Empowering Women for a Brighter Future: A Call for Infrastructure Change

By Michelle Ng

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this March, it’s essential to reflect on the progress we’ve made towards gender equality and recognise the challenges that still lie ahead. In Selangor, like many other places around the world, women play a vital role in our communities, our economy, and our families. Yet, despite the strides we’ve taken, there are still barriers that hinder women from fully participating in all aspects of society.

One crucial aspect of empowering women is ensuring that they have access to the necessary infrastructure and support systems to thrive. This includes provisions such as nursing rooms, baby changing trays in public toilets, and accessible childcare services. These facilities are not just conveniences; they are essential rights that enable women to fully engage in the workforce and pursue their ambitions while also fulfilling their responsibilities as caregivers.

Unfortunately, the lack of these facilities in public spaces can often pose significant challenges for women, especially those with young children. Imagine a mother who wants to return to work after maternity leave but struggles to find a suitable place to breastfeed or change her baby’s diaper. These seemingly small obstacles can have a profound impact on a woman’s ability to participate in the workforce and contribute to the economy.

To address this issue, we must advocate for policy changes that prioritise the provision of these essential facilities in publicly accessible buildings. This includes retrofitting existing buildings and imposing these requirements as conditions for new developments. By making these changes, we not only create a more inclusive environment for women but also send a powerful message about the value of supporting working mothers.

Several countries have already taken steps to implement similar policies with promising results. For example, in Sweden, it is a legal requirement for employers to provide adequate facilities for breastfeeding and pumping milk for new mothers. Additionally, many public buildings in Sweden are equipped with nursing rooms and baby changing facilities, making it easier for women to navigate their daily lives with young children.

Beyond the immediate benefits to women and families, there are also broader social and economic implications of empowering women in the workplace. Research has consistently shown that increasing women’s participation in the workforce leads to greater economic growth and stability. When women are given equal opportunities to contribute their talents and skills, businesses thrive, and communities prosper.

Furthermore, empowering women economically has a ripple effect that extends beyond individual families. Studies have shown that women are more likely than men to invest their earnings back into their families and communities, leading to improved health, education, and overall well-being. By investing in women’s empowerment, we are not only lifting up individuals but also creating a more equitable and prosperous society for all.

As a State Assemblywoman in Selangor, I am committed to advocating for policies that empower women and promote gender equality in all aspects of society. This International Women’s Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for women, starting with the provision of essential infrastructure and support systems. Together, we can build a brighter future where every woman has the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

In conclusion, International Women’s Day serves as a powerful reminder of the progress we’ve made and the work that still lies ahead in achieving gender equality. Empowering women is not just the right thing to do; it’s essential for building a more prosperous and equitable society for all.