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Women, on the margins of election campaigns

Housewives and working mothers are urging the government to pay more attention to what they have to say.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
A woman buys fruit from a stall in USJ 10, Subang Jaya. Housewives struggling to make ends meet amid the rising cost of living are urging politicians to take heed of the problems they face.
A woman buys fruit from a stall in USJ 10, Subang Jaya. Housewives struggling to make ends meet amid the rising cost of living are urging politicians to take heed of the problems they face.

As the clock ticks towards election day, politicians have been urged to take into account the views of a large but often silent and overlooked majority represented in nearly every household in the country: the mothers, housewives and working women. 

While politics is often seen as a "men's only club", those calling for greater attention to women point out that it is in fact the mothers and housewives who most often have to deal with the results of government policies, from the first clinic appointment they have when they become pregnant to the day they register their children for school and beyond.

Nurul Diyana Adli, a nurse at a private hospital in Kelana Jaya, Selangor, said women regardless of educational or economic background are the key to political movement and community development. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, she said no group better understands the current issues and needs of society than mothers and housewives. 

"Who cares more about maternal and paternal leave than the women themselves?" she said. 

"Who cares about children's daycare fees and school expenses if not the mothers and housewives?

"I am confident that if the election candidates take the time to talk to people like us, they will become aware of many real issues that need to be tackled in addition to big problems like corruption that are often brought up but have no real solution." 

Diyana, who has two daughters aged eight and 11, said issues such as the increase in price of goods and weaknesses in the education system would have gained no serious attention if not for the women, in particular the mothers, who had raised concerns.

"Not one of these issues was seen as a big thing before women began talking about them," she said. 

"Because we are the ones who have to deal with them on a daily basis." 

No women-friendly campaigns

Even during campaign periods, talks or ceramahs are often held at locations that exclude or do not generally involve women, such as mosques and coffee shops. 

A night market trader who called herself Kak Yah Mahadi said she had been a voter in the Puchong parliamentary constituency for three terms now. 

Nevertheless, she said, neither she nor any of her women friends had ever been approached by election candidates on their campaign trails. 

"Just to tell them that the price of tomatoes has gone up is hard, what more actually meeting them face to face," she said. 

"It used to be that three tomatoes could be bought for RM1. But now, just one tomato is already almost RM1. 

"When people come to buy vegetables, they complain that everything is so expensive. But prices have gone up everywhere. And even though I sell vegetables for a living, I too have to buy them to take home and cook for my family. 

"But no one listens to us," she added, speaking to MalaysiaNow at her stall in Putrajaya. 

Nevertheless, the mother of four said it was not her intention to make women stand out when talking about politics.

All she wants is for politicians to attend to the needs of mothers and housewives as well. 

She said such women are often homemakers and have no choice but to depend on their husbands to bring home the bacon. 

"We don't want the government's money," she said. 

"But it would be nice if the government could work to bring down prices so that we can save more to spend on our families." 

Norizan, an assistant at a private kindergarten in Puchong, agreed. 

She said when politicians and leaders pay no attention to women, the consequences are reflected in infrastructure weaknesses at government facilities.

"When we listen seriously to the views of the working mothers and housewives, there won't be any problems about no nursery space at officers, or diaper changing stations at hospitals and places to feed our babies in public spaces," she said. 

"None of this would be an issue if the politicians would listen to what the mothers, housewives and working women have to say."