KOTA KINABALU: The state government adheres to the principle of empowering women and continues to encourage them to take a more active interest in the state’s social, economic, and political domains.
Minister of Community Development and People’s Wellbeing (KPMKR) Sabah, Datuk James Ratib said, supporting and empowering more women in Sabah to engage in politics is crucial because diversity fosters innovation, and varied viewpoints enhance the quality of decision-making.
Women, he said, contribute distinct perspectives, life experiences, and priorities that hold the promise of transforming our policies and governance, and because of that, one cannot afford to ignore this untapped potential.
“As we reflect on Sabah’s history since its inception, it becomes evident that women have played an essential role in moulding the social and economic foundation of our nation.
“However, when we shift our focus to political participation, a noticeable imbalance emerges, one that warrants our careful consideration.
“In my capacity as the KPMKR Minister, I firmly believe that progress can only be achieved through collaborative efforts and a shared vision for the betterment of our government,” he said.
James said, empowering women to take an active role in politics is not only a matter of justice but a necessity for our collective advancement.
“We must not forget our history, which is rich with stories of women who have shaped our state’s identity.
“From the wisdom of bobohizan leaders to the influence of Menteri Babu and other prominent figures, women have been the bedrock of our society.
“Let us draw inspiration from these legacies and build a present and future that aligns with their spirit,” he said.
Towards that end, he said, the path forward requires deliberate action and everyone must dismantle the barriers that limit women’s participation in politics, whether they be societal norms, structural impediments, or personal doubts.
“We must uplift the potential of young women, nurturing their aspirations to take the lead in shaping their communities and their nation,” he said.
James who is also Sugut Assemblyman was speaking when officiating the Dialogue On Tackling Sabah’s Under-Representation Of Women In Politics that was held at the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Kota Kinabalu, on Wednesday.
The text of his speech was read by the Datuk Flovia Ng, who represented him in the event.
“It is truly an honour to stand before you today as we come together to address an issue of utmost importance – the under-representation of women in Sabah’s political arena.
“I extend my heartfelt appreciation to the Institute for Development Studies (Sabah), (IDS) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) of Germany for spearheading this critical dialogue,” he said.
According to him, the occasion holds great importance, coinciding with Malaysia Day on the 16th of September because it is the very day that celebrates the unity and strength of the nation.
“I am filled with a sense of anticipation, for the event we are about to engage in is not just a dialogue. It is a call to action, an invitation to reshape the very structure of our political landscape.
“As we approach Malaysia Day, we are reminded of the remarkable journey our nation has undertaken. It is a day when we commemorate the unification of diverse cultures and backgrounds into a harmonious whole.
“The dialogue we embark upon today aligns seamlessly with the values that Malaysia Day represents. It symbolises our shared dedication to fostering inclusiveness, equality, and justice, values that should encompass all aspects of our society, including the realm of politics,” he said.
James added that from heads of state to influential legislators, women worldwide have shattered glass ceilings and transformed their nations’ political landscapes.
“Today, I want to shine a spotlight on some remarkable women who have left an indelible mark on the world stage, women whose stories can inspire not only our women but also our young girls in Sabah,” he said.
He mentioned women leaders within Malaysia like Hannah Yeoh, Nurul Izzah, and Azalina Othman, who are remarkable women leaders in politics.
“The late Toh Puan Rahimah Stephens, as the first woman candidate and minister in Sabah, holds a special place in our history. Datuk Ariah Tengku Ahmad, also created history as the first Sabahan woman Deputy Chief Minister in 1994,” he said.
Meanwhile, to his fellow men, he said that support for women in politics is not a relinquishing of power, but a recognition that true progress is a collaborative effort, encompassing all voices.
“I want to emphasise the importance of men standing up to support women’s rights and address their under-representation. Our progress as a society is intricately connected, and when women thrive, it benefits us all.
“Gender equality is not solely a concern for women; it is a societal imperative. As men, we hold a moral responsibility to uplift, empower, and stand in solidarity with our female counterparts.
“It is essential upon us to strive for a future in which our daughters, sisters, and mothers can freely contribute their talents and perspectives to the political arena,” he said.
Also present were Chairperson of IDS Sabah, Datuk Adeline Leong; Chief Executive Officer IDS, Datuk Dr. Ramzah Dambul; Director of KAS Malaysia, Miriam Fischer, IDS Board of Directors, and others.