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Thursday, 28 January 2010

Strengthening Participation of Women in Decision-making

Towards achieving the goal of at least 30% women decision-makers in MCA
Background to Wanita MCA’s pledge on achieving goal of 30% women decision-makers in MCA

Mindful of the goal of improving the status of women, Wanita MCA has been conscientiously promoting the realization of the goal of 30% women as decision-makers within the party.

Back in 1996, Wanita MCA was successful in gaining the support of the former president Tun Ling Liong Sik to initiate amendment in the party constitution, and subsequently lead to the setting of 30% target for women as appointed councillors by 2000. We thus became the first party which promised to improve the status of women’s participation in decision-making amongst all political parties.

In 1998, MCA amended its constitution which required every division reserve at least one central delegate seat for Wanita MCA and this seat shall be determined during Wanita divisional general meeting. Thus, Tun Ling Liong Sik was honoured as the Father of Development in recognition of his contribution towards improving the status of women’s representation.

Unfortunately, the proportion of women’s representation as decision-makers by and large remains low and has not improved. This is primarily due to the lack of effective mechanism to realise the goal and relevant policy which has yet to be institutionalised in addition to the lack of political will of leaders from all levels in implementing the policy of achieving 30% participation of women at all decision-making levels in MCA. Thus, for many years, we have not made much headway in terms of improving the status of our Wanita’s representation as a whole.

In order to overcome such impediments, the Political Strategy Bureau of Wanita MCA had thoroughly gathered and drawn upon best practices from various countries and political parties throughout the world on their thriving efforts to increase women’s participation as decision-makers. Such efforts are geared towards working out a proposal which is feasible yet effective for the party, with the hope that it would be well-received, upon its completion by the party leadership. With full endorsement from the party leadership on effective policy measures, Wanita MCA hopes that it would subsequently lead to transformative change and towards attaining the target of 30% women decision-makers in MCA.

Under-representation – Malaysia ranks at 109 out of 130 countries in terms of political empowerment according to the Gender Gap Index 2008. This is not surprising given the strikingly low proportion of women across federal, state and local levels of the legislature. The lack of gender parity in political representation is highly unacceptable where women constitute almost half the population of Malaysia.

National Gender Representation – The proportion of women representatives is generally low since Independence in 1957 with the exception of appointed positions in the Senate where the proportion of women has achieved the critical mass index of 30% with 30.8% of women senators as of November 2009; elected women representatives in the Parliament 10.8% (2008) and State Assembly 7.8% (2008), appointed women councillors 12.4% (2007). The level of women’s political representation at the higher levels of decision making is even more strikingly low- 6.9% Federal Cabinet Ministers (2009) or 17.5% Deputy Ministers (2009); 8.7% State EXCO/ State Cabinet Minister (2008) or 0% Mayors/ Presidents of Local Councils.

Gender Representation in MCA- Markedly Low

a. % of Gender Representation in the Senate- 2 out of 10 = 20%

b. MCA Candidates in Recent GE 2008
i. Parliament- 7 out of 40 = 18%
ii. State Assembly- 9 out of 90 = 10%

c. Gender Representation in other positions
i. Central Committee- 5 women out of 41 = 12.2%
ii. MCA Division Chairpersons- 2 out of 191= 1%
iii. Coordinating Officers (Pegawai Penyelaras) in Selangor = 1 out of 18 = 5.6%

Why the need to increase women’s representation in MCA

Rationale for increase of women’s representation in MCA:

Justice- women should get a fair chance as political leaders and it is not fair that men dominate leadership positions;

Women’s interest- women’s interest may not be adequately represented by men, thus election of women will ensure women’s interest are better represented

Revitalised Democracy – increasing women’s representation in leadership position (changing the balance from merely participation to representation) would reflect a larger ambition of increasing and enhancing democracy.

Source: Anne Phillips, “Democracy and Representation:
Or, Why should it matter who our representatives are?”, 1998

Presently, political parties which have made commitment to achieve at least 30% of women as political leaders would definitely have an edge over others which are deeply patriarchal, highly gender imbalanced and not reflective of true democracy.

• PKR amended its constitution so that 30% of party leadership positions were reserved for at the party’s special congress on 13 June 2009 (The Nutgraph, 16 June 2009);

• DAP set a goal of at least 30% women as party members, delegates, candidates and leaders by 2015 in April 2009 (The Nutgraph, 18 July 2009);

• UMNO Wanita is lobbying for their party to 30 percent women representation as decision makers in the party Aug 2009 (The Star 1 Aug 2009).

So if other parties have set precedence, why not MCA? MCA could be the first BN component party to realise the 30% policy of women in decision making within the party and also for candidacy to federal and state legislatures. If the target could be achieved, then we will be able to:

• fulfil the government’s policy of achieving at least 30% policy at all decision making levels announced by former PM in August 2004

• consistent with amendment to Article 8(2) which upholds gender equality and non-discrimination based on gender in 2001 and

• in line with commitment as a signatory to CEDAW since 1995

We welcome anyone with good suggestion in this respect to share with us on how to move forward. Let us join hands towards achieving the goal of 30% women at all levels of decision making.

Effective strategies on promoting at least
30% participation of women in decision-making

Temporary Special Measures

It is globally accepted that gender quota is an effective strategy to fast-track participation of women at political decision-making levels (otherwise it would take probably 40 years to achieve at least 30%).

Although it may take the form of affirmative action/ positive discrimination however, it is temporary by nature with the objective to rectify the present gender imbalances in political representation.

At present, there are 3 types of temporary special measures and hybrid systems which are adopted by various countries, political parties and institutions.

1. Legislative Quota - is a law which is passed in the Parliament to impose 30% quota across the board. This strategy at the various legislative levels ensures a certain percentage of women as nominated candidates however it does not guarantee the intended proportion of women elected.

• Gender quota of 5-50% since 1990s (Namibia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Belgium, France, Italy etc)

• Practised in 28 countries worldwide (6 in Asia; 15 in Latin America; 7 in Eastern Europe)

• Best Practices
Philippines – Must include women : 23% women elected (2007)

Belgium – 50% women candidates : 35% women elected (2005)

Costa Rica – 40% women candidates : 39% women elected (2006)

Argentina – 30% women candidates : 35% women elected (2005)

Iraq – 25% women candidates : 26% women elected (2005)

2. Reserved Seats - reserve places for women in legislative assemblies that men are not eligible to contest and involves changes to national constitutions. This strategy guarantees number of women elected as opposed to legislative quota and voluntary party quota.

• 3 to 30% Parliamentary reserved seats for women to contest since 1930s (India 1930s; Taiwan 1940s; Pakistan 1950s);

• Practised in 18 countries (5 in Asia; 9 in Africa; 4 in Middle East)

Best Practises of Reserved Seats in Parliament

• Taiwan- Legislatures at all levels of the government instituted the reserved-seats system- 10-25% since 1947.

• Malaysia- The Sarawak Chief Minister reserved for women 1 out of the 3 newly delineated Parliamentary seats during the March 2008 General Election (The Borneo Post, 7 Nov 2007)

Best Practices of Reserved Seats in Local Government

India- 1993 Amendment to the 73rd and 74th Constitution provides for 1/3 reservation for women as Chairperson of these bodies and reserved local seats

Pakistan- In 2001, the government reserved 33% of the seats in all elected local government bodies for women. In 2002, 20% of the seats in the provincial assemblies and the national Parliament were reserved for women.

Africa- The 1995 constitution of Uganda provides that 1/3 membership of each local government council be reserved for women. Prior to 1995, there was only an average ratio of 1:5 of women councillor.

3. Voluntary Party Quota - involves voluntary reform in party constitutions where parties pledge to nominate a specific percentage of women among candidates. Similar to legislative quota, it does not assure the final proportion of women elected.

• Gender quota of 15-50% since 1970s (Israel, Netherlands, Norway)

• Practised in 77 countries worldwide
Western Europe (17 countries), Eastern Europe (20 countries), Africa (15 countries), Latin America (12 countries), Asia (6 countries), Middle East (5 countries), North America (1 country- Canada), Australia

Examples of Voluntary Party Quota practised in Asia

• Thailand - Democrat Party 30%

• Taiwan - Democratic Progressive Party 25%
- Chinese Nationalist Party 25%

• Philippines - Philippines Democratic Socialist Party 25%

• South Korea - Democratic Party 20%
- Grand National Party 30%

• India - Indian National Congress 15%

• Fiji - Fiji Labour Party 20%

Source: Mona Lena Krook, “Quotas for Women in Elected Politics: Measures to Increase Women’s Political Representation Worldwide”, 2007

4. Hybrid system

Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)- Sanction if voluntary system aimed to achieve gender balance ignored
Amendment in 1990 to IPU’s Statutes provides that “same sex delegations” to IPU assemblies three consecutive times would have their officially registered numbers (Article 10.3) and voting rights reduced [Article 15.2(c)]. The participation of women in IPU assemblies has since increased, almost reaching 30% in 2004 and notable decrease in “same-sex delegation” to the Assemblies.

Norway- Voluntary Quota + Sanction
Initially in February 2002 a voluntary quota system of 40% was introduced to increase women’s participation as board of directors by July 2005. However, women’s participation at boards only increased to 25%. In response, the government introduced quota legislation with sanction which heftily penalises companies which fail to comply- first with fines, followed by deregistration from their national stock exchange and subsequently dissolution. By end of 2008, there were more than 40% women as board of director.

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