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Malaysia urges for greater women's empowerment
Published in Bikya Masr on 22 - 02 - 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian minister in the Prime Minister's office has called for the country to empower women in order for the Southeast Asian country reach its goal of being a fully developed nation by the end of the decade.
Nor Mohamed Yakcop said that “Whether we succeed in optimizing our women talent will, in large, depend on corporate Malaysia," speaking in his keynote address at the launch of the ACCA Malaysia Sustainability Reporting Awards (MaSRA) 2013.
His comments came on the heels of a report, “Retaining Women in the Workforce", compiled by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Talent Corporation Malaysia (TalentCorp) released on Friday.
The report seeks to understand the reasons behind Malaysian women's low participation in the labour force.
It is the result of a survey done in mid-2012 on the state of female employment and retention in Malaysia.
The report was released today at the launch of the MaSRA 2013. In a statement ACCA and TalentCorp said to gain a better insight into the issue, ACCA and TalentCorp mooted a joint survey to analyse the factors behind the scarcity of women in the Malaysian workforce.
According to the World Bank-Malaysian Economic Monitor, November 2012 report, it falls short at 46 percent, compared to Asean countries like Singapore (60 percent) and Thailand (70 percent).
“The survey revealed that 93 percent of female respondents on a career break had considered re-entering the workforce. However, 63 percent find it difficult to do so.
“The study also found that only 30 percent of the respondents' employers have flexible work arrangements policy, coupled with only seven per cent having a childcare support facility policy in place," it added.
The report also highlights that while there are some within corporate Malaysia who champion gender diversity and inclusion programs, the fact remains that this is currently not in wide practice among Malaysian employers.
Women in the country have repeatedly been frustrated by the government's perceived “lip service” to women's rights issues and their calls for empowering the female business community in the country.
The Malaysian Women and Family Development Council on Monday said that they were establishing a national Sohonista Secretariat that would be tasked with educating and offering assistance for women to boost their online presence for their business.
The Council's chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was reported in local media as saying Sohonista is a reference to “small office, home office" where women for women can assist each other.
Ahead of a general election, she said the ruling Barisan Nasional Party's women's initiatives are aiming to strengthen the economy for women.
Still, some critics said that the move is political and previous efforts have done little to improve the status of female business owners in Malaysia.
“I hope this is more than just talk and that it will result in positive change and assistance for women, because it is sorely needed in this country," a marketing manager at a leading international firm in Kuala Lumpur Naveen Ahmad told
She added that “with an election coming up, I want to see real concrete movement before I believe it."
Abdul Jalil was adamant that the effort was series, saying that “the idea of establishing the secretariat arose as a lot of women, particularly those recently married or with small families, are forced to abandon their careers due to the problem of not having a maid.
“I see them as having ideas, resources and expertise to start an online business from home, but face hurdles in getting the necessary assistance," she continued.
“Sohonista does not just focus on women, as we are also keen on the participation of men, who might want to join this program," she told reporters after officiating the first Sohonista bazaar on Sunday.
Abdul Jalil continued to say that “the secretariat will also assist those involved in the online business to secure assistance such as advice, as well as facilities and finance."
No time table was given on the process and how women could apply for assistance.
“For example, the Prime Minister just launched the RM50 million Young Entrepreneurs Fund, for youths keen on starting or expanding their existing businesses.
“But many may not still know how or where they have to go to apply for the fund. So, we will act as a go-between for them," she added.

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