Elections for Selangor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah and Penang are happening tomorrow. We all want a country that will help set the stage so we can bring up children who will do the world justice, bring it peace, bring about joy, spark laughter, and be a beacon for others.
Nevertheless, it’s also a simple fact that not everyone necessarily has his or her finger on the pulse of politics. If you are a parent who falls into this camp, you might be wondering: “How do elections really affect us, and why should we care?”
Here are some reasons why mums and dads in Malaysia should care about politics. Don’t miss part two of this article tomorrow, which discusses what parents can do to encourage more interest in politics in their children.
1. Every aspect of motherhood is political
It goes without saying that mothers go through a lot. They juggle many roles, putting on different hats over the course of the day.
Many manage a house, hold on to a job, look after their children, and are responsible for their elderly parents, among other commitments. And every single aspect of this journey is affected by politics.
Pregnant? Politicians decide on the policies affecting Malaysia’s healthcare system. Seeking mental health support post-pregnancy? Access to mental healthcare is also governed by public policies.
From the number of maternity days mothers enjoy, to the quality of care their retired parents receive, the list of motherhood variables is long. Elections are a way of showing support for the politicians who prioritise such issues, and who consistently fight for the empowerment of women and mothers of Malaysia.
2. Elections impact our children
Parents want the best for their kids and want them to thrive now and in the future. Mums and dads worry about what they may face ahead – the quality of their education, for example, as well as overall wellbeing.
But there are even more serious issues in Malaysia, such as teenage pregnancies, mental health challenges, cyberbullying, and gangsterism. Former human rights commissioner James Nayagam has said these issues affect at least 3,000 children every year, with numbers expected to only increase if nothing is done.
He has called for commitment from the government to deal with these issues, as the rapid development of technology means these numbers are likely to rise with children exposed to “threats that are just a keyboard tap away”.
Mothers and fathers can do something about this situation. They can vote for candidates who support a stronger child protection system, which currently falls under the auspices of the women, family, and community development ministry.
With the ministry covering such a broad focus, time and resources are shared between many divisions: the current ratio is one child protection officer for 50 to 100 children, hardly enough for an adequate protection system.
Supporting candidates who will be pushing for the establishment of a separate children’s ministry will pave the way for a country that prioritises young people’s welfare.
3. If not us, then who?
“Children don’t vote, so children are not a priority,” Yayasan Chow Kit founder and activist Hartini Zainudin once said.
It’s a sad but hard truth – so who else will make sure children are a priority, other than parents?
The leaders of the country impact the formative years of children, affecting things such as, for instance, the number of hours they spend in school, or the educational resources they have access to.
And what about vulnerable children who also deserve the basic rights to health and safety? For many women, their concern extends beyond their biological offspring. As such, mums and dads can, and should, push for the protection of every child in Malaysia.
With individuals from well-educated families being more willing to vote, elections have long been skewed towards the interests of the privileged groups in society. Mothers need to stand in the gap for the young who are affected by the decisions of adults around them.
The policies made by elected leaders will permeate all aspects of our children’s lives, both directly and indirectly. As such, it’s important to vote wisely for candidates who will prioritise the welfare of the next generation.
This article was written by Elaine Yeoh for makchic, a Malaysian-based online site for chic, curious, and spirited parents. makchic has been providing trustworthy and authentic family-related content since 2013. For diverse stories of parenthood that inform, support and uplift all families, visit makchic.com and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (X).