The euphoria felt by many Malaysians post-elections is transforming into a spirit of rebuilding the nation. Here are some issues that parents, including me, want the Pakatan Harapan government to take action on.
Caring for the Next Generation
Urgently, the new government needs to reform laws and policies to better protect children living in Malaysia. The marriage of an 11-year-old girl to a 41-year-old man have mobilised outraged Malaysians to demand for the minimum age for marriage to be 18 for both Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia. The issue of poverty, the real costs of child marriages and crucially, awareness on sex and sexuality also needs to be looked at on a macro level, away from the on-going religious debate.
Following the tragic death of five-month-old Adam Rayqal Mohd Sufi under the care of his babysitter, makchic readers have highlighted the need for tighter certification and regulation of childcare centers in Malaysia. In comments to makchic, parents said they want staff who are screened, trained (and routinely retrained) and certified. Makchic reader Satvinder Kaur said there is a need for these childcare centers to have flexible hours. This would better serve parents who hold shift jobs, such as those working in restaurants and hospitals.
Makchic readers also called for the government to holistically look at its policies to support families. Firstly, through increasing maternity and paternity leave and ensuring that the jobs are still available upon return. The government should also provide tax breaks for employers to provide crèches. It should also enact policies to ensure that employers subsidise their employees’ childcare. Reader Joanne Ko goes further. She calls for the close monitoring of employers to ensure they fulfil statutory obligations in supporting employees with families.
How we treat the marginalised in our everyday lives
The new government has done well in recognising housework as ‘work’ in their move to provide for housewives through the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF). However, the government should broaden its recognition of others who perform care work. Daughters, aunts and female cousins will benefit from tax breaks and/or subsidies and EPF.
M, a single mother of two, had to pull her two sons out of school to fulfill her filial duties. She would have benefited from some state support. Additionally, there should be mandatory EPF contribution by employers for the thousands of mostly foreign domestic workers performing this undervalued care work.
As a nation of migrants, we also need to start treating migrants with dignity. The current outsourcing system is rife for forced labour and human trafficking, with the powerless migrant workers vulnerable during immigration raids. The government needs to also keep to its election promise to ratify the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol by the government towards upholding the rights of refugees and asylum seekers living in Malaysia.
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members” – Mahatma Gandhi
Children With Special Needs
Another group of people that the government needs to pay additional attention to are those with special needs. Azian Mohd Hanafiah, a mother of two autistic sons is understandably concerned for her sons’ future. She calls for policies to improve the education and services for children with special needs, so they can be employable. She also demands for legislation to ensure that corporations employ people with special needs. The government should also provide additional tax breaks and allowable leave allocation for caregivers of children with special needs. Lastly, they should look into establishing an endowment fund together with these parents.
As a parent with a disabled child, I echo the call for the government to regulate this area. Just as the Malaysian Medical Council ensures the professionalism of doctors in the interest of protecting the public, there needs to be accreditation and regulation in the developing helping professions. We need to regulate fields such as psychology, speech therapy, occupational therapy and clinical psychology to prevent malpractice and negligence. The government also needs to urgently relook their conflicting role as a public healthcare provider, regulator and private healthcare investor. The Malaysian public that depends on the public healthcare system needs an increase in the current quality of care.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” ― Audre Lorde
Education and Critical Thinking for Our Children
Our newly appointment Education Minister Dr Mazlee Malik is on the right track with his vision of nurturing children as critical thinkers. Most parents I spoke to agree that the public schools should also be a place to form the identity of a Malaysian, which includes understanding how democracy works.
The conversations on democracy, freedom and marginalisation need to flourish. Our historical GE14 has shown that critical thinking combined with action is crucial. The government needs to go further in repealing repressive laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the National Security Council’s Act.
There were probably many conversations within families during the election about what makes a good leader. As a parent, I look to the government to demonstrate accountable leadership. The government is keeping its promise to repeal the Universities and Colleges Act and the repeal of the Anti-Fake News Bill. However, they have not fulfilled their pledge to ensure that at least 30 percent of policy makers are women at all levels of government. This is important because more women in decision making position has been proven to improve the efficiency of local governments and of corporations.
We are at the beginning of a long journey. With the energy fueled by a taste of democracy, together, we are going to get there.
In light of the recent tragic and disturbing news in Malaysia involving children and women, makchic will be writing a letter to our new Women, Family & Community Development Minister with our hopes and wishes for this New Malaysia of ours.
We’d like to ask Malaysian mums: What would you say or wish for? How do you think women and children could be better protected and supported in our country? What do you think needs prioritising?
Write to us or message us, we would love to add your comments or suggestions.