Protest is not new to civil society in Malaysia — Ivy Josiah

Source: The Star2

BY IVY JOSIAH
(HAKAM EXCO Member)

Led by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, women and men from various non-governmental organisations and political parties gathered in front of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry yesterday to protest against the sexist remarks made by Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin and Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusof against Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan. They called for the suspension of both MPs and demanded they apologise for offending all women. The protestors include those from Parti Sosialis Malaysia, representatives from the womens wing of MCA, PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Womens Aid Organisation, Sisters In Islam and Women Development Collective. Photo: The Star

Led by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, women and men from various non-governmental organisations and political parties gathered in front of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry yesterday to protest against the sexist remarks made by Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin and Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusof against Batu Gajah MP Fong Po Kuan. They called for the suspension of both MPs and demanded they apologise for offending all women. The protestors include those from Parti Sosialis Malaysia, representatives from the womens wing of MCA, PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Womens Aid Organisation, Sisters In Islam and Women Development Collective. Photo: The Star

It was Malcom X who said “So early in my life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”

Last week, women did just that to mark International Women’s Day (IWD), a Global Women’s Strike in 46 countries; ranging from stopping work or housework to withdrawing sex to organising demonstrations, pickets and marches.

The Global Women’s Strike was organised by the International Women’s Strike (IWS), a grassroots movement established in late 2016 by women from different parts of the world as a response to the current social, legal, political, moral and verbal violence experienced by women at various levels. One in three women experience physical or sexual violence; we should not accept this statistic as the inevitable.

In the words of the Australia Women on Strike, “As aware citizens, we, the women, know the world is going through a crisis phase, but we don’t accept being victims of it. Take care, governing powers in our countries: be mature and address the problems of the world in direct, peaceful ways, with no harm to us.”

It is no coincidence that the herstory of IWD itself is rooted in a march by women workers in New York who took to the streets in 1908 demanding voting rights and protesting against dangerous working conditions, child labour and low wages.

So, what has been the Malaysian women’s experience with protest?

Feminist historians pay homage to the women participating in Malaya’s anti-colonial movement in the 1940s. Women in the Angkatan Wanita Sedar (Conscious Women’s Front) and Kaum Ibu Umno stood with men making fiery speeches during demonstrations against colonial rule. Protest is not new to civil society in Malaysia.

Activists resort to protest when other advocacy strategies fail, or to further throw light on an issue. Read more