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.
Yap Sue Yii, one of Prestige Malaysia’s 40 Under 40 2021 personalities, founded Komuniti Tukang Jahit (KTJ) in 2018. It was while running her first fashion startup, Royal Demure, that Sue Yii saw an opportunity for a social enterprise to help home-based tailors earn a sustainable income. The enterprise now sources and provides job opportunities to a community of B40 women.
Read our exclusive interview with Sue Yii below:
I hope to challenge the gender roles in a household set by older generations. Experiencing it as a child, it’s clear to me that one’s upbringing influences your mindset, and therefore also where change can happen. I saw how my parents were able to break away and educate my siblings and I on ‘unfair’ traditions and customs, and doing so has brought so much harmony and joy to those from my generation with similar upbringings.
Think about the stereotype of women in the kitchen. It sounds trivial, but it is degrading. Even if a woman cooks and keeps her family fed, and it’s the man who brings home the money and keeps their family sheltered, we should not disregard her efforts. We can teach men that fairness and equality starts at home.
It’s the responsibility of both parents to teach their children about equality. So I challenge all parents, even ones who themselves come from a more traditional family, to look more carefully at traditions to decide what doesn’t need to be carried forward any longer.
It’s as simple as talking to a parent, finding the right partner or speaking out the truth. Women tend to keep peace, but when we do that, our feelings are not heard. Is it really worth it to suffer in silence?
Parents who teach their daughters how to be vocal will go on voice out their feelings and find partners who treat them with equal respect. And then, these women will teach their daughters and sons the same lesson. At the same time, it’s just as important that parents teach their sons about respect, and even show them through action, as easy as helping out in the kitchen.
I’ve seen it happening within my extended family, where my aunties are subservient to my uncles. We are just one generation apart, but they are so set in their ways. Some examples include women walking a few steps behind men, and during large family dinners when women are not allowed to speak while men speak. When a man scolds of shouts at a women, even when it’s in public, the women keeps silent. When the younger generation sees this, they think that women deserve to be shouted at, and mistreated.
Luckily in my immediate family, I leant that it’s good to break away from old mindsets. My mum taught all of us to cook, and now my brother is a great chef with his own restaurant!
To bring about change is to first have those uncomfortable conversations with people around us, be it parents, siblings, partners or friends. Understand the spectrum and why things are done a certain way, always have a questioning mind to ask ourselves: is this something done to keep tradition alive, or is it now done to keep a certain gender subservient?
While families focus on the upbringing of future generations, the education and schooling systems in our country also have a role to play. The system should include teaching our educators about empathy and gender equality, to they too can teach the youth how to grow their emotional quotient (EQ) as a way to effectively communicate, overcome challenges and empathise with others.