Friday, July 1, 2011

Press Statement from Malaysian women’s groups

1 July 2011

Today, women’s groups have come together to hold an urgent press conference to
express our deep concern and anger at the baseless allegations that the
non-governmental organisation Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
has links to communism.

Women’s groups are appalled and condemn the latest attempt to discredit an
organisation which works with grassroots women, providing training and
assistance with the aim of increasing women’s political participation.

Women’s groups have different areas of work, so as to complement and strengthen
each other’s work with a vision towards achieving gender equality. We provide
shelter or training for women, lobby for laws against violence against women and
advocate for increasing women’s participation in decision making. We have all
come together today to show our support for Empower and the importance of their
work in the area of women’s participation in decision making.

A poster of Shamsiah Fakeh was confiscated together with many other posters
depicting women in leadership positions. The selective highlighting of the
poster of Shamsiah Fakeh in all mainstream newspapers as “evidence” of Empower’s
links to communism is malicious and has been completely taken out of context.
Shamsiah Fakeh is not and should not be a taboo subject as she is a legitimate
part of Malaysia’s history as a nationalist.

This poster and others in a series on Malaysian women leaders, including BH Oon,
Che Siti Wan Kembang and images of dulang washers, rubber tappers and “black
and white” amahs, , are part of Empower’s training programme held in December
2010 on “Hidden Faces Unheard Voices”. This was used to raise awareness on
women’s political participation.. Therefore the work of Empower, particularly
the training programme is vital to increase the level of women’s participation
in Malaysia.


The Malaysian government has a national policy for increasing the political
participation of women to adhere to its obligations under the international
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW). In attempting to fulfil CEDAW’s obligations, the government has set
quotas stipulating that 30 per cent of decision making positions in both the
public and private sector must be made up of women. The government has in the
past invited Empower and other women’s organisations to take part in research
about increasing women’s political participation. On Monday 28 June, the Prime
Minister has even announced his full support to bring about 30% women’s
representation in the private sector

Women’s political participation in Malaysia is currently abysmal and the lowest
amongst ASEAN countries. In 2010, there were only 23 women Members of
Parliament out of a total of 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat (this constitutes
10.4 per cent) and only 8% at State assemblies.

The presentation of the selective information by the police, i.e. highlighting
only the poster of Shamsiah Fakeh, is a direct attempt to discredit Empower and
other organisations seeking to increase women’s political participation. In
effect, the government is sabotaging its own national policy to increase women’s
participation in all fields.

As Empower is also the secretariat of Bersih 2.0 and organising Perhimpunan
Bersih 2.0, the recent police action also is another attempt to tarnish the
Clean and Fair Election campaign.

Women’s groups call upon the police and the present administration to end all
attacks against groups who are supportive of the democratic process to reform
for a clean and fair election.

Released by:
- Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (comprising Persatuan Kesedaran
Komuniti Selangor (Empower), Women’s Aid Organisation, Sisters in Islam, All
Women’s Action Society, Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group, Women’s Centre for
Change and Perak Women for Women Society)

- Tenaganita,
- Association of Women’s Lawyers, and
- Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor.

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