When I first got this in my mailbox, I was shocked myself. Little did I know, that Conversation was actually a Townterview, which hosted almost 400 people in a room. So much for a ‘conversation.’
The talk was hosted by three media prima reporters while the room was filled with students, media titles, and US alumni group on various topics raised by the group ranging from intercultural understanding and exchanges, to women’s empowerment.
I’d realize that Clinton has a passion on women’s empowerment and intercultural understanding - of which is probably the foundation of her work. (and that’s probably why we exchange students love her :) )
As we traverse through time, there is a growing sense of realization on the importance of women’s role in nation building, contributing both in the workforce and family.
Women’s empowerment, in my definition is not within the concept feminism, nor in believing that women can do all that man can. However women’s empowerment speaks of the realization that women can rise in their strength in political, social, economic and spiritual strength to play a significant role in the society to be who God uniquely creates, and contribute to His kingdom.
Men and women must be given the equal opportunity to live his/her potential. In this 21st century, there is a greater awareness of that as we see the percentage of young women attending universities are higher than young man. The greatest challenges for us, however is to find the balance between work and family.
Speaking from my own experience and the work that I’ve done for, I know that for many of us, being involved in the business or professional world does not mean you also do not want to be a wife and mother.
Hence, balancing of your family responsibilities with your work responsibilities remains one of the biggest challenges for women around the world. And many women have to sequence their careers as to how they do the jobs that they’re given and still fulfill their responsibilities to their family.
I believe that the society should support that because we don’t want to lose the talent of these educated young women. We want educated young women having families and raising the next generation and making that commitment to their children’s upbringing and education.
Clinton made a statement to commend the works of Sister’s in Islam and how their efforts is a breaking ground in setting up an example not just for the Muslim world, but the world in general.
I am very committed to this agenda because the empowerment of women worldwide is one of the pieces of unfinished business in the world today.
There are different cultural, historical, religious experiences from each of our histories, but the overall imperative to find ways to empower women and to give young women the tools that they can make the most out of their own lives should be on the agenda of every country in every part of the world.
And I’m looking forward to working with the minister and the women that I met today to learn more about what is happening in Malaysia and to help support mutually the goal of having more women be given the opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential.
When speaking about women’s participation in politics, Clinton did not deny the fact that the road is indeed a very challenging road to walk. “You have to have a pretty thick skin.” she mentioned.
One of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of our very esteemed president during World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, once said that if a woman wants to be in politics, she needs to grow skin like a rhinoceros.
If you’re going to be a woman in politics, you cannot complain about how hard it is, because it is hard. You just have to be prepared as best you can to participate. And it is true that there remains something of a double standard globally about women in politics.
So for any young woman who believes she has skin like a rhinoceros and is willing to be scrutinized about her hair, about her clothes, about all those things, it’s a very exciting career.
But it is hard and it’s probably become harder because of intense media scrutiny. And it’s not just from the professional media, but everybody with a cell phone can record everything you say and everything you do. And that’s an extra burden that you just have to be ready to accept.
The question that actually did cross my mind was, “do I have a skin as thick of a rhinoceros?” I used to have a dream of creating history in this nation- to be the first women and non-Muslim prime minister in Malaysia.
I do believe however, because women are emotional beings, we bring different perspectives to a lot of different issues and our voice should also be heard by the policy makers.
However, is there a place for us in the political arena? Can the society one day truly accept a woman as a Defense Minister for a nation?
The challenges are very intellectually demanding. Learning more about yourself so that you can better present yourself and communicate and form coalitions to get things done – it’s very rewarding.
Clinton also spoke on other topics including:
- The relationship between America and Muslim majority countries and the importance of intercultural society.
- China’s rise in the economic arena vs America.
- Israeli and Palestinian’s relationship and America’s effort to work out an agreement for both parties.
- Malaysia starts with a potential being a multicultural diversified society.
All in all, I thought it was a good conversation, although what could have been better is if it was a smaller group, with a rather neutral host. Actually, I personally think the host did a rather lousy job. I did wish that we touch more in politics and its importance of maintaining and striving for a democratic country.
We didn’t talk about the Allah issue, or corruption, or dirty politics but a did get a sense of an elevation of America as the ‘great nation’ from the people. So much for the anti-americanism drive in Malaysia.
I can’t help but noticing American’s effort in bridging the gap between themselves and a Muslim majority country like Malaysia. Having a conversation with the civil society at an Islamic place for example. Commending our PM’s efforts in promoting Islam in Moderation, and different non-governmental organizations like Sister’s in Islam.
But, I shall reserve my comments for now.
Let’s check out what others have to say:
Tricia Yeoh, a writer, was thoroughly disappointed with the entire exercise and consider it to have been a waste of a good morning. The questions by the moderators were irrelevant, derogatory and utterly embarrassing to us Malaysians. There were no questions on democratic fundamentals required for a country’s progress, which is really what is required in the Malaysian context. It felt like a family talkshow, which if it was meant to be, should have been advertised as such.
Andrew Khoo a member of the Malaysian Bar Council was generally very disappointed with the nature and range of questions posed to visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. After some initial good questions on women empowerment and cooperation with moderate Islam, the other questions or comments were either repetitive, inane, or blatantly self-promoting.
Azhan Rabi, a YES Alumni said, “There is a large space for improvement in terms of moderation for relevant questions. And preference/selection of people asking questions should not have been that biased (iknowyou-yougettoask-noneedraisehand).”
Perhaps, I am being too optimistic about this whole thing.
I beg to differ for now.
ISTAC is a really nice place by the way.
The alumni present - with Kak Atty.
** I just contributed a total of RM6000 in AVE for this blogpost.
To watch this townterview on video, click here.