Over 200 women dressed in shades of purple celebrated International Women’s Day with Perak Women for Women Society (PWW) on Sunday, March 6 at Impiana Hotel, Ipoh. Running on the theme “Listen Learn Lead”, the sold-out high-tea featured a Zumba session and talks by three prominent women activists namely, Ivy Josiah, Zainah Anwar and Hannah Kam. The trio spoke on ways to empower women in a male-dominated society.
PWW helps abused women and children by providing counselling and temporary shelter. According to its President Halida Mohd Ali, the society handled 45 cases last year consisting of domestic violence, marital problems and physical abuses through face-to-face and telephone counselling.
“The response by women to today’s gathering is overwhelming. We had to turn down many requests for seats. Today is our day, let’s celebrate, listen, dance, enjoy and network,” she said in her welcoming speech.
The speakers of the evening have long realised that gender inequality is not new in Malaysia and each has done something to address the problem. The first speaker, Hannah Kam who comes from a legal background, is the founding member of the Organisation for National Empowerment (ONE), formed in July 2014.
“ONE is an NGO run by youths for youths with the mission to empower young Malaysians to fight for the future, especially in areas of education, economy, unity and so much more,” Hannah posited.
The next speaker was Zainah Anwar, a veteran campaigner who started out in the early 1980s to do what she does today, is the co-founder of two NGOs namely, Sisters in Islam and Musawah. Both societies fight for justice and equal treatment for Muslim women. Zainah has won international accolades for her efforts, one of which is France’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur.
“Don’t use God’s name to justify your discrimination and ill treatment of women,” Zainah said. “How come all these wonderful values that exist in the Quran about equality, compassion, justice and men and women being each other’s protector are not used as the source of law, public policy and practice in our daily lives?” she questioned.
On the other hand, Ivy Josiah is another veteran who started out in the 1980s to champion women’s causes. She is a pioneering member of Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), which was formed 1982. One of the most significant achievements by WAO, along with a coalition of NGOs, is the Domestic Violence Act 1994. She was awarded the prestigious International Women of Courage award by America.
Speaking on courage and passion, she quoted novelist E.M. Forster, “One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.”
“I’m always inspired by the women who have come to the shelter seeking help and to have the generosity to go on to save and help everyone else too,” she shared.
After a question and answer session, the One Billion Rising dance provided a perfect ending to the enlightening two-hour celebration.