By Ahmad Soffian Mohd Shariff
Issues regarding gender parity and the plight of women all across the globe during the Covid-19 pandemic are still unaddressed by most governments in the world, as we are still scrambling to get on our feet after the devastating blow from the outbreak of the virus.
While Covid-19 affects all of us in some way regardless of our nationality, gender or age, we must understand that women are adversely affected more in terms of economic, education, health and gender parity than men.
According to the research done by the World Economic Forum, it is estimated that women make up 70% of all health and social-services staff globally and during the Covid-19 outbreak domestic, sexual and gender-based violence increases as we put ourselves in lock downs to curb the spread of the virus.
In April 2020, the Malaysian Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) stated that during the Movement Restriction Order period, they noticed an increase of 14% of reports regarding domestic violence afflicted towards women. This data is inconclusive as many women suffer silently in the shadows as they do not know where to seek help or are too afraid to do so.
As women make up almost half of Malaysia’s population, the problem that is currently faced by them must be considered as a problem faced by all of us. We need to address the issues that are affecting women immediately as to ignore it will cause a detrimental effect on our country’s economy and overall development.
In one of the webinar series hosted by the World Humanitarian Forum titled “Challenging Inequality: Gender”, our Minister of Housing and Local Government, YB Zuraida Kamaruddin stated that this is the right time for everyone in the world especially our country Malaysia, to look at women and their development as a solution to improve the livelihood of all. This includes providing space and opportunities for growth for women in the country to help uplift all of us in these troubled times.
If the problems that are currently faced by our women are addressed and acted upon, it will be beneficial for everyone in every sector, especially in the economic development of the world. This statement was later concurred by United States of America Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Madam Melanne Verveer , in which she said that women should be given platforms to elevate and empower their country and in the process will help themselves as an individual.
As a nation, we also need to understand that economically, women are more vulnerable than men as their personal finances are weaker and their part in the labour market is less secure, thus making it difficult for women, especially those who are single mothers or daughters who has to take care of their aging parents and/or disabled family members to bounce back after they had lost their job because of the virus outbreak.
The government needs to look into this matter seriously and action must be taken swiftly. Policies or provisions should be made in order to protect and empower our women so that they can have the opportunity to make a comeback economically and secure their economic standings.
Corporations, companies and employers should also play their part by making sure that our women who lost their jobs, will be given the opportunities to work again in all sectors that are suitable with their skills and qualifications.
Seeking a solution through gender perspectives in turn will secure our nation’s overall economic standings, as it can contribute to nation building and enhance the GDP of Malaysia with the mass involvement of women in all sectors of development.
We as a caring society should always be aware and respond to the plight of our women, whether it is regarding their financial issues or safety.
Everyone must make themselves ready to lend a hand to our women in their time of need. We should always be aware of their well-being, and look upon all women as our very own mother or sister. Only then, we can truly develop an advanced and caring society, with men and women side by side, able to embrace the shared prosperity vision that is the agenda of our country.