31 October 2010

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday October 27, 2010
Stereotypes still abound

Although women have made great strides in Asia, there are still many areas in which they lag far behind, most notably in political participation.

AS PART of my work, both as a columnist and as an activist, I have to read a lot.

I read to learn and to inform what I say and do.

It takes time, but it needs to be done because when you’re involved in the business of persuading people, you need a lot of information in order to stand your ground.

It so happens that this year has really been a year of gender reports.

There was the UNDP Asia Pacific Human Development Report with the theme Power, Voice and Rights: A Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific, then the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report 2010 and also the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010 report that focuses on the issue of gender in the media.

These reports provide a lot of information.

For instance, the UNDP report says that although women have made great strides in Asia, there are still many areas in which they lag far behind.

There are still many “missing” girls in the birth rates of East Asian countries leading to issues of sex discrimination; 106 boys are born for every 100 girls.

In many Asian countries, between 40% and 65% of female employment is in agriculture, yet women head only 7% of farms in Asia, compared with a global average of 20%.

On the whole, the majority of Asian women are mostly in “vulnerable” employment such as in the informal economy or in low-end self-employment, subject to economic vagaries.

Furthermore, women generally earn less than men in Asia-Pacific countries, between 54% and 90% of men’s income.

When it comes to political participation, despite having had several female heads of state, women are poorly represented.

The Asia-Pacific region contains the second-lowest percentages of women parliamentarians in the world – the Arab region has the lowest.

Only about one-third of Asia-Pacific countries have a gender quota in place for Parliament.

The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report says pretty much the same thing.

In its report on Malaysia, which ranks 98 out of 134 countries, the only areas in which women exceed men is in tertiary education enrolment and in life expectancy.

In all other areas, women still lag behind men, most notably in political participation where only 10 of our parliamentarians are female and only two women are in the Cabinet, ranking us only 110 in the world.

Also interesting is the Global Media Monitoring Project Report that looks at gender bias in news coverage all around the world and publishes its report every five years.

Generally speaking, although there have been small increases in women’s visibility in the global media over the last five years, overall, “the quantitative and qualitative evidence gathered has revealed that women are grossly underrepresented in news coverage in contrast to men … the studies have shown a paucity of women’s voices in news media content in contrast to men’s perspectives, resulting in news that presents a male-centric view of the world”.

Only 24% of the people heard or read about in the news are women.

Thus, although many countries including Malaysia, have a lot of women presenters and reporters, the reins of power in the media are often held by men who decide what news would be covered.

Women reporters are often relegated to soft stories and rarely assigned to the hard political and economic stories.

Furthermore, when experts and professionals are quoted, they are rarely women.

Instead women are often covered as victims or “ordinary” people, rarely people with special knowledge on any issue.

Given this very extreme gender imbalance in the news, it is hardly surprising that stereotypes of women abound and that gender issues are rarely covered.

As the media have a large influence on the way a society is informed and educated, the lack of coverage of women’s issues thus leads to a situation where there is a lack of awareness of those issues or, at best, only marginal interest.

Reading these reports gives you an idea of what momentous challenges still lie ahead for women everywhere, even with the achievements we have made.

While our leaders may insist that Malaysian women are in fact doing very well, when benchmarked against other countries, we realise that we really have nothing to shout about.

In the Global Gender Gap report, there are only 36 countries out of 134 who are worse off than us.

We are the lowest-ranked Asean country; the Philippines is the highest-ranked at number 9!

Gender gaps clearly have nothing to do with economic status.

Our work has to start from the evidence before us.

That is what informs and inspires us. Therefore I am puzzled as to why Puteri Umno should choose to tout the issue of sanitary pad commercials as the root of social ills.

Have they not read anything?