Webinar on “On the Eternal Treadmill: Malaysian Women and Politics”

In this webinar, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir spoke about the incremental steps towards gender equality taken by the Pakatan Harapan administration and the regression which occurred since Perikatan Nasional took over.


Thursday, 18 June 2020 – The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute hosted a webinar on “On the Eternal Treadmill: Malaysian Women and Politics” with Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir as the speaker. Datin Paduka Marina is a prominent women’s right and HIV activist in Malaysia, having served as the President of the Malaysian AIDS Council (1993-2005) and the Board of Sisters in Islam (2010-2016). Her contributions towards HIV issues and women’s emancipation are globally recognised, and Datin Paduka Marina was conferred the UN person of the year award in 2010. In 2018 Datin Paduka Marina received an Honorary Doctorate from her alma mater, the University of Sussex.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir spoke about women’s participation in Malaysian politics. The session was moderated by Dr Norshahril Saat. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Datin Paduka Marina began the webinar with an overview of women’s involvement in politics since 1957 till the present day. She subsequently shared that Malaysia made incremental progress towards gender equality under the Pakatan Harapan administration. The Pakatan Harapan administration broke past record in appointing five women into cabinet, with Wan Azizah serving as Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister (concurrently as Minister for Women, Family and Community Development). Apart from ministerial appointments, women were also appointed to lead numerous government agencies and Government-Linked Corporations (GLC).  

Datin Paduka Marina assessed the role of women under the present Perikatan Nasional government. While the number of female ministers has remained at five, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has increased his cabinet size.

During the question-and-answer session, topics raised included the use of gender quota to increase female participation in elections, the rise in domestic violence during Movement Control Order (MCO), and the similarities between Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Malaysia’s feminist movement, among others. 120 participants from Singapore and abroad participated in the webinar.

120 participants attended the webinar. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)