Image credit: The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Heads of departments and top management of all organisations are encouraged to allow women whose husbands have died to Work From Home (WFH) for a suitable period, enabling family matters and the husband's bequests matters to be resolved.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said this is one of six initiatives to empower women which would be adopted by the government.

"The encouragement to allow a widow to work from home is because we understand the grief and burden they bear and they need time to manage family matters and affairs after the death of a spouse.

"The empowerment of women will continue to be one of the important national agenda and such an agenda is the responsibility of all and not only borne by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

"In this regard, I would like to commend the role and initiatives implemented by various ministries and agencies in helping to develop, empower, recognise the abilities and contributions of women in the development of the country," he said.

He said this in his speech officiating the Women's Day 2022 Celebration at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, tonight.

Present were Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun, International Trade and Industry Senior Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan and Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, among others.

Ismail Sabri added that efforts to empower women required a high commitment from all stakeholders to succeed.

"I call upon women's perspective to always be taken into account in policy formulation and program planning to ensure that women get fair space and opportunities in the development of the country," he said.

He said the other five initiatives are the establishment of the National Women's Council, the tabling of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill and further strengthening the role of the Hakam Institution under the Syariah Court to help women who faced a lengthy divorce process.

The initiative to empower women is also taken through the Department of Syariah Judiciary Malaysia. This is through the Financial Financing Act which allows the husband's bank account to be frozen following a court order.

With the act, Ismail Sabri said, the bank is allowed to transfer funds from the husband's account which has been frozen to the wife if the spouse makes a claim involving funds from the court. This method is known as Hiwalah.

The next initiative Ismail Sabri said is to make it compulsory for the Women's Day celebration to be held on March 8 every year at all levels, whether federal or state to appreciate and recognise the role and contribution of women.

He said based on Malaysia's Score in the Global Gender Gap Index 2021, the country had managed to close the gap in the education and health sub-index, however, involvement in the economic and political fields was still low.

Ismail Sabri said in the field of economy and employment, the participation rate of women was still low at 55.6 per cent compared to men which were at 80.8 per cent.

Moreover, out of every RM100 income received by men, women receive only RM94.07 and the gap is widening especially among B40 women, an effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the unemployment rate among women in Malaysia also increased to 307,000 people in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 215,700 people for the same period in 2020.

"Realising this fact, the government will continue to focus on the well-being of women because I am confident that if given the opportunity and space, women can be the main driving force of the country's productivity and economy on par with men," he said.

At the ceremony, the prime minister also presented the Women's Icon Award to eight recipients involving the categories of Economy, Education, Health, Leadership, Security, Law, Uplifting Woman and the Tun Fatimah Special Award.