Malaysia Women and Girls Forum

MWGF is organised by UNFPA on behalf of the UN Gender Results Group.

Honourable Senator Ras Adiba Radzi, the Malaysian Parliamentary Representative for Disabled Community

Mr. Najib Assifi, The UNFPA Malaysia Representative,

Esteemed Moderators and Speakers

My UN colleagues

Distinguished participants,

Members of the media,

I would like to thank all of you for your participation in this inaugural Malaysia Women and Girls Forum.

A big thanks also to UNFPA, who leads the Gender Results group of the UN Country Team in Malaysia for leading this inter-agency effort and Mr Najib Assifi for his leadership.

The Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) as we know are a highly ambitious and transformative development agenda that is driven by the principle of leaving no one behind. And we cannot do justice to this principle if we do not prioritise the 50% of our population – women and girls, who still in this 21st century, and in countries developed or developing, lack the equality and empowerment to be on par with their male counterparts.

As all of you know the United Nations 16 days of Activism campaign begins on November 25 through the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on December 10 annually. As it is the only international day that spans over 2 weeks – the seriousness of this issue cannot be taken lightly.

In the context of the Agenda 2030 SDG 5 – Gender Equality is a critical crosscutting issue for SDG attainment in every part of the world. Especially so as we move and work together to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

2020 has been a difficult year for the entire world. It has caused catastrophic loss of lives and devastated economies around the globe. Equally devastating, is the impact it is having on the development and lives of the most vulnerable parts of our societies.

And women and girls are amongst those who are hardest hit – from loss of income to facing increased violence.

The pandemic has made women and girls even more vulnerable.  It has revealed structural weakness in policies and systems; the lack of protection mechanisms; systems and legislation.

COVID has uncovered multiple areas that need addressing such as:

  • The embedding of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) as essentials especially in terms of Comprehensive Sexual Education,
  • social protection for survivors of violence and abuse,
  • labour laws and discriminatory practices,
  • the ever-evident gender pay gap, and
  • the lack of legislative protection when it comes to sexual harassment. 

It is an established fact that the SDGs will not be achieved if women and girls remain left behind; if SDG 5 is not mainstreamed. It is therefore our hope that the  Malaysia Women and Girls Forum, will grow into a well-established platform that provides a voice for women and girls and facilitates discussion and the way forward for sticky issues; that it provides an annual benchmark of sorts for key reforms,  advocacy and legislation that are needed to advance national priorities in line with the SDGs.

The government’s stimulus packages to address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, the SDG aligned national budget, development plans and the Shared Prosperity Vision are no doubt increasingly pivoted towards leaving no one behind, including the empowerment of women and girls. 

In addition to this, equitable legislation, social changes and the enhancement of women’s rights can further accelerate Malaysia’s journey towards a developed nation. And we hope that this Women and Girls Forum can effectively complement Government’s good efforts.

The World Bank’s recent report, Breaking Barriers: Toward Better Economic Opportunities for Women in Malaysia –  states that removing barriers to access and ensuring sufficient protection for women and girls in Malaysia, would lead to an increase in the country’s income per capita by 26.2 percent – implying an average annual income gain of RM 9,400 (US$2,250).

We hope that this evidence will galvanise the necessary changes in social norms, policies and legislation in breaking barriers and in ensuring universal social protection for all women and girls. 

As we strive to achieve  the SDGs by 2030, SDG 5 remains crucial - and we hope to bring together all development actors through this Malaysian Women and Girls Forum to discuss the bottlenecks that remain and to promulgate constructive recommendations  for SDG 5 achievement in the country.

There are some excellent topics on the agenda today such as the economic potential of women and girls; women’s health as a barometer for development; the role of men, boys and media; as well as pressing issues such as online gender-based violence and Female Headed & Vulnerable Households during the Pandemic. And I trust that under the expert facilitation of the distinguished speakers and panelists and the meaningful participation of all of you here today, there will be concrete outputs to effect the changes that will bring Malaysia closer to achieving its social, economic and sustainability goals

Thank you, and I wish you all a fruitful Forum that comes up with many solutions to the issues discussed.





Speech by
Stefan Priesner
Resident Coordinator
Stefan Priesner
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Population Fund