101 International Women’s day: You must be the change you wish to see in the world! PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 March 2012
On this day, JERIT salutes women all over the world who are taking great risks to stand up and fight for dignity, justice and human rights for themselves and for their compatriots. Around the world,  women were not only on Twitter and Facebook, but also on the streets. Women from all walks of life were marching alongside men, pushing boundaries and breaking gender stereotypes, just as eager for change, for human rights and for democracy.
 
International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion to look back on past struggles and accomplishments, and most importantly, for looking ahead to the opportunities that awaits the future generations of women.

International Women's Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. In 1909, the first National Woman's Day was observed in the United States on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers' strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. From 1913-1914, International Women's Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.
 
Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. Increasingly, International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
 
The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men.
 
Malaysia: Public attitudes towards women have remained stubbornly traditionalist!
 
In Malaysia, August 2001, will be marked in the history of the women's rights movement in Malaysia as the Federal Constitution was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender.
 
"Except as expressly authorized by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent, gender or place of birth, in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to …."
 
The situation for women in Malaysia has made slow but steady progress. Over the years, public attitudes towards women have remained stubbornly traditionalist. We are disappointed to see in the so called "modern" Malaysian society, nothing had significantly changed for women.
 
Malaysian women and rights activists are constantly engaged in a never-ending tug of war with tradition and religion just to keep things moving  forward, especially in the face of the growing religious conservatism and discrimination  in Malaysia, mostly dominated by male.
 
This battle for influence has resulted in the Malaysia of today being a study of sharp contrasts when it comes to women's lives and rights. For example: in Malaysia the KTM Commuter has introduced ladies couch due to the increasing cases of sexual harassments towards women’s. But this is only a short term solution as it does not solve the problem in the long run. Everyday women and girls are subjected physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cut across race and class. Laws relating to rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment are still inadequate. There is still no legislation or act on the sexual harassment and thus leaving many women to tough it out in untenable situations. The responsibilities to solve this problem should be in hands of the government not only service providers. 
 
Muslim women continue to face hardships in cases of divorce, division of matrimonial property, polygamy, custody, and maintenance.There are shortcomings in Syariah law and its implementation that contributes to the abuse and injustice faced by Muslim women.
 
In Malaysia and all over the world, major disparities remain between female and male in terms of access to education, employment and salaries. Women comprise nearly two-thirds of the world’s 759 million illiterate adults. Even in regions with high rates of female literacy, women’s wages continue to be lower than those of men, even for work of equal value. While women are the world’s main food producers and their working hours are longer than those of men, women earn only 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than one percent of property worldwide. Furthermore, equal access to education is a key factor to enhance women’s empowerment and gender equality in employment, it is clearly not enough unless the discriminations are addressed at a broader level.
 
These concrete examples of unequal treatment are not a mere flaw of the law but it reflects a deeper value system by society. Deeply entrenched attitudes and practices perpetuate inequality and discrimination against women.
 
Democracy is only truly realised when political decision-making is shared by women and men!
 
Only when women participate fully in policy-making and institution-building will their perspective be truly integrated. The concept of democracy is only truly realised when political decision-making is shared by women and men, and women’s full participation in institutional re-building is guaranteed.
 
Let us now work together that women’s rights are at the foundation of these new beginnings, and let us be vigilant against any retrogression. Let us also today stand in solidarity with women in every corner of the world who are working for positive change in their families, their communities and in their countries.

In spirit of a better country for Malaysian women and all, JERIT calls upon everyone to come together to the gathering of Wanita Suara Perubahan on the 18 March 2012 at Padang Astaka, Petaling Jaya. This gathering is held in conjunction with IWD 2012.
 
Happy International Women’s Day!

 

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 March 2012 )
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