“Gender equality is not a woman’s issue. It is a human rights issue. It affects us all”

On 21 September 2018, the Diplomacy Talk Series (DTS) in partnership with Brickfields Asia College (BAC) organized a talk on Gender Equality – the first of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The objective of the event was to create awareness amongst youth on gender equality issues prevalent in the global arena.

The talk was moderated by BAC’s very own Katrina Doshi, founder and director of DTS. Two eminent guest speakers, Her Excellency MS. Mhlanga and YB Maria Chin Abdullah who have made significant strides in raising awareness on gender equality were hosted by DTS.

H.E Mhlanga was the first to take the stage and recounted her personal experiences from childhood to motherhood. To this end, the audience had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of South Africa during the leadership of President Nelson Mandela’s time until the present day, in terms of its political, economic and social impact from a female perspective. It became undeniably clear that South Africa has made remarkable progress in bridging the gender gap politically. As it stands, 41% of women hold seats in the national assembly in South Africa ranking it 10th worldwide in parliamentary representation. This is a commendable improvement compared to 1994, where there was merely 2.7% female representation in Parliament.

YB Maria Chin Abdullah was the second and final speaker of the day. Her speech on gender equality in Malaysia bore similarities with South Africa, emphasizing the universal nature of gender discrimination. Her speech explored gender equality from a political perspective, delving into Malaysia’s efforts in overcoming gender inequality through organizational reform. In particular, the Sexual Offences against Children Act 2017 is a progressive piece of legislation that has strengthened the law on sexual offences against women and children. The possibility of introducing sex education within the national school curriculum in the near future is definitely a step in the right direction. However, the reluctance to acknowledge LGBTQ rights in Malaysia, as pointed out by one student is a grim reminder that Malaysia still has a long way to go in achieving gender equality. YB Maria Chin cautioned that if such rights are to be acknowledged, constitutional reform would be necessary.

At the end of the talk, students were invited to engage in an interactive session with the esteemed speakers by asking questions and proposing reforms.