Who would choose, on a day dedicated to honouring women in his country, to completely discount all previous work done by its women?
That’s exactly what Najib Razak, the incumbent Malaysian prime minister, said during his speech during the National Women’s Day celebration on October 2. In addition to being the prime minister, Razak also holds the portfolio of Women, Family and Community Development – one of the few male ministers in the world (alongside Samoa) to head a ministry dedicated to women.
Razak has a record of saying contradictory things: after launching a “new economic model” in 2010 to shift the basis of affirmative action to class instead of race, he then launched a program to help increase the economic participation of the indigenous Malays.
Malay leaders in the region are only starting to speak about the need to formally acknowledge women’s political and economic participation. While Brunei’s minister of Youth, Culture and Sports recently spoke about the need for Bruneian women in addressing environmental sustainability, Razak spoke about how Malaysian women are needed to work in both the private and public spheres.