You don’t need me to tell you this but being a woman or girl anywhere in the world is tough – ‘Cause tak kisah lah negara membangun, ke tak, women’s rights are still hard to come by. Which is one of the reasons for a Women’s March – to fight for better rights for girls and women.
In Malaysia, the March is linked to International Women’s Day (IWD), which falls on 8 March each year. 2020 is extra special ‘cause this year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action! Jadi this year, UNICEF aims to kuatkan the voices and agency of girls and young women when it comes to issues like ending gender-based violence, like child marriage.
So basically, this year memang onz la for IWD. It’s celebrated differently in every country every year, and this year in Malaysia they’ve got a whole month worth of workshops and talks and events to really give women and girls like me and opportunity to be heard. And of course, seperti tahun-tahun yang kian lalu, the Women’s March is a big part of the IWD celebration and every year, they have a list of demands. Check out this year’s!
Not bad, kan? Detailed gitew.
“I’m elated that women have a day to celebrate ourselves (although I do think that should be every day!).” This is what my kawan Natasha (24), who’s a law student, told me when I told her about the march. “And if being physically present is an issue, spreading awareness and educating others is a huge deal on its own too!”
WOMEN’S MARCH TOGETHER-GETHER?
Unfortunately, what’s super not cool, is that in the past couple years, some marchers and women at the Women’s March have been harassed just for participating – which just proves why we really need to continue marching and fighting for equal rights!
Even Nisha Ayub, who is an awesome Malaysian activist, shared this with me:
“The Women’s March is an important milestone for women especially in Malaysia because of the patriarchal system that is embedded within the social constructs of the society. As a transwoman activist, I’m always cautious of my surroundings, therefore I’m not sure if I would join the march but if I do feel safe, I might participate.”
Let’s put aside our star-struckness for a bit to just absorb how crazy it is that someone as brave and as internationally recognized as Nisha might have to skip out on the Women’s March because she fears for her safety.
Seriously. It makes me super sad. Kecewa giler.
TBH, a lot of backlash was hurled at IWD because it also included fighting for equal rights for minorities such as the LGBT community. Some people brought along pride rainbow flags to the Women’s March, and some other people were not happy about that.
Like me, Tiara Anchant (27), who you might recognize as an actor and host, doesn’t think it’s much of a big deal having men or LGBT folks at the march. “Celebrating women and championing equality isn’t restricted to any one gender. That’s the point of equality – it means everyone.”
And I totally agree! Mana boleh nak equal rights untuk one group je? Tak betul2 equal kot kalau camtu! And I actually think men and boys and non-binaries semua should be at the march too because everyone should be fighting for equal rights – tak kiralah sex, gender, orientation, whatever.
Men and boys actually have a really big part to play – like y’all gotta be the ones to talk to other men and boys about changing how they treat women. But if y’all don’t speak up when one of your bros says something that discriminates and puts down women, then ya’ll aren’t doing your part.
You know, it’s like that quote: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
*realises I’m actually not done, and picks the mic up again*
CAN’T MARCH? SPEAK!
TBH, the idea of fighting for my rights has also sounded so scary and so big, I thought maybe it was something best left to the more experienced. But speaking to other women about International Women’s Day and women’s rights makes it really clear that, if we care about protecting ourselves and our sisters, then we cannot just lepak buat dek je.
And that’s exactly why Ainaa (24), who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, started speaking up!
“I used to focus on my own achievement. I made sure I got good results, went to a university and earned a degree. But then I realised, I wanted to do more. I realised there was so much more I could do. I began to actively engage in NGO work. I created awareness-raising through arts and sharing my journey. I know this work is not easy, but I enjoy doing it. I hope I will be able to inspire others and at the same time, make them my source of inspiration too.”
Being a woman in Malaysia memang agak stress la, especially when we’re not given equal treatment, tapi kalau kita senyap je, memang tak berubah.
So. I guess I’ll see you guys at the Women’s March on March 8th. And for those who might still be on the fence, here’s some last words from Nisha a.k.a my new favourite person:
“My advice to the younger generation is to be aware of the current situation now as your future depends on it. You should be not afraid to speak out as its your rights to do and your views are as important as those of the older ones. YOU are the future of our nation.”
Fuiyoh. Okay, I hope you guys will join me and even if you can’t, I hope you remember to stand in solidarity with your sisters each day. Happy IWD you guys, let’s change the world!
For more information on International Women’s Day and the Women’s March, click here.
And if you’re like “Huh? Solidariti? Apa tew?”, then baca ni jugak k: Salam Solidarity 2020 (Giteww)