negative attitudes of men can be overcome when women are educated. On the progress of women,she says,“Women need to recognise that we have gained so much through the hard work of our predecessors;we need not fight for what we have but they had to fight every inch of the way. Therefore, we must recognise,give credit and be grateful to the men and women who have made it possible. Women must acknowledge that we need to work together with men,and together we will be effective partners in development. ” Dato’ Seri Dr Siti Hasmah said that the future challenges for Malaysian women include competition among women, exposure to and keeping abreast with men in the area of information technology (IT),and development of entrepreneurship among women.
The concerns for women also include married women having to cope with their careers and families, coping with children who are better educated than their parents, and the impact of HIV/AIDS on women,children and men. Source: Personal interview, July 2001 13 The Progress of Women Since Independence Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION I. BACKGROUND 1. 01 The role and status of women in Malaysia have undergone a profound change since Malaysia gained independence in 1957. With increased access to education,employment opportunities and changes in the socio-cultural environment, Malaysian women have progressed and participated effectively in all aspects of development of the country. Within a period of 43 years they have made inroads into all areas of development and spheres of life.
Particularly encouraging is the progress made by women in many key areas such as education, health, employment, and participation in power-sharing and in the decision-making processes. Changes in the legal and institutional framework have also been made to protect, preserve and safeguard their rights and improve their status. As Malaysia evolves from a subsistence agricultural economy to a knowledgebased economy, women will continue to be a primary force influencing the development of future generations of Malaysians as well as an important economic resource. Changes in the socio-cultural environment, which have helped to shape the profile of Malaysian women today, will continue to impact women in development. 1. 02 The 2000 Population Census indicates that about 49. per cent or 11. 4 million of the total population were women,with 52. 6 per cent in the age group 24 years and below, indicating a young female population. The proportion of the female population has increased slightly compared to 48. 4 per cent in 1957. Women have a longer life expectancy, 75 years compared to 70. 2 years for men in 2000. Due to their longer life p,the proportion of women in the 65 years and above age group has increased from 2. 8 per cent in 1957 to 4. 2 per cent in 2000. The health status of women has also improved since 1957, for example, the maternal mortality rate declined from 2. 81 per 1,000 live births in 1957 to 0. 2 in 2000.
With increased access to education and employment opportunities, women are entering the labour market and marrying at a later age. The mean age of the first marriage for men and women has risen since 1957,when the mean age for men was 23. 8 years and 19. 4 years for women. For women, it has risen to 22. 3 years in 1980 and 25. 1 years in 2000. 14 The Progress of Women Since Independence 1. 03 As the country progresses towards achieving greater gender equality, the role of the Government has been supportive, pre-eminent and continuous. In particular, the Government has provided an enabling environment for the advancement of women at both the national and international levels.
At the national level, the formulation of the National Policy on Women (NPW) in 1989 marked a turning point, enunciating for the first time clear guidelines for the effective participation of women in the country’s development. Thereafter, the five-year national development plans prescribed specific strategies and measures, including the establishment of appropriate mechanisms and institutional framework to progressively assimilate women into the mainstream of social and economic activities. Despite the progress made and new measures introduced, new concerns on the status and position of women as well as old issues continued to prevail during the period 1991–2000.
The issues are multifarious: violence against women, poverty amongst female-headed households, the need for childcare facilities and support for working mothers, the “triple load” or burden that women have to carry; work-and-family conflicts, sexual harassment at the workplace, and the under-representation of women in politics and decision-making positions. According to gender researchers and analysts, the root cause of these issues is the inability of the Malaysian society at large to understand and handle “gender problems” . Malaysian society continued to perceive the role, responsibilities and relationship between men and women according to the traditional mindset, based on the traditional family model where a male bread-winner heads the family and the wife is a full-time homemaker. The family structure has changed over time particular in the 1990s.
The trend shows an increase of nuclear families with dual income; and the Population Census 2000 indicates that 58 per cent of working women are married. Working single women and working mothers have specific needs which require a different support system. During the same period, global “gender issues” were also raised, culminating in the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action, calling on all governments to implement gender sensitivity training that would enable planners to formulate gender-responsive policies and programmes. 1. 04 At the international level the Government showed its commitment to promote the development of women by being signatory to several inte rn ational conventions on women, including the Fourth Wo rl d Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995).
The Conference identified 12 critical areas of concern for the advancement of women. The areas included poverty, 15 The Progress of Women Since Independence education, health, economy, power sharing and decision-making, and institutional mechanisms. As a follow-up to the Beijing Conference on Women Plus 5 and taking cognisance of the need to have a more comprehensive and integrated database of information on Malaysian women, the Government of Malaysia in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) undertook this study to document and evaluate the progress of women in Malaysia covering the period 1957–2000.
II. OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY 1. 05 The main purpose of the study is to chronicle the progress made by women in Malaysia, with special focus on four key areas: health, education and training, employment, power-sharing and political involvement. The study covers the period 1957–2000. The benchmark for measuring women’s progress is gender equality, which is the extent and depth of progress made by women in relation to that achieved by Malaysian men. The study will demonstrate the linkages between national policy initiatives and the advancement of women as well as identify future challenges. Specifically, the study will undertake the following: • • rovide an overview of the progress of women in Malaysia since independence; document the progress made in selected key areas, namely, education, health, employment, politics and power-sharing through basic indicators of quality of life such as access to education,health facilities and economic opportunities; review and analyse the integration of women in the nation’s development in terms of policy thrusts, key programmes/projects and activities as well as institutional support;and capture the achievements of women in Malaysia in other areas such as economics, politics, social development and law; and wherever applicable, singling out prominent women with outstanding achievements and contributions. • • 16 The Progress of Women Since Independence III. METHODOLOGY 1. 06 This study relies heavily on secondary data from existing government statistics – census data,labour force sur veys, vital statistics of the country – and departmental records from government agencies and ministries, non-governmental organisations and research institutions. These information sources provided women-specific data as well as genderdisaggregated data for the construction of key indicators for the period 1957–2000.
Key indicators were compiled for the status of women’s health, access to education and training, and employment, as well as participation in politics and decision-making. The study also used information and data culled from official documents, research publications and reports from relevant agencies. The paucity of gender-disaggregated data limits to some extent the analytical aspect of this report in specific areas. An exception is the census and labour force surveys undertaken by the Department of Statistics. 1. 07 In addition,data was also collected using the case study approach where prominent women, who have contributed significantly in their areas of specialisation, were interviewed.
Two women high achievers in decision-making and power-sharing positions were interviewed as role models for young women in Malaysia. 1. 08 Apart from the quantitative analysis using time-series data to show trends in women’s progress, this study also attempts to analyse the progress qualitatively by performing in-depth analyses of certain pertinent gender-sensitive indicators. For instance, the high percentage of women enrolled in universities is further analysed to see whether women undergraduates are mainly enrolled in women-traditional programmes (that is, pursuing degrees in education and other soft sciences) or in nontraditional programmes (such as engineering and computer sciences).
Women’s participation in the professional or higher-level (administrative and managerial) occupational categories and the male-female ratio within a profession are used to assess their progress in employment. The number and share of top-level decision-making positions assumed by women were further analysed to measure the gender gap. To measure the achievement of women in politics, the commonly used gender-sensitive indicator is the women’s share of parliamentary seats. 17 The Progress of Women Since Independence IV. OVERVIEW OF THE REPORT 1. 09 This report is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 highlights the government initiatives taken to advance women in important sectors of development, such as the National Policy on Women (1989) and the National Action Plan.
A list of recent amendments to existing legislation that have affected women’s advancement and well-being are also highlighted. This chapter also highlights the Government’s commitment at the international level. Chapters 2 to 5 discuss the progress of women in various key areas. 1. 10 Chapter 2 focuses on education and training of women, with highlights on women’s achievement in education at various levels of formal schooling and training. The trends in enrolment rates, or the ratio of male to female student enrolment at various levels of education, are analysed to measure changes in educational attainment of women and gender gaps in education.
Other indicators used to highlight the educational attainment of women for the 1957–2000 period include the ratio of female to male students in technical and vocational education, as well as enrolment in technical and non-technical degree programmes at te rt i a ry levels. This chapter also identifies the issues, gender barriers and constraints encountered by women in education and training. There is also a discussion on women’s access to non-formal education and training. Indicators used to measure the ad vancement of women in this area include women’s overall participation in training as well as in specific types of training offered by various agencies. 1. 1 In chapter 3, women’s achievements in economic activities for the period 1957–2000 are given prominence. The chapter elaborates the trends in women’s participation in the labour force, by industry and occupational category, in comparison to men. Women’s progress is assessed by analysing the trends and the gender gap in the employment status, employment pattern and skills as well as their untapped potential and low labour force participation rate. Gender-specific issues and constraints associated with women’s work and productivity are also identified. 1. 12 Chapter 4 traces the progress of women’s health since independence using standard mortality and morbidity indicators.
It shows how women in Malaysia have made great strides in achieving a higher level of health 18 The Progress of Women Since Independence status over the past four decades so that today their mortality and morbidity rates are almost on par if not below that of some of the developed countries. This impressive progress is, in part, due to health programmes that incorporated the risk approach strategy and the confidential enquiry on the maternal death approach. The chapter also highlights how the provision of rural health services has contributed to the improvement of the health status of women in the country. It cautions women against several emerging health issues, which they have to face as they enter the new millennium.
These issues include concerns for the health of older women as well as adolescents, the threat of infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS,domestic violence, and mental and emotional health problems affecting women due in part to their dual and competing role as mothers and wives and their role as employees. 1. 13 In chapter 5, women’s participation in decision-making and power-sharing positions is assessed by analysing the trends and quality of women’s involvement in politics, and as political appointees as well as participants in the public service sector. The number and distribution of female executives in the private sector as well as in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also included in the analysis. The findings confirm the wide disparity that exists between men and women in leadership and decision-making positions.
The majority of women involved in politics,and as employees in the private sector, cooperatives and NGOs primarily held lower ranking positions. The author attributes the low participation of women in top decision-making or power- sharing positions to the strong influence of traditional thinking that “men are leaders, women are followers” . In general,this traditional gender ideology permeates the thinking process in the selection of candidates for leadership or decision-making positions. V. GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT PLANNING 1. 14 Efforts in economic and social development in Malaysia began with the implementation of the First Five-Year Plan (1956–1960) on the eve of the country’s independence.
This plan and the subsequent development plans concentrated on sustaining economic growth,physical development, diversification of agriculture and industrial development with the objectives of expanding employment opportunities and income improvements. The New Economic Policy, launched in 1971, emphasised national unity and nation-building through a two-pronged strategy of 19 The Progress of Women Since Independence eradicating poverty regardless of race and restructuring society so as to eliminate the identification of race with economic functions. None of the development plans, however, gave any special attention to issues and strategies for the advancement of women until the Sixth Malaysia Plan (1991-–1995). It was the first time that a five-year development plan had included a chapter detailing programmes and projects for the development of women.
The chapter also contains specific strategies to effectively incorporate women in the process of development in accordance with the objectives of the National Policy on Women (NPW),which are as follows: • • to ensure equitable sharing in the acquisition of resources and information as well as access to opportunities and benefits of development, for men and women;and to integrate women into all sectors of national development in line with their abilities and needs in order to improve the quality of life, eradicate poverty, abolish ignorance and illiteracy and ensure a peaceful and prosperous nation. 1. 15 While the Sixth Plan recognised women as an important economic resource, it identified the following constraints which were inhibiting the involvement of women in economic activities: • • • • he dual and, often, competing responsibilities of family and career restrict the mobility and increased participation of women in the labour market; gender differences in schools not only translate into occupational differentiation later; it also limits the adaptability and participation of women in the labour market; social norms and prejudices regarding the role and status of women in society and in the labour market restrain their involvement in economic activities; women with children, who are financially dependent on their husbands, are particularly vulnerable in cases of domestic violence. The lack of skills very often limits their options, thus preventing them from securing alternative sources of income; 20 The Progress of Women Since Independence • omen are often perceived as secondary earners who only supplement family incomes rather than as co-earners whose economic activities are crucial to the family. Consequently, income-generating programmes targeted at the women generally reinforce their home-maker roles, providing few opportunities for the acquisition of new and more marketable skills; the lack of appropriate management training and the consequent absence of professionalism, inadequate access to credit and a paucity of relevant market information also hinder the participation of women in the economy; and the working environment is generally not conducive to the sustained employment of wives and mothers. This limits the training opportunities available and hampers career development.
The separation of home from the workplace and the fixed hours of work constitute additional drawbacks that preclude prolonged female participation in the labour market. • • 1. 16 These issues provided the backdrop for the Government to formulate strategies, and plan for the setting up of an appropriate institutional structure to enhance the social,legal and economic position of women in the next decade. The formulation of an Action Plan to operationalise the NPW in the Seventh Malaysia Plan reflected the Government’s efforts to address these constraints and commitment to include women as equal partners in nation building. The areas included in the Action Plan are: • • • • trengthening the national machinery for the integration of women in development; raising public awareness and sensitivity towards issues relating to women; mobilising the NGOs to increase their efficiency and effectiveness in undertaking socio-economic programmes; encouraging positive action for the advancement of women in various fields;and 21 The Progress of Women Since Independence • promoting the role of women in family development. 1. 17 The implementation of the Action Plan, a pioneering effort that formally began in 1990, had resulted in more coherent and focussed programmes to integrate women in development and further elevate their status in society. However, there are still constraints that limit progress. At the start of this 21st century, the social and economic status of women relative to men is still not satisfactory and the disparity may become greater due to the effects of globalisation and use of information and communication technology (ICT).
In view of these gaps, strategies to enhance the role of women in development were included as one of the key policy thrusts of the National Vision Policy (NVP) 2001–2010. The NVP states that opportunities in employment, business and social activities will be made available without gender bias, thus promoting equity in opportunities for both men and women. Women’s economic participation is to be enhanced through the provision of greater access to training and retraining, more extensive use of flexible working hours, the provision of creches as well as facilities to enable them to work from home. Entrepreneurship among women will be promoted actively by providing greater access to information,financial and technical resources. 1. 8 To operationalise the NVP in the medium term, strategies and programmes are contained in the Eighth Malaysia Plan (2001–2005). The strategies for the advancement of women focussed on the following: • • • • • • increasing female participation in the labour market; providing more education and training opportunities for women to meet the demands of the knowledge-based economy and improve their upward mobility in the labour market; enhancing women’s involvement in business; reviewing laws and regulations that inhibit the advancement of women; improving further the health status of women; reducing the incidence of poverty among female-headed households; 22 The Progress of Women Since Independence • strengthening research activities to increase participation of women in development and enhance their well-being;and strengthening the national machinery and the institutional capacity for the advancement of women. 1. 19 The Action Plan, National Vision Policy and various other strategies to promote gender equality and progress of women represent formal and continuing efforts taken by the Government under the various development plans. Their coherent and effective implementation will determine the extent and depth of the incremental progress of women in Malaysia in the years ahead. VI. ADMINSTRATIVE MACHINERY FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN 1. 0 The implementation of policies, strategies and programmes requires a supportive institutional structure and appropriate administrative machinery. Significant progress has been made in the setting up of the required institutional and administrative machinery to plan, coordinate, implement and monitor development programmes for women. The establishment of the Ministry of Women and Family Development in February 2001 marks the culmination of efforts to assign women’s development and issues to a specific ministry. The establishment of this new ministry represents an important change in the mindset of policymakers who have become more gender-sensitive.
Currently, the institutional structure for women and development can be categorised into planning, coordinating and monitoring (Ministry of Women and Family Development), advisory and planning (National Advisory Council on the Integration of Women in Development), advocacy (National Council of Women’s Organisations), coordination and monitoring (HAWA) and implementation (line ministries and departments, semi-government and non- government organisations). 1. 21 The Ministry of Women and Family Development is the lead agency to undertake gender responsive planning and policy formulation for women. It is responsible for the integration of women in the national development process through coordination, monitoring and evaluation, planning and policy formulation,and reporting to the Government. Its major 23 The Progress of Women Since Independence objective is to mainstream women in nation-building and strengthen the family institution by integrating gender into all aspects of planning and development.
To ensure that gender and family perspectives are integrated into national policies, it undertakes coordination on gender issues between Government agencies, NGOs, the private sector and communities as well as audits existing legislation and regulations that affect the interests of women. Its functions also include increasing opportunities for women to upgrade their socio-economic status, and providing education and training opportunities to women to support its planning functions. To support its planning functions, it undertakes research and development in gender, population,family development and reproductive health. It also acts as the secretariat for the National Advisory Council for the Integration of Women in Development (NACIWID) and is the national contact networking with nternational agencies dealing with women’s issues as well as the secretariat for regional and inte rn ational agencies pertaining to women’s programmes. 1. 22 HAWA is a major department under the Ministry and the main contributor to the planning process of the Ministry. It was first set up as the Women’s Affairs Department under the Ministry of Labour, being responsible for the coordination of the development of women. It also acted as the secretariat to the National Advisory Council. In 1978 it was transferred to the Implementation and Coordination Unit (ICU) in the Prime Minister’s Department. In 1983,it was re-designated as a secretariat named HAWA in the Administration and Finance Division of the Prime Minister’s Department. Since 1983 HAWA has undergone several changes.
In 1990,it became a government department in the Ministry of National Unity and Social Development, but was placed under the Ministry of Women and Family Development upon its establishment in February 2001. The major responsibilities of HAWA are, among others, to implement the capacity development programmes and projects for women, organise gender sensitisation programmes and gender planning courses to enhance awareness about women’s concerns among policy makers, planners and programmers, and provide skills in integrating issues in development planning and policy formulation. 1. 23 The National Advisory Council on the Integration of Women in Development (NACIWID), a consultative and advisory body to the Government and non-government organisations, was established in 1976 24 The Progress of Women Since Independence n accordance with the United Nations’ Resolution on integrating women into the mainstream of the development process. Its members, who are appointed by the Minister of Women and Family Development, are drawn from women leaders in the community, NGOs, professional bodies, political parties, and the private sector as well as academicians and retired civil servants. NACIWID acts as the main body through which women-related issues are channelled to the relevant authorities, and plans and evaluates activities of women’s organisations. Besides promoting and encouraging research activities, it also communicates with relevant organisations within and without the country to promote national and international understanding. 1. 24 The National
Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) is a nonpolitical, non-religious and non-communal organisation, and acts as the umbrella organisation for women NGOs in Malaysia. At present, the NCWO has more than 200 welfare, political,professional and labour organisations affiliated to it, including a number of active and important organisations. The NCWO’s main role is to be a consultative and advisory body to women’s organisations and to bring all these organisations together. It also has a Commission for Action on the National Policy for Women and state level committees. 1. 25 There are various major organisations implementing women in development (WID) programmes.
These include the Community Development Division (KEMAS), the National Population and Family Development Board (NPFDB),the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA). KEMAS’s programmes on women focus mainly on family development including home economics such as nutrition and family health at the village level, work-oriented classes such as tailoring and handicrafts and agriculture aimed at producing food for the family or the market, and pre-school programmes such as establishing community pre-school child-care centres and adult literacy programmes. The cultural, social,economic and demographic factors which affect women in development are addressed through activities undertaken by NPFPB. It also promotes population and family development as well as reproductive health-related concerns.
The DOA and FELDA carry out programmes mainly on family development, improvement of the quality of life, entrepreneurship of target groups, and income-generating activities such as training, financial assistance and other inputs for the benefit of women,primarily in FELDA’s 25 The Progress of Women Since Independence agricultural schemes/estates. VII. LEGAL STATUS OF WOMEN 1. 26 Women’s legal status with regard to citizenship, education, employment,legal rights and status in marriage, divorce,and the guardianship of children are embodied in the Federal Constitution as well as in other legislation which have been enacted from time to time. Considerable legislative changes have taken place over time, especially after 1957.
New laws have been enacted while existing laws and legislation are continuously being reviewed and amended to preserve, reinforce and protect the rights of women. The adoption of the Women and Girls’ Protection Act 1973 and its 1987 amendments, the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act 1994 in 1996, and the introduction of the Code of Practice on the Prevention and Handling of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace are examples of legislative measures targeted at protecting the dignity of women. Amendments to other pertinent acts and laws such as the Employment Act 1955 and the improved provisions of the Income Tax Act 1967 are aimed at safeguarding the economic interests of women. Women under the Federal Constitution 1. 7 Malaysian women’s rights as citizens to participate in the political and administrative life of the nation are implicitly recognised and guaranteed by the Federal Constitution,which states under Article 8, clause 1,that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”. Clause 2 further provides that “except as expressly authorised by this Constitution,there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of any property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation,or employment”.
This clause does not contain a specific provision against gender-based discrimination and may allow for protective discrimination against women under the Employment Act. The omission was rectified on 2 August 2001, when the Dewan Rakyat approved an amendment to Article 8(2) to include the word, “gender” in the categories referred to in the clause, which now reads“there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth and gender in any law…” Women’s rights are, therefore, now explicitly stated in the Federal 26 The Progress of Women Since Independence Constitution. 1. 28 The Government had also taken steps to accord equal status to women under the Constitution’s provisions for the award of citizenship and permanent residence.
Under A rticle 15 of the Constitution, no conditions were imposed upon foreign wives of citizens to apply for citizenship. However, a subsequent amendment made in 1962 included various conditions, including the “good character” requirement for foreign wives of citizens when applying for citizenship. By another amendment to Clause 2 of Article 15,citizen rights could be acquired by any child of a citizen. This amendment puts women on par with men as regards the granting of automatic citizenship of children born to them. However, foreign spouses of Malaysian women are denied such rights based on the assumption that, upon marriage, women would follow their husbands to their home countries.
With the constitutional amendment of Article 8 (b),steps have been taken to remove the differential treatment regarding the acquisition of citizenship rights by the foreign spouses of Malaysian women (as announced by the Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Home Affairs on Women’s Day 2001). Employment Legislation and Women 1. 29 The Employment Act 1955 (revised in 1981, 1994 and 1999) is the major legislation which regulates all labour relations, and certain parts apply equally to men and women,such as contracts of service, wages, rest hours, hours of work,holidays, annual leave, sick leave, termination and layoff benefits. There are, however, specific parts in the Act, which pertain only to women, such as maternity protection and night work.
There is no stipulation in the Act which prohibits employers paying lower wages to their women employees, as compared to male workers, for doing the same amount of work. Women in the private sector may therefore be subject to wage discrimination. In the public sector, however, women have equal pay for equal work. At present,women in the private sector also do not have any legal redress against wage discrimination. Part VIII of the Employment Act 1955,“Prohibition Against Nightwork” states that no employer shall require female employees to work between 10 o’clock in the evening and 5 o’clock in the morning in the agricultural or industrial sectors.
However, the Employment Women Shift Workers Regulations 1970 stipulates that “any female employee employed in shift work in any approved undertaking which operates at least two shifts per day may work at such times within the hours 27 The Progress of Women Since Independence of 10 o’clock in the evening and 5 o’clock in the morning, as the Director of Labour may approve” The effect of the 1970 regulations is to allow women . to work at night, with the result that female employees working in night shifts have become the general rule rather than the exception. Section 35 of the Employment Act also prohibits the employment of women in underground work,unless the Minister gives an exemption. . 30 Part IX of the Employment Act provides for paid maternity leave for a period of not less than 60 consecutive days for every female employee in the private sector. In May 1998,the Government reviewed and extended the maternity leave for women employees in the public sector from 42 days to 60 days, for a maximum of up to five deliveries. Public sector women employees can choose to extend their maternity leave up to three months as unpaid leave. Paternity leave of up to threedays is also given to male employees in the public sec tor. 1. 31 In 1998, another amendment was made to the Employment Act, which provides for flexible working hours.
This provision expands the opportunities for women,including homemakers, to be gainfully employed in part-time work. It also provides opportunities for employees to create flexibility in work processes and arrangements, such as teleworking, homebased work, job sharing, and compressed workweek that would enable women employees to balance their work and family demands. Other Laws Affecting the Status of Women 1. 32 All Malaysians have equal right to education under the Constitution of Malaysia. This implies that there is no discrimination against women and men. Article 12(1) states that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, descent or place of birth: • • n the administration of any educational institution maintained by a public authority, and in particular, the admission of pupils or students or the payment of fees;or in providing out of the funds of a public authority financial aid for the maintenance of education of pupils or students in any educational institution (whether or not maintained by a public authority and whether within or outside the Federation). 28 The Progress of Women Since Independence 1. 33 The Universities and University Colleges Act 1991 stipulates open membership to all irrespective of gender. The New Economic Policy of 1970 also provides equal access to educ ational opportunities for both male and female Malaysians. 1. 4 With regard to the legal recognition of the guardianship of children, the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961 initially militated against women. The Act was amended in 1999 to allow for joint guardianship of children in matters relating to immigration and registration. With the implementation of the amendment in 2000 mothers are allowed to sign all documents involving their underaged children. 1. 35 The Income Tax Act 1967 (amended in 1975,1978 and 1991) gives an option to married women to have separate income tax assessment. The clause prohibiting a married working woman from separate income tax assessment was subject to several amendments (1975,1978 and 1991). The amendment of 1991 allowed for separate assessments for married women unless they choose to be assessed jointly.
Today, women taxpayers, whose husbands have no taxable income, are eligible for taxable relief similar to that available to a male taxpayer whose wife has no taxable income. 1. 36 With regard to the protection of women against domestic violence, the Domestic Violence Act was passed in 1994 and implemented in 1996. Domestic violence is now dealt with as a criminal offence with appropriate penalties imposed. Realising that legislation may only remove the more blatant discriminatory practices, the Government and NGOs in Malaysia continue to push for greater transparency of procedures adopted by police personnel, and have urged for the appropriate training and gender sensitisation of the relevant parties.
Currently, the NGOs are pushing for a review and amendment of the Act. 1. 37 The Ministry of Human Resources issued the Code of Practice on the Prevention and Handling of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace on 1 March 1999. This Code of Practice contains guidelines to employers on the establishment and implementation of in-house preventive and redress mechanisms to prevent and eradicate sexual harassment at the workplace. This approach is believed to be the most effective way of dealing with the problem. Employers are encouraged to implement policies and programmes on anti-sexual harassment, as well as to provide redress mechanisms at the 29 The Progress of Women Since Independence organisational level. 1. 8 There is also a specific legislation to protect the rights and dignity of women. The Women and Girls Pro te ction Act 1973 and the Child Protection Act 1991 were reviewed and streamlined into the Child Act 2000. Both the Women and Girls Protection Act (which contains provisions for prosecuting persons involved in prostitution and trafficking of women) and the Child Protection Act were criticised as being very vaguely worded and could be liberally interpreted. An underaged girl,if found in a dubious place or circumstances, may be interpreted to be “in need of protection” and may be detained in a corrective centre. Both Acts contain some aspects of discrimination,which could be damaging to victims. Box 1. : Definition of Discrimination Article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) states that“discrimination against women” shall mean: “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing,or nullifying the recognition,enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women,of human rights and fundamental freedom in the political,economic, social,cultural,civil,or any other field” . This definition implies that applying a neutral rule for women and men will constitute discrimination if the result is that women do not enjoy the intended benefit. 1. 9 In 1995, prior to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, Malaysia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),with some reservations. VIII. CONCLUSION 1. 40 Malaysian women have made significant progress since Malaysia gained independence in 1957. The progress is perceptible and near universal, with more Malaysian women, in both absolute and relative terms, being 30 The Progress of Women Since Independence involved in all key socio-economic areas than before: in education, in health, in the economy, and in power-sharing and decision-making. The quest for greater gender equality has been relatively successful,although improvements can still be made in certain sectors.
It will be necessary for the Government, which has played a leading role in women’s progress in the country, to continue providing the necessary assistance and legislative support to remove persistent barriers and to consolidate further the gains and progress already achieved. 1. 41 The Government’s commitment to improve the status of women has intensified over time. Mainstreaming gender into social and economic development plans is a continuous process to be undertaken by line ministries and state agencies (implementing women specific programmes and projects). Even so, Malaysia is an example of a country which has, since gaining independence, made great progress in improving the quality of life and status of women, particularly in providing them with ever-increasing opportunities to become stakeholders in the country’s economic development. Box 1. : Selected Relevant Declarations and Action Plans Signed by the Government of Malaysia • Equal Remuneration Convention (ILO No. 100),1951; • Discrimination (Employment and Occupational) Convention (ILO No. 111),1958; • First World Conference on Women 1975; • International Women’s Decade (1975–1985); • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),1978; • • • • • Third World Conference on Women,1985; Declaration on the Advancement of Women in the ASEAN Region,1988; Earth Summit Agenda,1991; Geneva Declaration for Rural Women by the Summit on the Economic Advancement of Rural Women,1992; 31 The Progress of Women Since Independence • • • • • •
World Social Development Conference, 1994; International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, 1994; Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995; World Food Summit, 1996; Micro-Credit Summit, 1997; An Update to the 1995 Commonwealth Plan of Action on Gender and Development: Advancing the Commonwealth Agenda for Gender Equality into the New Millennium (2000–2005);and • Beijing Plus 5, Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century (Special Session of the Venereal Assembly, 5–9 June 2000). 32 The Progress of Women Since Independence Chapter 2 EDUC ATION AND TRAINING OF WOMEN I. INTRODUCTION 2. 01 Article 12 (1) of the Federal Constitution which guarantees the right to education for all Malaysians regardless of gender has enabled Malaysian women to gain equal access to education and training. They have benefited from the increased access as indicated by the improvement in women’s literacy rates and net enrolment at all levels of education since independence.
Education, formal and non-formal has been vital for the personal, social and economic development of the women in Malaysia. An ongoing process,it has been the means for improving the knowledge, skills and attitudes of Malaysian women and their development capacity. With higher educational attainment Malaysian women are able to participate actively in the development of the nation, exercise their voice in the family, the communit y, place of work and the public arena of politics as well as enjoy greater economic independence. Despite the improved educational attainment of Malaysian women, gender differences still exist in enrolment in science and technical subjects,and the education they receive has gender stereotypes that perpetuate gender inequality. 2. 2 This chapter will trace the achievement of women in education and training, formal and informal, since independence. The advancement of women in formal education will be discussed in terms of the progress made with regard to accessibility to education as well as the gender-related concerns such as enrolment in science and technology education. Gendersensitive indicators such as the trends in female enrolment, the proportion of male to female student enrolment at the primary, secondary and tert

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