Nancy Shukri On Quotas – I Can Live Without It, We Can’t Live Without It; For Now


Nancy Shukri on Quotas: We Can’t Live Without It, For Now

Minister Nancy Shukri wants greater female representation in parliament but that it will take a long time before greater participation is achieved. She tells AWANI Review’s Zakiah Koya that while she does not agree with quotas, it may be the solution in the interim.

"No. I’m not happy," says Nancy in no uncertain terms when suggested that perhaps, quotas are needed to address the dearth of women representation in our parliamentary system.

"The thing is, I don’t like quotas but we have to hit (sic) on that. We need to trigger the system. There must be a quota system for a start because the numbers are just not enough," says Nancy.

The Batang Sadong Member of Parliament – a seat she won under the PBB banner in the 13th General Election – Nancy’s motherly demeanour belies her forthright stance on gender issues. She has been described as chili geronong – the Sarawak version of the hot and spicy South American jalapeno pepper.

She explains that despite not agreeing to the use of quotas specially to promote women, present circumstances require there needs to be a quota, if only to ensure there are women elected.

"We need to ask for that quota, but the thing is; if you don’t ask for it, nobody is going to do it - especially for women.”

She says that even though 51 percent of the population comprise of women, there’s only three women in the cabinet out of the measly 12% female representation in parliament.

Nancy who is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Departments says the nation needs to have a new way of restructuring political representation, in terms of political parties.

She explains that despite not agreeing to the use of quotas specially to promote women, present circumstances require there needs to be a quota, if only to ensure there are women elected

She says it is not just one party, it has to be agreed by all parties – be it from the ruling party or even the opposition.

Nancy puts the blame for this state of gender inequality on existing party hierarchy – control firmly in the hands of men.

She rather daringly puts forward the idea that in order to get more women elected – pit women against women in elections and the voters have no choice but to vote for a woman!

Nancy says while political parties may scoff at the idea, it is something women themselves should think of it if we want to achieve the quota of 30 percent of women in Parliament and state assemblies.

While she laments the fact that political parties in Malaysia on both sides are dominated by men at the top, she says it is also the women's lack in political will that has contributed to such a situation.

"It’s still the political will, not just among the women but the men. All the political parties in Malaysia are men-controlled. Therefore, men need to give way to allow changes to happen. But at the same time, having said that, women must push for changes. We must transform the political ways in Malaysia and that includes political parties.  

"We cannot speak for one party. I’m very proud of being in PBB for Sarawak. Out of 14 parliamentarians from my party, we have four parliamentarians who are women. Even though it’s not the best but at least it is good compared to many other parties.

In stating that she cannot speak up for all women in Barisan Nasional, she says that she wants the presidents of all political parties to hear her loud and clear.

"Being a secretary for the Barisan Nasional Women in the state and for my party, quite a number of the other women from the other parties are pushing me to get their presidents to agree there should be quota. I can’t speak for them, I can only speak like this through the media, openly so that their presidents will see we are speaking.

“But I cannot push what is happening in their party. It’s their own constitution, it’s their own leaders who need to accept this. If they can accept that, then that would be at least one hurdle done. So the rest will be all the parties to be able to accept and to recognize and acknowledge the fact that women has the biggest number there and they need more representation.

"My former chief minister, Tun Taib Mahmud who is now our governor used to say that there are certain things in the country, or even in Sarawak that needs the soft spot and the touch of the women, so you’ll balance up in terms of your policies because men will see it from their point of view," says Nancy.

She says that equal numbers among the genders would only be a boon to all political parties.

Nancy calls on Malaysian women to work as a team to overcome this issue of gender representation.  

"The women must push not just for themselves to go up. You must share, you must share with the other women that we all must be together. We must celebrate each other’s winning, each other’s ability. Whatever that the women can do, we must celebrate for them so that they will feel inspired to move up.""

"But if we do not acknowledge other women, then they will not really feel being encouraged or being together as a team. So, women have to speak as one team and then we must push our agenda together," says Nancy.