International Women's Day Celebrations 2021

400 participants joined in the IWD 2021 Virtual Forum co-organised by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia, SUHAKAM and UN in Malaysia

Yang Berhormat Dato' Kamarudin Jaffar, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia

Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Othman Hashim, Chairman of SUHAKAM


Esteemed Moderators and Speakers

My UN colleagues

Distinguished participants,

Selamat tengahari and Salam Sejahtera.      

On international women’s day we commemorate the century-old struggle of women to participate in a society equally with men. And we rededicate ourselves to this effort, because there is still a long way to make this a reality. Hence it is a real pleasure to welcome you to this joint commemoration of International Women’s Day 2021 with our esteemed partners – the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and SUHAKAM.

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented crisis, threatening to further derail progress towards the SDGs and hitting the world's poorest and vulnerable the hardest. People from all walks of lives have been impacted. The pandemic has revealed fundamental socio-economic gaps, including for the welfare and wellbeing of women and girls.

Despite solid evidence demonstrating the centrality of women’s empowerment to realizing human rights, reducing poverty, promoting development and addressing the world’s most urgent challenges; gender equality remains an unfulfilled promise.

In the COVID-19 world, women are at the forefront of the battle, as front-line and health sector workers, as scientists, doctors and caregivers, yet they still get paid less globally than their male counterparts.

Women’s full and effective participation and leadership in all areas of life drives progress for everyone. Yet, women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making, as highlighted in the UN Secretary-General’s recent report. Women are Heads of State or Government in 22 countries – that is 11 per cent of UN member states -  and less than 25 per cent of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among Heads of Government will take another 130 years.

In Malaysia, women make up almost half of the population and represent the highest levels of graduates. Malaysia recently had its first female Deputy Prime Minister and Chief Justice. Some positive efforts have taken place to formulate and improve policies for women and we commend the policy objective of at least 30 per cent women in decision-making in public and private sectors.

In creating an enabling legal environment, there has been some measure of progress in Malaysia’s legal protection for women in the areas of rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. With increased rape penalties, widening of the domestic violence definition and sexual harassment at the workplace is now unlawful.

While we recognise the progress made in Malaysia, there is still a long way to go:

  • Priorities include the strengthening of protection for women under the law including for women working from home and for women migrant workers;
  • women’s rights with regards to citizenship and marriage
  • and decision-making in public and political life.

Women are still underrepresented in the very top echelons of the public and corporate sectors as well as in legislative and political office. Gender mainstreaming across all sectors need to be improved; gender responsive budgeting need to be institutionalised in the various line ministries and agencies of government; gender gaps in terms of wages, occupations, job lay-offs in the industries need to be addressed.

The world needs women at every table where decisions are being made. If this is not the case, debate and decision-making do not represent the diversity of the world we live in and deprive us from a more holistic and insightful perspective on any given decision.

Hence, if we are to secure a world where women have an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes and violence, women also must be equal part of decision making at all levels.

Dear friends,

Today we take the opportunity to reflect and recognise women; reviewing the health, social and economic situation of women in Malaysia in a COVID-19 World; and the leadership and commitment needed in ensuring an equal future for women in a post COVID-19 world.

I am confident that today’s forum will provide us with an opportunity to not just dialogue but to influence policy and take action – for a more equal and sustainable future. 

Thank you

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