On the 9th of May 2018, Malaysia took to the polls in a historic event that will go down in textbooks. The 14th General Election (GE14) saw an outcome that was unprecedented — with the opposition party, Pakatan Harapan, winning majority in Parliament and forming the government in Malaysia.
With it came another historic moment: For the first time ever in Malaysia, a woman has risen in the ranks and is the Deputy Prime Minister designate. While GE14 itself made waves throughout our collective psyches, in comes with it another significant milestone: Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will hold the second most powerful position in our country and will serve Malaysia on a political and global scale. As a result of GE14, she was elected as the Member of Parliament of Pandan, and is the Deputy Prime Minister designate.
There have always been women in politics in Malaysia, and we have had many young women during GE14 contesting and winning. However, Dr Wan Azizah becoming the Deputy Prime Minister is a symbolic win for women in Malaysia that heralds a tectonic mind shift. In particular, powerful political positions are no longer just reserved for men.
It’s no surprise that the win may not have been predicted by many; and growing up Malaysian, it wasn’t always that “woman” and “Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia” could have been in the same sentence. And while female politicians rule and hold power in other countries all over the world, we can now also say proudly that women definitely have a place in politics and can become leaders of our nation.
In light of this momentous time in history for all us Malaysians, #TeamCLEO has rounded up the particularly unique challenges growing up female:
- As girls, we were only taught that heroes were men who fought in battles, wars, or took the world and our country by conquest.
- As girls, the only women we saw in our history books were transactions-slash-wives of kings to maintain relations between countries.
- As girls, the women we learned of in legends were merely “prizes” to possess and to win over, as though she was a conquest herself.
- As girls, it never occurred to us that we could be an astronaut, a CEO or a leader of the country.
- As young women, we were taught to dress a certain way so that men wouldn’t take us less seriously.
- As young women, we were already conditioned to think that top-of-mind geniuses were male (“Albert Einstein” rather than “Marie Curie”).
- As young women, we already thought of women achieving great things were an anomaly rather than the norm.
- As women, we were told to defer to a male of the family or a potential/future husband.
- As women, we learned that men would compliment women on their looks rather than the work they do, and they assumed that it was a positive thing.
- As women, we thought our only motherhood choices were “working mum” or “stay at home mum” rather than anything we choose it to be.
- As women, we have always heard questions about work-life balance being asked to women but not to men.
And to think that we have come this far — we can finally leave old mindsets in the past. We can finally teach our future daughters that there is nothing she can’t do. We now know that it’s not our gender, nor any adversity great or small, that will determine our future. While failure or roadblocks may be discouraging at first, resilience and grit knows no gender. In particular, Dr Wan Azizah has had specific and unique challenges that would have been insurmountable to many. This particular tweet by a relative puts it all into context.
Can we take some time to acknowledge the fact that Dr. Wan Azizah supported her husband through YEARS of political ambush, raised her kids while he was locked up and is now the FIRST ever female deputy PM of Malaysia!!! She is the kind of ROCK this country deserves #GE14
— Nuha Jes Izman (@nuhajesss) May 9, 2018
We can proudly say we all played witness to history in the making. Congratulations are in order for Dr Wan Azizah and all the candidates — women and men — that were elected in GE14.