PETALING JAYA: Former Penang opposition leader Jahara Hamid claims Umno’s culture inhibits women from contesting top positions in the party, following youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin’s promise to create a vice-presidential post for Wanita Umno if he wins the presidency in the coming polls.
Jahara said Wanita Umno had been pushing for a vice-president’s position on the Supreme Council for years, but was never successful.
“It doesn’t matter if it was suggested by Khairy, this was a resolution that the Wanita wing has been pushing for,” Jahara told FMT.
“There were many other women-related proposals that the Wanita wing proposed in the past, but we got nothing but lip service. They can say anything they want, but whether or not they can realise it, we’ll see.”
In 2014, Wanita Umno chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil had asked for the wing to be given a vice-president’s seat. Several Umno Youth delegates, including Khairy, had voiced their agreement.
However, Jahara said party culture had inhibited Umno women from contesting top positions. “Nothing is stopping them, but because of such a culture, they have held back from stepping up, so much so that they have lost confidence in themselves to contest for these posts.”
At this year’s Umno elections, Noraini Ahmad, Azizah Mohd Dun and Siti Zaharah Sulaiman are among those contending to be Wanita Umno leader, in succession to Shahrizat who is stepping down.
Jahara said Wanita Umno had suffered neglect and a lack of equality.
“We have been forgotten. And because of that, we have also lost the support to contest for higher posts. Even if we wanted to, there is a lack of support within the party for women candidates to contest for these posts,” she said.
“This must change. We have to move forward without this culture. Otherwise the party will never change.”
She said nothing should stop women in Umno from vying for even the deputy presidency or the presidency.
“But the problem is that there are not enough women candidates suitable to take up the role. We need to seriously look into this, and start grooming women candidates,” she said.
“Look at Pakatan Harapan’s Wan Azizah. I take my hat off to her for being the first woman deputy prime minister,” she said.
Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is deputy prime minister and women’s minister, as well as president of PKR.
“If Pakatan Harapan can do it, I don’t see why Umno cannot do it too,” Jahara said.