PETALING JAYA: The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government has been accused of taking “one step backwards” by failing to fulfil its election pledge of a minimum 30% women’s representation in the Cabinet.
Social activist Ho Yock Lin said the issue raised questions about whether PH parties had worked adequately to nurture quality women leaders as candidates for the general election in May.
The former president of the All Women’s Action Society (Awam) said the parties also needed to be taken to task over whether at least 30% of the candidates they had fielded were women.
“Have there been sufficient capacity-building programmes within the parties to allow women to participate?
“The political parties should try their very best to encourage women and have meaningful programmes to allow more women to come forward,” she told FMT.
“I don’t think there has been enough effort put in by these parties to create opportunities and build the capacity of women to take up the (leadership) positions.”
The PH government under Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has five women among its 26 ministers and four among the 23 deputy ministers.
Ho said the tally was disappointing, adding that women comprised 45% of the country’s labour force.
“This is the first time they (PH) are forming the government and many of us from women’s NGOs thought they would have enough women representatives,” she added.
Meanwhile, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) acting executive director Yu Ren Chung said although the new Cabinet was historic in many ways, women did not even comprise 20% of the line-up, contrary to what was promised.
He said PH had also made other promises on gender equality in its manifesto.
These included reviewing relevant laws such as on sexual harassment, gender education, improved resources for frontline police officers to handle sexual crimes, and setting 18 as the minimum age for marriage.
“The government must fulfil these promises,” he said.
He nevertheless congratulated the new ministers and deputy ministers, saying he was looking forward to working with them to build a more gender-equal Malaysia.