Female equality rights have come a long way since the late 1800s and early 1900s when the women’s rights movements saw females fighting for their basic rights – to education, work, equal pay, representation in society, reproductive rights, autonomy, freedom of movement, and elimination of various forms of discrimination.
In what is perceived as a fine balance between developing a progressive and modern economy, and maintaining traditional values and norms, gender equality remains a real struggle in Malaysia. A reflection of this is the most recent Global Gender Gap Report 2016, where Malaysia ranked at 106, behind its ASEAN counterparts Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Discrimination exists due to many factors – societal norms, cultural attitudes, access to education and finances. Unsurprisingly, stereotyped gender roles still dominate; the female-male workforce ratio is 50% vs 80%. Findings from a research on Malaysian women’s participation in the workforce found that Malaysian women above the age of 26 carry the “double burden” syndrome – of managing both the home and caring for their children or the elderly, and with that, they will unlikely return to the workforce.
As a result of these gender equality issues, Malaysia has seen a proliferated growth of civil society groups dedicated to empowering women and closing the gender equality gap.
The sector is very diverse – there are groups raising awareness on gender equality, teaching women about their rights; others are challenging traditional perceptions of women’s roles by encouraging female participation in the economic and political sector; while others focus on improving welfare policies for single mothers, and providing livelihood opportunities to enable mothers to return to the workforce.
In September, TechSoup Malaysia organized a meeting with Joint Action Group (JAG), a coalition comprising progressive feminist and women’s organizations in Malaysia and regionally. The goal of the meeting was to introduce TechSoup’s projects and products, but more importantly, to help the sector understand the TechSoup eligibility criteria for Malaysia so that they can qualify for tech donations.
The essence of TechSoup’s goal and mission has always been to empower nonprofits and make technology accessible to the nonprofit sector, with hopes that these will lead to the Sustainable Development Goals and bring the change we want to see in this world.