Anne Rajaisakaran is the chief in heels (even on Instagram) behind the Budimas Charitable Foundation, and there’s an interesting backstory that starts with her career in oil and gas, as well as insurance. As life would have it, it was through a CSR project for work that got Anne involved with the foundation.
The Budimas Charitable Foundation began in 1998, providing six homes to 272 children. Anne began working with them in 2010 and helped to expand the foundation’s efforts and reach with new programmes and initiatives.
Three projects are at the core of Budimas, which serve as Anne’s channels of philanthropy work: Budimas Home Charity Fund, Budimas Food Charity Fund, and Budimas Education Charity Fund. Through these programmes, Budimas is able to help ensure that all children have the necessary resources, security, and encouragement for opportunities in life.
Very much an advocate for equality, we speak to Anne as a CEO, philanthropist, wife, mother, and woman, on how she chooses to challenge the playing field for women in conjunction with International Women’s Day 2021.
My challenge this year is to work towards providing better representation for women across two demographics; those below 18 years old and women above the age of 65.
To begin with, evidence from the Malaysian Welfare Department suggests that approximately 14 in every 1,000 underage Malaysian girls, or 18,000 overall, become pregnant each year. It is also reported that approximately 111 unmarried young girls were pregnant and that the recorded rate was 6 births per 1000 women aged 15-19 years. This may stem from a lack of sex education or if we are looking at the bigger picture, a flaw in our education system.
A sociological perspective also reminds us that gender inequality stems from a complex mixture of cultural and structural factors that must be addressed if gender inequality is to be reduced further.
For women above the age of 65, very little is being done towards protecting their wellbeing. Demographic trends indicate that the number and percentage of single, older females have been increasing dramatically each year, particularly in the upper age groups.
It is also important to note that the current status of a majority of older women in the country is the outcome of generations of discrimination, throughout every stage of the life cycle. Given the neglect of basic socio-economic opportunities and educational needs, the burdens of childbirth, childcare, and unpaid physical labor, the denial of property rights, and the exclusion from decision making that women face, it might be considered miraculous that so many survive to old age.
It is important for us to begin to critically address this situation, and strive to be more equitable and gender-sensitive in its attempts to bring development and gender equality to the country.
It starts from the top but we must first be brave enough to do it ourselves. Gender equality begins at home, and families are at the front lines of change. For the next generation, the examples set at home by parents, care-givers and extended family are shaping the way they think about gender and equality. I feel as soon as we put aside our political and religious views and stance as well as have a neutral frame of mind, we will have more normal conversations about gender bias and inequality.
I have started speaking to my daughter about this issue ever since she started schooling. I try to support her by creating an enabling environment at home, so that she gets the time she needs to prepare for her homework, play with her siblings and her own personal time. Feminism is in her character. She knows her rights and she shares with me what she learns in school.
I must say that I have been lucky as I am in an organisation that promotes equality. Nevertheless, I am not afraid to fight stereotypes, including my own in the workplace thanks to my parents who have taught me to be bold and brave.
I have had close friends who experienced gender bias and inequality at work. It can be very emotionally draining and I try my very best to help them anyway I can. I encourage all females to join hands to protect one another and stand up for ourselves. My advise is also to seek professional help and important safeguards need to be put in place to protect women in their workplaces.
Practice what you preach. Sometimes calling out discrimination can carry risks. It’s not your job alone to fix the world. We are all part of the same movement.
Just changing how we relate with others, and demanding that others do the same, will not end gender inequality. Lasting change will only happen if the institutions that affect our lives also change. Don’t feel defeated by these big obstacles – each small achievement is an extra step towards our shared goal. Caring for ourselves means we can continue to advocate for gender equality so always make sure you are maintaining your own wellbeing.
We can start by reducing socialisation of girls and boys into traditional gender roles, confront gender stereotyping by the popular and news media, increase public consciousness of the reasons for, extent of, and consequences of rape and sexual assault and sexual harassment.
International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated around the globe annually on 8 March; first taking place in the year 1911. The day spotlights social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and this year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, calling on the world to initiate conversations that bring about change. Prestige Malaysia speaks to women who to choose to challenge through their respective careers.