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Press Statement by Chong Eng in Bukit Mertajam on Monday, 1st February 2010:

UMNO Hamidah Osman should not be afraid to break gender glass ceiling

The recent press statement by UMNO Perak senior executive councillor Hamidah Osman that women cannot be a Menteri Besar represents a thinking of the chauvinistic past.

I would like to encourage Hamidah Osman to take the step forward and in fact have more confident in herself and other women leaders to strive up to the highest level in every arena which we are involved.

What we want is the best person to lead the State or the Country. If the best person is a woman, I do not see any reason why she should not be appointed to be a Chief Minister or a Menteri Besar or even a Prime Minister.

In Malaysia, the head of government is appointed by majority support. The party which win the most seats in Parliament or State Assemblies will form the government, and the head of the winning party is usually appointed the head of the government. The head of party is in turn appointed by majority votes in party election. The spirit of democracy prevailed, no matter how imperfectly, at various levels of Malaysian politics.

Therefore, when a woman leader is able to garner popular support, there is no reason why she should not be allowed to take up the role of MB or PM. There is no reason why after decades and centuries of effort in gender mainstreaming, we still think that women are incapable of becoming top leaders.

Women can and have proven to be able to perform our duties professionally. Women in Malaysia and elsewhere have taken up the roles of leading organizations, corporations and even governments. Women such as Benazir Bhutto, Megawati Sukarnoputri, Corazon Aquino, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Soong Ching Ling and Pratibha Patil have been heads of Governments in Asia.

Hamidah should not be afraid to take the lead even at the highest level because she was also given the mandate by the people as a state assemblyperson of Sungai Rapat. We will be very happy to see another glass ceiling smashed broken by a fellow female politician, even from the other side of political divide. The Federal Government, especially the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development led by Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, UMNO's Women Chief, has been talking about gender mainstreaming and achieving CEDAW's 30%. This should give all women in Malaysia, including Hamidah, the confidence and the platform to face the challenges of traditional glass ceilings and achieve their highest potential, in consistent with our National Women Policy:

"to ensure an equitable sharing in the acquisition of resources, information, opportunities and benefits of development for men and women. The objectives of equality and justice must be made the essence of development policies which must be people oriented so the women, who constitute half the nations population, can contribute and realize their potentials to the optimum."

* Chong Eng, DAP Wanita Chairperson & Member of Parliament for Bukit Mertajam



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