Raja Permaisuri Of Perak Darul Ridzuan At The Perak Women’s Day Celebration 2015

ASEAN Women in Nation-Building through Volunteerism”.

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

Salam Sejahtera.

Good morning ladies and gentleman. Happy Women’s Day! It is indeed an honour to be here today to launch the Perak Women’s Day Celebration 2015, as today, we recognise and celebrate the roles and achievements of our women, as well as focus greater attention on women’s rights and the call for gender equality. As a woman, a wife and a mother myself, I recognize the many challenges that women of today face and the increasing importance of the role we can play in the betterment of our community and country.

2. I would like to congratulate the state government for organizing this seminar in conjunction with this year’s Perak Women’s Day Celebration and extend particular commendations for the organizing of a seminar on empowering women, particularly young women, to take part in volunteering their time and effort towards making a positive difference in the community and towards nation-building. Selected speakers, recognized for their involvement and commitment in several volunteer projects among the young, from Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines have been invited to share their experiences. Allow me to extend a warm welcome to them and to each and every one of you present here today, our foreign guests especially.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

3. One of the great medical success stories of our time is the near eradication of polio worldwide. This has been the product of more than 200 governments working with over 20 million volunteers. Without the involvement of the governments, managing the costs, access to funding and the inability to enact legislation would have crippled this endeavour. Without the volunteers, on-the-ground operations, mobilisation, manpower and access would have been mammoth challenges. The 2015 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report has very clearly outlined the relationship between volunteerism and governments (SWVR 2015 Chapter 3, pg. 35). It is clear that governments would do well to utilise the reach, endurance and capabilities of volunteer organisations in achieving their development goals and fulfiling their obligations to the people, as volunteer organisations are often made up of those who are local and familiar with the region. They can, therefore, provide grassroots access to the community, which in turn, allows for open lines of communication to be established, and enables the voices of the people to be heard. When citizens feel included and empowered, the foundations for potentially successful nation-building have been laid. In this way, volunteer organisations play a role in serving both the governors and the governed.

4. For example, Brazil’s health care policy has seen a major revamp in the last two decades as a result of regular debate between policy-makers, health professionals and community representatives. The distribution of public health resources is now more balanced and even their most vulnerable groups have equal access to healthcare. In India, the massive volunteer-driven mobilization after the horrific rape and death of a young woman in New Delhi in 2012, made the government aware of the need for legal reform and, more importantly, of accountability for implementation. A committee was set up to review the law and recommend changes, but, more impressively, civil society was asked to share their opinions and experiences. The more than 80 thousand responses could not have been sorted through with any efficacy and the law could not have been amended in the mere five weeks it took, without the hours of labour provided by the volunteers. In Sierra Leone, the ravages of 11 years of civil war are being repaired by volunteers, who are organising micro-projects to reintegrate combatants into mainstream society, and to ensure that the peace they now have, endures. These projects are those such as social healing through peace camps, sports and cultural events, as well as training and workshops on themes like HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, gender, human rights, confidence-building and advocacy.

5. In the first State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, published in 2011, it was stated that women and men volunteer for about the same number of hours. The report also states that “volunteering reinforces gender roles” and in many countries, women’s voluntary action, for example in the volunteer care of children and older persons, and hospice work, “was viewed as an extension of their maternal role” (SWVR 2011 Ch. 1 page 10). Following that, this year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has stated that over the last 6 years, women are almost on par with men in volunteering, and while men are much more likely to volunteer in sports related activities, women volunteer for more altruistic causes such as in the social and health sectors. This could easily be contributed to the fact that women naturally engage more easily on an emotional level, and this is what is required when volunteering with social and health issues. These two reports complement each other and reiterate that the generally natural inclinations of women, such as being patient, nurturing, supportive and emotionally available, draw us to the practice of volunteering.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

6. Volunteers are, most often, ordinary people who perform extraordinary work in their own time, and sometimes with their own money. They have shown that even a little time and sacrifice can make a big difference in the life of another. They have shown that all it takes is the desire to reach out and the willingness to learn how.

7. I would like to congratulate and thank the special women volunteers, recognised for their invaluable service in their respective fields, who today, have been invited to share the stage to engage you in this one-day seminar on empowering young ASEAN women in nation-building through volunteerism. Indeed, I would like to thank every single one of you volunteers here today, who have made an impact on someone, somewhere.

8. I wish you all a fruitful deliberation today. Let me end by leaving you with the words of Kofi Annan:

“At the heart of volunteerism, are the ideals of service and solidarity, and the belief that together we can make the world better”.

On that note, ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to officially launch the Perak Women’s Day Celebrations 2015.

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