March 8 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, a day devoted to remembering the women who have moved and stirred the world over the past century. To commemorate the day, Citizen Journalist Carolyn Khor spoke to Penang’s State Youth, Sports, Women, Family and Community Development Committee chairman Lydia Ong Kok Fooi on various issues affecting women in Penang and Malaysia in general.
Is gender really that important? Why?
What role does a woman play in the society nowadays?
Lydia: Women have always worked very hard. From housewives to corporate positions and politics, women have contributed a lot to the society. In Penang, we still need more women in politics and decision making. Although there are many qualified women around, they are primarily involved in NGOs and only giving advice to the policy makers.
How does identifying yourself as a female help define your role in the society today?
Lydia: I cannot make the changes alone. But to my best abilities, I work very closely with all the NGOs to bring forward their views and suggestions, and to implement them for the betterment of the womenfolk in the state. I want to be able to empower the less fortunate women, especially single mothers to be able to have a sustainable living; and to have the awareness to stop sexual crimes.
As a female are you equal, below or above the male gender?
Lydia: All human should be treated fairly and equally. Nobody is above anyone.
Do you think LGBT should get equal recognition as the third gender?
Lydia: Once you are a human you have a right. It is only the mindset. Asians are too conservative. Religion plays a big role in deterring people from accepting this group of people too.
As a female, what are you most concerned about?
Lydia: Crime rates and safety of the women. In Malaysia, the women don’t feel safe. Crimes against children are high especially in villages and in estates where domestic violence and rape are rampant. They are just not well-informed to protect themselves.
What is your wish for International Women’s Day?
Lydia: I wish that women can live in a very peaceful, safe and loving environment and be respected for as an equal, and that all women help other women.
Lydia Ong is the state assemblyperson for Berapit in Seberang Perai , and also the State Youth, Sports, Women, Family and Community Development Committee chairman.
Pusat Perkhidmatan Wanita is sponsored by the Penang State Government and managed by Women’s Crisis Centre (WCC).
67A, Jalan Perai Jaya 4,
Bandar Perai Jaya,