Give women candidates winnable seats, urges Yeoh

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh today urged parties to give female candidates winnable seats to ensure better political representation for women.

Referring to data from the Election Commission, she said women’s involvement in politics was still too low as parties were not nominating female candidates.

In the last election, she said, only 75 women were nominated as parliamentary candidates compared to 612 men, while 176 female candidates were nominated for state seats against 1,470 men.

“The problem is not a lack of leaders, but a lack of seats given by the party leadership.

“Party presidents themselves need to hear the grouses of their women leaders. This is a gatekeeper problem. There are just not enough seats being given to women.

“Give women candidates winnable seats. Don’t give them tough seats, and then treat it as though the female quota has been achieved,” she said in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Yeoh (PH-Segambut) was responding to Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang) on the lack of female representation and the reason for the problem.

To an earlier question by Nancy Shukri (BN-Batang Sadong) on whether the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government intends to undertake a study on mandating a 30% female quota through the constitution, as is the practice in countries such as Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia, Yeoh said there were no plans as yet.

However, she said workshops on the issue had already started in Penang and Selangor, and discussions had also commenced at the party level.

“Terengganu has used its constitution to appoint a woman in its state assembly, as they previously did not have a woman representative.

“Maybe in the future, this (mandating the quota through the constitution) can be done, but for now, in our Parliament, we do not have plans to do so,” she said.

To the initial question by Nancy on whether the ministry would implement a 30% quota system for women in Parliament as well as in the state legislative assemblies, Yeoh said the ministry had not set such a policy, but added that it was a minimum target that needed to be achieved.

Yeoh said Malaysia was ranked 104th out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Gender Gap Index, with a political empowerment score of 0.058 out of 1, which is very low compared to the education score of 0.991.

However, she believed the political empowerment score would rise drastically this year, citing the appointment of a woman as the deputy prime minister.

She said the number of women ministers had risen from three to five, while the number of women MPs had risen from 23 out of 222 MPs previously to 32 MPs.

As for female representation in the state legislative assemblies, she said the number had risen from 57 to 58, out of 505 state assemblymen.