Gender & Health Key to Cascading Effect on Progress

Mar 7, 2018

Kuala Lumpur, March 2018: International Women’s Day, celebrated globally on 8 March, is dedicated to reflecting on the achievements of ordinary women who have made an extraordinary impact in their countries and communities, and to celebrate the contributions of women all around the world.

The global theme for this year's International Women's Day is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.

For Malaysia, the UN country team in Malaysia is carrying the theme Towards Women’s Health and Rights: Leaving no one behind. The theme was carried into a high-level forum which discussed issues of women’s health and rights non-communicable diseases, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender-based violence.

Organised by the United Nations Country Team together with the United Nations University - International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) and the Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia, the forum featured a three panel speaker consisting of Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Eminent Global Health Physician, Paul Harris Fellow, and Recipient of the Marisa Bellisario Foundation Award, Dr. Siti Hawa Ali, Professor, Interdisciplinary Health Science Unit, School of Health Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan and YBhg. Prof. Datuk Dr Aishah Bidin, Commissioner, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia. 

The forum stimulated a discussion on the reasons why gender and health are fundamental to the achievement of broader development targets as well as women’s human rights, and how health could have a potential cascade effect on the achievement of other gender equality goals that encompass economic, social and political progress.

Such a positioning of issues sets the stage to examine the linkages between the key drivers which condition women’s access to sustainable development, and which may accelerate rights-based approaches to gender equality and women’s empowerment, towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General said in his global message said, “Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.

More than a billion women around the world lack legal protection against domestic sexual violence. The global gender pay gap is 23 per cent, rising to 40 per cent in rural areas, and the unpaid work done by many women goes unrecognized. Women’s representation in national parliaments stands, on average, at less than one quarter, and in boardrooms it is even lower.

The United Nations should set an example for the world. We have now reached gender parity for the first time in my senior management team, and I am determined to achieve this throughout the organization.”

Antonio Guterres currently has 45 people in his senior management team with 24 of them being women.

Touching on women’s issues in Malaysia, Stefan Priesner, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malaysia welcomed Malaysia’s designation of 2018 as Women’s Empowerment Year, which aims among others, to require 30% women participation as board of directors in government likened corporations; to increase maternity leave; to provide training and entrepreneurship programmes; and incentives for women to return to the workforce.

He said, “The UN works closely with Malaysia on the SDGs, and there is a good plan of action on the part of Government to achieve Goal 5 to Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls. The components of SDG 5 go beyond economic empowerment, and include violence against women, harmful practices such as early marriage, female genital mutilation, women’s participation in political and public life, sound policies and legislation for the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls at all levels.

Hence, we hope to see, in conjunction with the Empowerment of Women year, the passing of the Gender Equality Law. The UN system stands ready to continue its support to this and all other efforts for the women’s empowerment and equality.”

Data on women’s issues taken from Malaysia’s Voluntary National Review report to the UN last year showcased the following:


·       Economic participation of women has improved from 46.4% in 2009 to 54.1% female labour force participation rate in 2015

·       35% of listed companies offer some form of flexible-working arrangements

·       4.1% of GDP is the current healthcare expenditure while there are still pockets of vulnerable groups face challenges in accessing basic health services due to geographical location, social stigmas, discrimination, work arrangements, legal identity and other circumstances.

·       A low 52.2% contraceptive prevalence rate among married women while total fertility rates continue to reduce replacement level.

Ms. Marcela Suazo, UNFPA Representative for Malaysia acknowledged the commitment and focus given to gender equality by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, with particular reference to his recent declaration of 2018 being the Year for Women’s Empowerment. She said, ‘This is a call to action for increasing the role of women in nation-building, and taking part in the economic development of the country. It is an essential part of creating the enabling environment for providing women every opportunity to participate, to take lead, to make decisions, and to shape the Malaysia of the future, for everyone, leaving no one behind.’

The forum was opened by Dr. David M. Malone, Rector, United Nations University (UNU) and UN Under-Secretary General, H.E. Maria-Castillo Fernandez, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia, Prof. Pascale Allotey, Director, United Nations University International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) and Mr. Stefan Priesner, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Malaysia.

The forum attracted 120 participants from ambassador, government officials, academia and NGOs.

Contact information

Click / tap here to add contact info

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Malaysia 
Go to UNDP Global