KUALA LUMPUR: The year 2009 witnessed women in the country making great strides in the field of administration, entrepreneurship, education and employment.
The earliest recognition for women came as soon as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took office in April where he added another two women deputy ministers to his new administration.
Najib’s line-up has two ministers and six deputy ministers from the fairer sex.
The two women ministers are Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.
The two new faces are Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Rashid Shirlin and Deputy Minister of Information Communication, Arts and Culture Senator Heng Seai Kie.
Meanwhile, Senator Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun was reappointed to the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, this time as a deputy minister.
The others are Deputy Agriculture and Agro Based Industries Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim, Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Maznah Mazlan, Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Datuk Tan Lian Hoe and Deputy Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Noriah Kasnon.
The appointments stand as testament to Najib’s confidence on the fairer sex’s ability and integrity in holding important positions in the government.
During the year 2009 more women in Malaysia chose entrepreneurship despite the lack of financial support and global economic woes.
Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said in June the government has taken note of the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has been given the task to identify the factors that impede women in business.
Chew pointed out that 16 per cent of the small and medium scale industries (SME) involved in services and manufacturing, belong to women.
“Malaysian women entrepreneurs are increasingly gaining recognition as the main players in the economy, especially SMEs, and there are even some heading multinationals that were once dominated by their male counterparts,” she said.
Women could now hope for numerous grants and government funds, including special assistance schemes through Small and Medium Industries Corporation (Smidec).
In the field of education, it is obvious that the women are ahead compared to their male counterpart.
This is proven by the fact that 65 per cent or 26,200 of the 40,366 candidates offered places for a first degree at public institutions of higher learning for the 2009/2010 academic sessions are women.
The Director General of the Higher Education Department Prof Datuk Ir Dr Radin Umar Radin Sohadi noted the gender imbalance in the institutions of higher learning being something unavoidable as the intake now is based on meritocracy.
Though this gender inequality issue crops up annually but striking a balance seems to be difficult.
Nevertheless, there are some fields of study where the masculine gender still dominate, for example in chemical, civil and mechanical engineering, while the fairer sex opt for ‘cleaner fields’ like laboratory research and others that doesn’t require physical endurance.
A survey conducted by Grant Thornton International on April ranked Malaysia in the fifth placing when comes to women holding senior positions in medium and big enterprises where they accounted for 31 per cent only.
However, this is an increase of eight per cent from 23 per cent in 2007, noted SJ Grant Thornton in a statement.
The study also found that up to 39 per cent of businesses in the nation have more women in senior positions.
“The government agreed in principle on the policy to ensure at least 30 percent of the senior positions in the public sector are reserved for women.
“Through this empowering policy, we will be able to see more women in senior administrative positions who can contribute in various organisations and sectors like economy, government, financial services, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and many more,” noted SJ Grant Thornton’s managing partner Datuk N K Jasani.
The year 2009 also witnessed some sterling achievement by women including the world number one squash player Datuk Nicol Ann David recording seven wins from the 11 international tournaments that she participated.
Nicol received the ultimate recognition when on Oct 20 the government officially named the Main Court of the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil as “Nicol David Arena”.
Meanwhile, the appointment of Senator Datuk Armani Mahiruddin, 52, from Sabah as Dewan Negara’s deputy President is another testament on the government’s trust on women’s ability to lead.
Armani’s appointment is historic because she is the first woman to hold the position.
It is hoped that Armani’s appointment will inspire women to work harder to better themselves in any field.
Meanwhile, the 2009 World Brand Congress handed the brand leadership award to the president of Institute of Marketing Malaysia (IMM) Datuk Sharifah Mohd Ismail in Mumbai.
She is the first professional from Malaysia to win the international award.
The year 2009 also witnessed Malaysia’s first female jet fighter pilot flying Royal Malaysian Air Force’s MiG- 29N.
Major Patricia Yapp Syau Yin, 33, from Sabah did the nation proud.
However, 2009 also witnessed a number of cases where innocent Malaysian women were made use by drug mules.
On May 20, two Malaysian women were detained at the Pudong Airport, in Shanghai, China for trying to smuggle a kilogramme of heroin.
An international syndicate from Africa is believed to have hired them.
Meanwhile Siti Aishah Hamid, the Malaysian who was freed from a prison in Karachi, Pakistan in April after serving a four-year sentence returned home and promised to turn a new leaf.
Siti was also made use as a drug mule.
Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansur during the inaugural Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Women’s Summit on July urged serious steps be taken to help innocent women who are victims of human and drug trafficking.
She recommended that websites be created to share information on the problem. — Bernama