Appointment of Noni recognition and honour for women
Published on: Sunday, October 13, 2019
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Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has chosen the right woman to head the Sabah Women’s Advisory Council (MPWS) for its current term, given the latter’s capabilities and vast experience in the State Public Service and her role in non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

None other than Datuk Noni J. Said who had chaired the Council previously, noted for her vocal power in speaking up on women’s issues without fear or favour. Keep up the momentum.

Despite also wearing the hat of Deputy State Secretary then (the first woman Deputy State Secretary in Sabah), she risked her position by fighting for women’s rights and interests through voicing out consistently in the media when she was the Chairperson of MPWS in the past.

And we believe she had inevitably stepped on the toes of her male superiors in persistently pushing for the women development agenda.

She was so outspoken and talk is that she was not fielded as a candidate in Sandakan in the previous election. Those who made the decision must be regretting now as the one they were confident would not turn frog became one of the first to jump ship.

Noni’s recent appointment goes to show that some men leaders do not fear smart women unlike some others who unreasonably feel “threatened” by vocal women. Due to inferiority complex?

The CM advocates men and women working together for the betterment of Society, the State and Nation.

Rightly so. While in Sabah a couple of years ago, Tan Sri Dr Rafiah Salim (first woman Vice-Chancellor in Malaysia) in her keynote address drummed home the point that “Man Matters” in Malaysian women’s struggle for empowerment and gender equality (equality between men and women) if they (Malaysian women) want to see the desired results.

Historically, Datuk Seri Shafie broke a 25-year jinx when he appointed Christina Liew (now Datuk) as one of his three Deputy Chief Ministers, following the 14th General Election last year, making her the first Chinese woman to hold this high-profile position. Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan (now Tan Sri) had appointed Datuk Ariah Tengku Ahmad as a Deputy Chief Minister in 1993 (Sabah’s first woman Deputy Chief Minister) under the then PBS Government.

Now, under the Warisan-led State Government, we are proud to have four women permanent secretaries, never before in the history of the State Civil Service as far as we can remember.

The new Council should not hesitate to approach the Chief Minister with their recommendations or proposals for women development in Sabah (as Noni had done in previous years).

MPWS under Noni’s leadership is in fact recognising men’s contribution by offering an appreciation award for any man who has been exceptionally supportive of women’s progress and promotion, be it in the public or private sector. Kudos to the Council on this initiative in conjunction with this year’s State-level Women’s Day celebration. Give it to the man who truly deserves this accolade as an inspiration to others.

Men who belittle women, men who bully women, men who sabotage women, men who still believe that men are food hunters while women are homemakers, men who suppress women, men who stubbornly refuse to promote women or prevent them from going up the ranks in their organisation’s hierarchy, do not qualify for this inaugural award.

There was a time when one senior male government officer pooh-poohed a former MPWS Chairperson who was delivering her speech on gender sensitivity and gender equality at a public event. “Rubbish”, he was overheard to have remarked. May He Rest In Peace! 

On another occasion, some male heads of department reportedly did not subscribe to the idea of having a gender focal point (also known as gender desk) in their respective departments. Basically, an officer (male or female) can act as a gender focal point in his or her organisation whereby his or her responsibility is to ensure that the needs, interests, aspirations and problems of both men and women are being addressed accordingly towards achieving gender equity (fairness) or gender equality.

To our knowledge, the Sabah Women’s Affairs Department (Jhewa) had some years ago selected some officers from various government departments to undergo training as gender focal points, only to be totally rejected after they were ready to play that role. What a waste!

To conclude, we wish to acknowledge the contributions of the Founder Chairperson of MPWS, Datuk Adeline Leong and past Chairpersons like Datuk Rita T. Jaafar, Datuk Asnimar Sukardi, Datuk Mariati Robert and Datuk Dr Tarsiah TZ Taman.

Women’s rights activists

Kota Kinabalu


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