Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Article for MUET reading

Article for MUET reading

Thursday October 11, 2012

Women’s rights not there yet

Musings By Marina Mahathir

Malaysian women’s groups have fought hard over the years and won some battles. But does this mean women are now truly equal to men in the country?
DO we women not matter at all? Are we only valuable around election time? Is the fact that we can vote the only indicator of our equality?
Women’s groups were in shock last week when – at a National Women’s Day celebration – the Women, Family and Community Development Minister stated that Malaysia had no need for a women’s rights movement because we were given equality from the start.
I understand that the remarks were off-the-cuff but it begs the question of how unimportant are Malaysian women viewed that they didn’t merit a carefully-prepared speech.
To say that we are better off than developed countries because we got the vote from the beginning is to skim the surface of history.
Yes, developed countries did not give the vote to women “from the beginning”. But they are also older countries, established during eras when archaic attitudes about women prevailed.
When we gained independence, of course we had to give women the vote because by then attitudes towards women had changed.
But what is more important is what has happened since then.
Switzerland did not give women the vote until the 1970s. But today they have had not only a woman president but half of their Cabinet members are women.
We, on the other hand, did not even appoint our first woman minister until a full 12 years after independence, despite the efforts that women put in during the independence struggle.
What’s more, we only amended our Federal Constitution to prohibit gender-based discrimination as late as 2001 – an act that even now is not fully implemented because a judge ruled that it does not apply to the private sector. Gender-based violence is also a discrimination issue because it is women who tend to suffer more.
If we had all our rights in 1957, why then did we need to fight for a Domestic Violence Act, a law that took six years to be passed by Parliament and a further two years before it could be gazetted?
Why did we need a Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce Act) in 1976 if women did not think their situation was unfair?
Why did we need the Guardianship of Infants (Amendment) Act in 1999 so that, finally, women could be recognised as guardians to their own children?
None of these changes that benefited women happened on their own.
A recent study by two American academics showed that, far more than women politicians, women’s groups are crucial in pushing for laws that benefit women.
Similarly, Malaysian women’s groups fought hard to gain these rights. They wrote memoranda, attended meetings, marched and protested. In the end they won some of the battles they fought.
Does this mean that we are now completely equal substantively to male citizens of this country? Of course not!
We are expected to work outside the home, and indeed often have no other choice, but we are still expected to cook, clean and care. This double burden can be deeply stressful especially if we have no support.
The Government has called for crèches at workplaces, but they seem to have no will to enforce that in the private sector.
But we are proud that companies are now being compelled to include women on their boards.
All well and good but the numbers being trained to do so are nowhere near the 30% government-mandated requirement. So, are we just meant to be tokens?
What is not mentioned is that when we signed up to the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, we said we would allocate 30% of the positions in all decision-making positions to women.
This means more than being on the board; this includes political positions.
So if we comply, we need to have nine women in the current Cabinet instead of the two we used to have. What’s more, 30% of all candidates in the coming elections should be women.
To say that we already have equality is to deny the very many reports on the status of women in this country that clearly states that we do not.

Article for MUET reading

Article for MUET reading

Wednesday October 17, 2012

Building a more just and caring nation


It is important for us to embrace the ideal that all sectors of society must be helped if they need help.
IT has been said many times in this column that as a nation we need to move away from race-based politics and policy-making.Whenever the issue is raised, however, there will normally follow responses that refer to the inequitable distribution of wealth in the country. The usual argument is that Malays still make up the largest number of poor and thus require affirmative action.

I agree that the largest number of poor households is still largely Malay. This being the case, if we discard ethnic-based policy-making and focus purely on poverty alleviation, the largest group that would be receiving help will still be Malays.

The difference with a colour-blind policy, however, will be two-fold.

Firstly, as a nation that purports to hold civilised values, it is of vital importance for us to embrace the ideal that all sectors of society, regardless of their skin colour, must be helped if they need help.

Secondly, it is unsustainable for us to continue to be governed based on race for there is no way we can grow successfully as a nation if there is a deep and abiding sense of division among us.
As the saying goes, talk is cheap. If one were to take this route, how does one go about it?
Surely the priority should be towards the building of a more equitable society, in terms of income, education, opportunities for development and institutional fairness.

Fortunately, two NGOs have decided to take the bull by the horns and have come up with an interesting suggestion.
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) and the National Human Rights Society (Hakam) have drafted a proposed law called the Social Inclusion Act (SIA).The SIA does not actually provide immediate answers or quick fixes.
Instead, it proposes a method through which we can develop policies that will be beneficial to Malaysians who are disadvantaged and marginalised.What it suggests is the creation of a Social Inclusion Commission. This commission will consist of seven people who are knowledgeable and experienced in the issues at hand, i.e. poverty and social marginalisation.

The shortlist is to be drawn up by a bipartisan parliamentary committee. The committee then passes the shortlist to the Prime Minister who then advises the Yang DiPertuan Agong who finally makes the appointments.
In other words, the commissioners will not be appointed on the say-so of one person.
There is also a strict requirement of disclosure in the SIA where commissioners are bound to disclose any interest they, their family members or associates might have with any matter which is related to their work.
This commission is to be responsible to Parliament to whom they will have to report regularly. These reports are also to be made available to the public.

The commission, once established, has the responsibility to address issues of poverty reduction, income inequality, institutional discrimination, capacity building for marginalised and vulnerable communities, and the provision of social safety nets.They are to then draft policies to deal with these issues and governmental plans of action are to be made in line with these policies.

There is a close link between the commission and Parliament, with the commission having the responsibility not only to report to the House but to also take all necessary steps to involve MPs in the development and implementation of their plans.

To me, this proposed law is attractive for many reasons.
Firstly and most crucially, it is concerned with the most vulnerable and needful sectors of the Malaysian community.
Secondly, it provides for a transparent modus operandi.
Thirdly, its work is closely intertwined with Parliament, thus respecting the democratic system.
And finally, it functions on the premise that concerted research has to be done in formulating policies.

Naturally, there is much work to be done to refine the SIA.
However, it is a bold first step forward for the country and it ought to be taken seriously by anyone who is serious about creating a nation which is more just, inclusive and caring.


Jadual MUET 2013

Note these important dates!

29th October registration opens and 16th November registration closes.

MUET 2013
March Session
July Session
November Session
Registration opens
29 October 2012
1 April 2013
8 July 2013
   Registration closes
16 November 2012
(All types of candidates)
19 April 2013
(All types of candidates)
25 July 2013
(All types of candidates)
14 January 2013
(Candidates who wish to improve on their
MUET November 2012 test scores)
2 May 2013
(Candidates who wish to improve on their MUET March 2013 test scores)
26 September 2013
(Candidates who wish to improve on their MUET July 2013 test scores)
MUET Speaking Test Dates
18, 19, 20 February 2013
25, 26, 27 February 2013
1, 2, 3, 4 July 2013
9, 11 July 2013
21, 22, 23 October 2013
28, 29, 30 October 2013
Written Test Dates
2 March 2013
27 July 2013
9 November 2013