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Friday, August 31, 2012

Young lady, your country needs you!


In 2010, there were 2,667,343 women between the ages of 20 and 30 in Malaysia. — Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 ― Lim Lee Lan, or Elle to her friends, is 23 and newly employed as an account executive in an international advertising agency in the city.
She loves shopping (“H&M is opening soon!”) and is concerned that she is still single while her best friend is almost engaged to her boyfriend of one year.
And whether she knows it or not (“I hate politics... I don’t even read the newspapers”) Elle is being targeted by at least one political party.
Both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat have been focusing on being youth-friendly in preparation for the 13th general election, but there is one subsection of this group that has been underserved: Young women between the ages of 21 and 31.
According to the 2010 national census, there were 2,667,343 women between the ages of 20 and 30 in Malaysia. While there are no new statistics available for 2012, it is safe to say this number will have gone up. Now, that is a lot of votes.
Purchasing power and safety were key issues for young women.
In a previous report on The Malaysian Insider, political analysts said women working at home and the young will be key to the outcome of the next general election which has to be called by April.
“All issues affect women, but political parties have to tune in to the specific elements that affect women more,” said Praba Ganesan, who is the social media strategist for PKR.
“My brief is to help the party interact and engage with women through social media.”
So what issues are young women like Elle concerned about? A straw poll done by The Malaysian Insider revealed that even the most apolitical young woman is concerned with the economy. Or to be more specific, the buying power of her ringgit.
“The ringgit is weaker than say... the Singapore dollar. Someone working as an account executive in Singapore can buy a designer bag like Marc Jacobs but I have to save for a Coach bag,” explained Elle’s best friend, Alina, 24, who also works in an advertising agency.
Then there is the issue of crime and personal safety. Many of these young women go out a lot. On weekends. After work. “I have begun to feel quite paranoid about safety... it feels like there is some kind of crime posted on Facebook or Twitter every other day,” said Elle.
And that is why Praba feels the messaging is important. “Issues like the economy, lowering the prices of cars and crime... these things affect women too. Political parties have to impress upon women that the wrong government leads to the wrong policies which affect their lives. But we have to appeal to them on their terms.”
He added that one key change PKR has adopted was to factor gender into all of their activities. “Even if it is an economic meeting, we ask ourselves if there are enough women both in the panel and audience.
“Having more women in our events will mean, firstly, we will consciously emphasise elements which will attract women, and secondly have more female favoured issues being raised at that specific event.
“If women don’t attend or participate, then it is our failure, not the failure of women to understand us.”

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