March 8th will forever remain a significant and historical date in Malaysian history as power of the people came to play in 2008 when the nation witnessed the fall of 5 state governments that have been held by Barisan Nasional for over 50 years into the hands of the Opposition parties in Malaysia.

March 8th will also be a day for women to hold their heads up high as women walked, shoulder to shoulder with fellow Malaysians in both the 12th General Elections in 2008 and 13th General Elections 2013 where not only did their votes contribute to the change in leadership in 5 states but that desire snowballed to 2013, where Malaysians felt, was the moment that we all had been waiting for, 505 for CHANGE.

For the past 10 years voices of women have been heard more and more in the Dewan Rakyat and also the State Assemblies from women elected representatives particularly from the Opposition as well as from civil society pushing for women empowerment, gender equality, equal pay between men and women, electoral reform, for women and children’s healthcare, protection for children, sexual and domestic violence against women and children, ending child marriages and female genital mutilation, education for all irrespective of race or gender, warring against child labour and all in all, the fight to end discrimination, bigotry, misogyny, patriarchy, corruption, tyranny, race-based politics and to bring down a kleptocratic regime.

In Malaysia, gender equality and women empowerment is at least 50 years behind Iceland, known as a forefront nation for gender equality because of its strong political will of women and men to ensure that Government policies are seen through to be executed with adequate funding for it.

It’s 2018 in Malaysia and after 60 years of independence, it is evident that the Prime Minister’s pledge that 2018 be dedicated as a year to women is nothing but an insincere evasion from being held accountable in boosting women participation in decision making arenas as he rewarded the post of the Chairman of the MyWIN Academy Advisory Council for himself and Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing as Deputy Chairman when he should have rightfully proposed for a capable woman to helm the post of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman in this council. This alone shows that what the Prime Minister, who was one time Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, practices is far from what he preaches. Even the MyWIN website is under construction 7 months after the announcement last August.

The achievements by this 60-year-old Barisan Nasional administration is feeble and measly what with a huge federal fund as well as resources but most importantly it has failed as executioners of policies, initiatives and projects compared to the success stories by the Penang and Selangor State Government in the past 10 years after a regime change. Penang became the first state in Malaysia to form an agency within the State Government known as the Penang Women Development Corporation (PWDC) and was followed by Selangor with their Institut Wanita Berdaya (IWB) as state think tanks to formulate policies and proposals to improve the quality of lives of women, children and families in the respective states. The Pakatan Harapan governments have proven that we walk the talk when we have invested our energy, finances and drive to assist mothers from all layers of society, women and mothers in the workplace, to promote affordable childcare, to advocate gender equality and gender responsive budgeting, to offer healthcare subsidies, for mammogram screenings, grants for small businesses by skilled women, and a platform for women from all walks of life to be seen, heard and noticed.

When women are empowered and supported, they influence their families and society which directly serves as a catalyst in nation building.

All this is possible when states choose, above everything else to prioritise and invest in the betterment of women so that the voices of women will grow loud and strong, without fear of favour for a better Malaysia.

After 60 years, BN has clearly shown that doesn’t even bother to “listen, listen, listen” to the cries of women who are now pushing, and pushing hard for progress.

Putrajaya must heed the call for more women empowerment by investing in women, as women and youth hold the key in nation building.

Kasthuri Patto

Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan

Publicity Secretary for Wanita DAP