By Rozana Isa
Sisters in Islam is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Napsiah Omar. A strong advocate of women’s rights, an inspirational role model of women in politics, and an important supporter in the establishment of SIS, Napsiah will fondly be remembered for her gentle nature, the immense love she had for her country, but most of all, her determination in forwarding the causes closest to heart.
One would be hard pressed to find a more formidable image of a woman fighting for the rights of Malaysian women than that of the late Napsiah Omar as she stood her ground when confronted by naysayers in the corridors of Parliament House.
The year was 1994, and Napsiah was about to enter the hall to push forward the the Domestic Violence Act, a legislation that took almost 10 years of campaigning to bring protection to survivors of domestic violence.
Despite continuous patriarchal pressure, she persevered – and minutes before midnight, it all came into fruition: the Domestic Violence Act was finally passed, and with it, protection and justice for victims of domestic physical, mental and emotional abuse and anguish.
As the minister of national unity and social development, Napsiah was a strong voice among Asia and Pacific ministers, raising her concerns for, and calling for the equal treatment of, women and men in the run-up towards the fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.
She championed the need to imbibe democratic values and principles within family relationships, gave attention to the vulnerability of women in the HIV/AIDS pandemic and called on Asia-Pacific governments to ensure that women’s interests were safe-guarded at all times.
She was also a strong advocate of sexual and reproductive health and the rights of women and girls, in her role as the chairperson of the National Population and Family Development Board.
Napsiah is also remembered for her deep concern for the participation of female undergraduates in public universities particularly in the areas of science, engineering and medicine.
She continued to play an active role in politics and the many causes she supported all through her retirement and even when she fell ill.
On April 16, 2018, Napsiah succumbed to liver cancer at age 74 and was laid to rest at the Kampung Jawa Muslim Cemetery in Kuala Pilah.
Rozana Isa is executive director of Sisters in Islam, an organisation that advocates justice and equality in Islam in Malaysia and the world.*
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of FMT.