Why Mums Need to Care About Politics

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The 2022 general election (GE15) is right around the corner, and it’s going to be an unprecedented, exciting one. For the first time in history, the voting age has been lowered to 18 years old, and all voters are now automatically registered to the electoral roll. As women and mums, how does the election affect us, and why should we care about our country’s political state? What can we do to champion progress?

Every Aspect Of Motherhood Is Political

We mothers go through a lot,  that goes without saying. We juggle so many roles, putting on different hats over the course of the day. Many of us manage a house, hold on to a job, look after our children, and are responsible for our elderly parents, among others. And every single aspect of this journey is affected by politics.

Pregnant? Our politicians decide on the policies affecting our healthcare system. Seeking mental health support post-pregnancy? Access to mental healthcare is also governed by public policies.

From the number of maternity days we enjoy, to the quality of care our retired parents receive, our list of motherhood variables goes endlessly on. Let’s show our support for the politicians who prioritise such variables; who consistently fight for the empowerment of women and mothers of Malaysia.

Elections Impact Our Children

We want the best for our kids and want them to thrive now, and in the future.  As parents, we worry about what they may face ahead, such as the quality of their education, or overall well-being.  But there are even more serious issues in Malaysia, such as teenage pregnancies, mental health challenges, cyberbullying and gangsterism.

Former Human Rights Commissioner James Nayagam has said these issues have been affecting at least 3,000 of our children every year, with numbers expecting to increase in Malaysia. He has called for commitment from the government to deal with these issues, as the rapid development of technology means these numbers are likely to rise with children exposed to “threats that are just a keyboard tap away.”

As mothers, we can do something about this situation. We can join forces and vote for candidates who support a stronger child protection system. The current child protection system currently comes under the wide umbrella of the Women, Family, and Community Development Ministry.

With a ministry covering such a broad focus, time and resources are shared between too many divisions. The current ratio is one child protection officer for 50 to 100 children, hardly enough for an adequate protection system. Opting to support candidates who will be pushing for the establishment of a separate children’s ministry will pave the way for a country that prioritises our children’s welfare.  

If Not Us, Then Who? 

‘Children don’t vote, so children are not a priority,” Yayasan Chow Kit founder and activist Hartini Zainudin has said. A sad, but hard truth. Who else will make sure our children are a priority, other than us mothers? 

The government we vote in now will be shaping the next five years, at the very least.  It will be impacting the formative years of many of our children, affecting things such as the number of hours they spend in school, or the educational resources they have access to.

And what about the vulnerable children, who also deserve the basic rights to health and safety? As mothers, our concern extends beyond our biological children. We can and should, use our identities as mothers to push for the protection of every single child in Malaysia.

With individuals from well-educated families being more willing to vote, elections have long been skewed towards the interests of the privileged groups in society. We need to stand in the gap for our innocent young who are at the mercy of adults around them.

The policies made by our chosen leaders will permeate all aspects of our children’s lives, both directly and indirectly. For this coming GE15, let us vote wisely for candidates who we know will prioritise the welfare of the next generation. 

What We Can Do

Politics matters to us parents, because we want to see progress in our country, and to leave behind a better home for our children. We want a country run by strong rulers who are clean and fair, and who will give due respect to the women and children of this country. This is no time and place for apathy. What then, are the proactive steps that can be taken to create this world that we yearn for? 

1. Encourage voting 

It’s proven – lifelong voting habits are formed during childhood and the teenage years. Plus, people who vote in their first three eligible elections in a row are more likely to become lifelong voters. Whether our kids become routine voters or disinterested citizens can come down to the lessons and habits that we instil in them from young. 

2. Be mindful

Let’s start by equipping ourselves with knowledge about our political environment, and to try our best to keep up with current affairs. It is okay to show that adults are always learning too. Having open conversations with friends and family is also a great way for an exchange of ideas and different perspectives. Head to your local library for a read, or visit the many online sources available at your fingertips. If you are looking for a GE15 101 to get yourself up to date, check out the Kini News Lab – it’s brimming with pages of visual storytelling regarding our upcoming election.

3. Support our kids 

Once we are better informed, doing our part to mobilise the next generation becomes much easier. As with most things, seeds of interest regarding any topic can always be instilled from home. From talking to our young kids about the importance of elections, fostering political literacy among our kids, and reiterating the impact voting will have on the things they care about, all the little and big ways will add up.  Remember, it is perfectly fine to not know it all. “I am not sure about that, let’s look it up together” or “I don’t know, what do you think?” are good ways to engage and encourage conversations with your children

4.  Engage our youth

Let us also think beyond our infants and young children – what about our youths now, those ready for the wider world? On their first steps into adulthood, our youth are now eligible to vote. With these young voters being dubbed as the kingmakers and game changers of GE15, we are counting on them to push for democratic reforms. 

Unfortunately, several studies have shown that our youths have not shown much interest in politics. Could it be apathy, self-absorption, or confusion? It’s significant to note, however, that despite this predicament, a youth survey carried out last year showed something interesting. More than two-thirds of youth responded that they were disinterested in politics, yet two-thirds also shared that they were interested in volunteerism and community building initiatives. This is a telling piece of information. Politics, along with its policies, may feel distant and irrelevant. But if youths are interested in making a difference, we can help them understand that serving communities and politics actually go hand in hand.

From the banning of concerts, to the ability to obtain good jobs out there, real-life examples can also be used to resonate with youths. They can realise their political participation will affect their lives and community concerns. They need to know that politics matter.   

Source: Undi 18

5. Be a good role model 

Whether you are an outspoken advocate highly involved in politics, or a dedicated voter every election period, our children are watching, listening and learning. We do what we can, within our capacity. As mothers, let’s foster good habits by demonstrating respectful democracy in the home, having a positive attitude towards politics, and by voting every election period. “Let’s get ready for the elections weekend!” or “Shall we watch the news together about people voting?” are some things parents can say to get their children involved.

We are all holding our breaths, wondering how GE15 will pan out. We rejoice and celebrate if the outcome is what we hoped for. If the outcome disappoints, we remind ourselves that these growing pains are expected in our quest for democracy.

We want a country that will help set the stage so that we can bring up children who will do the world justice, bring it peace, bring about joy, spark laughter, and be a beacon for others.  Regardless of what happens this weekend, we must continue to remain involved and advocate for our children’s future. 

Happy Voting, #makchicmumsquad!

Elaine is a mummy of two who moved from the financial world to become an early childhood educator. She loves travelling, books and her cup of tea to unwind after a long day of diapers, school runs and pretend play.