Wednesday, January 9, 2013

AWL Xmas Party - 7th December, 2012

Written by Khoo Chai Har.

Christmas has always been a special occasion for AWL, and year 2012 was not an exception. For this year, our Treasurer, Sharmini Thiruchelvam had graciously volunteered to host AWL's Christmas dinner party at her residence in Petaling Jaya.

        When I arrived at Sharmini's home at about 8:15pm, a few of the AWL members were already seated with drinks in their hands. The house was beautifully decorated, a Christmas tree stood in a corner where gifts were laid beneath.

Hors d'oeuvres and aperitifs were served by our gracious hostess herself personally, while her son was our bar tender for the night and  happily mixed our drinks for us. The food were delicious, and the members were more than happy to help themselves to the blinis (Russian pancake) topped with caviar and sour cream, skillet skewers with a combination of cheese, fruit and olives, blinis topped with sambal ikan bilis and a variety of meat balls while wine and liquor continued to flow.

        In between bites, we quickly caught up with each other’s lives and we even got Ida Daniella (Dani) to sing for us . Always one to humor us, Dani began belting out Irene Cara's "What A Feeling" while the rest of us clapped,  cheered her on and tried to sing along.

        After much bantering and laughing, dinner was served buffet style and as always, all of us piled our plate highs with salad, rice, vegetable and mutton curry, grilled chicken. Dinner was as good as the hors d'oeuvres (if not better), and we began begging our hostess for her recipes.

Immediately after dinner, the exchange of gifts took place amid much delight and laughter. This was followed by a game of Taboo, where all of us were split into 2 groups. The competitive edge of us lawyers began to reveal itself as the night went on and in the end  the losing team had to perform a Christmas dance, a scene from the movie "Mean Girls"! . It was a sight to behold to see some of the lawyers perform.

        After much laughter and raucous in our hostess' living room, we all adjourned for a night cap and the night continued with games and small talk. All in all, it was a lovely celebration for all of us and the party encapsulated the spirit of Christmas in its entirety.

      We are indeed grateful to Sharmini for being so generous with her hospitality.

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The Alternative CEDAW Report Launch - 6th September, 2012

Meera and I were invited to the launch of the Alternative CEDAW Report prepared by 22 NGOs. Had to rush to PJ and was in time to catch the oral testimony of NoorFadilla - whose wrongful termination of a teaching contract created headlines resulting in a landmark decision where the Court recognised and upheld Malaysia's acession to CEDAW holding that the termination of her employment on the basis of her pregnancy was gender discrimination and unlawful.

Noorfadhilla at the podium.
NoorFadilla's personal account was tremendously moving as she related how she was shamed by her colleagues and relatives just because she chose to speak up.

She was courageous enough to stand up, to fight the injustice and claim her rights, and by doing so, paved the road for others.

The Noorfadhilla case is authority for the principle that United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has the force of law and is binding on Malaysia (ie our government), further holding that pregnancy was not a reason not to employ a pregnant woman. Such a stand is a clear form of gender discrimination and is unconstitutional.

She expressed her gratitude to her parents, husband and support from the NGOS and also for the pro bono legal work from the team of Edmond Bon and Honey Tan. Kudos to the legal eagles!

I met her lovely family and the little child whom she was pregnant with, the centre of dispute, now a strapping little boy.

The Alternative Report.
22 women NGO groups had collaborated to produce an alternative report to assess the government’s progress in fulfilling its obligations under CEDAW.
Ivy Josiah, explaining the need for the alternative report.
It was interesting to hear how Malaysia has only acceded to 3 out of 9 human rights treaties:

a) CEDAW - ratified on 15.7.1995 prior to a major women's conference in September that year;
b) Convention of the Rights of the Child; and
c) Convention of the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities.
The crowd.
Globally, 80% of all countries have ratified at least 4 out of the 9 human rights treaties and statistics show that other member states are willing to be transparent and accountable. Unfortunately, Malaysia's CEDAW report to the UN on its fulfillment of its obligations under CEDAW has been overdue since 2008.

It was because of this delay and no reporting which led to the preparation by the non-governmental organisations of the Alternative CEDAW Report.

In one of the speeches, I can't recall exactly by whom, but I remember this being said, "Women must come forward and claim their rights. The law is our instrument, our "superheroes".

The unveiling of the CEDAW Alternative Report.
Taken with our "superheroines".
Ordinary women who found the strength to speak out and claim their rights.
L to R: Goh Siu Lin (Vice President AWL), NoorFadilla, Vani of Guppy Plastics, Meera Samanther (President AWL).

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