Jaslyn Go calls for greater Asian women political participation

Gender equality in Singapore is still a far way off, said Ms Jaslyn Go, SDP’s representative at the ASEAN Women’s Forum that was held in Bangkok last week.

The ASEAN Women’s Forum sought to examine the progress the ASEAN region has made in regards to female political leadership.

Women parliamentarians from the region (including Dr Nalinee Taveesin, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office of Thailand and Ms Maria Climaco, Deputy Speaker of the Philippine Parliament) were in attendance.

Ms Go pointed out that the PAP Government is good only in providing lip service when it comes to granting Singaporeans’ their civil liberties and women’s rights.

The Women’s Charter was enacted in Singapore in 1961 to outlaw polygamy and to provide women with some basic and legal rights. Since then, however, little has been done to advance gender equality in Singapore especially in the area of politics.

This is evident is the national leadership where there are no women in the cabinet. Less than 20 percent of MPs are women.

Ms Go reiterated the SDP’s position that there should be more women in top leadership, more being done to enhance work-life balance for women, and more being done to end trafficking of women in Singapore.

Women’s political parity will assure that more women’s voices are heard and that more women’s perspectives are honored, creating a more natural balance in local, regional and global affairs. A balance that should properly reflect the fact that women comprise 50% of the world’s population and must have an equal say in tackling its problems and in prompting its ideals.

Ms Go also pointed out that by educating and empowering women, men will likewise be empowered especially in an autocratic state like Singapore.

Furthermore, the issue of women’s political empowerment is not just about gender issues but also creating a holistic perspective at the national and international levels, including issues of war and peace, healthcare, education, etc. These are issues that require input from both genders and people from all walks of life.

Ms Go related the work of the SDP’s Women Democrats (WD) in Singapore. The WD are actively working to encourage the greater involvement of women in the country’s political process. In March this year, it organised a
public forum to discuss the issue of discrimination against women in Singapore. It will also be holding a workshop to talk about
Holistic Health for Women on 1 July 2012.

She encouraged greater networking among ASEAN women politicians and activists, and sharing each others’ experiences.

Reinforcing her point was Dr Rainer Adam, Regional Director of the Southeast and East Asian Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF). Dr Adam pointed out that women represented only 18 percent of all elected officials in Asia. He noted that politics continues to be a career that is not open to women, something that he hopes will change.

Dr. Adam suggested that ASEAN needs to establish a “system that allows women to get exposure and experience [in politics]”. FNF was one of the sponsors of the forum.

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