Every year, on 5 June, World Environment Day is celebrated to encourage governments, businesses and citizens to do their part in protecting the planet. The global platform highlights the importance of nature, inspiring action to be taken against pressing environmental issues. From sustainable consumption and environmentally-friendly businesses, to ecological restoration and education, positive change is needed for a greener future!

 

There’s no denying that more people care about protecting the environment these days, but the term “sustainability” has turned into a buzzword that’s thrown around in marketing campaigns. As more companies and brands have grown to focus on sustainability, it’s become harder to understand what that word actually means. By definition, sustainability is “the use of natural products and energy in a way that does not harm the environment”. When companies and brands claim to be sustainable, are we, the consumers, able to tell if it’s true?

 

This World Environment Day, we would like to introduce you to the latest sustainability platform, Upcycle4Better, founded by sustainable fashion advocate, Seri Mizani, and visual storyteller, Hafreez Amminuddin. With their stellar combination of creativity and innovation, that’s a match made in heaven, Upcycle4Better is on a mission to create a community that’s inspired by the beauty of maintaining environmental sustainability through upcycling. After all, team work does make the dream work! Below, they break down sustainability to help us, as consumers, understand the impact of our actions and choices.

 

 

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What is sustainable consumption?

Seri: Speaking based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12, in my understanding, sustainable consumption is about moving towards green growth and getting to a point where we all could provide a triple-win perspective – a balance between the people, the economy, and specifically the planet. To make it simple, it means with whatever choices you make, you have to consider “is this going to harm the people, the planet and the ecosystem in the long run?”. I know, it’s so intense! It’s a lot to take in and it’s easier said than done too.

We’re only at the start of finding sustainable ways when it comes to our day-to-day consumption and lifestyle. However, I do believe that the pandemic has heightened our environmental awareness. I feel like some of us have been slowly implementing sustainability in our lives without realising it, such as buying from local small businesses, eating more plant- based, or just reusing the same baju for 3 straight days because we’re just working from home, haha!

Anyways, personally, how I see sustainable consumption at the moment, is making sustainable choices / decisions that are achievable for us. Start small. Going for a sustainable lifestyle will not happen overnight, so do what sparks you!

How can we build a sustainable culture here in Malaysia?

There are a good amount of things that we can do as individuals to minimise our impact and create a better relationship with our environment. However, there is more that we can do as a collective.

Building a culture means having the like-minded people with the same values. Right at this moment, realistically, building a sustainable culture in Malaysia means educating the people around us on what it means to be “sustainable”. There are people who still see it as vague, which is understandable.

Most of us were not taught to understand what sustainability and caring for the planet means. Not even in school. That is why we do believe education is key when it comes to building a culture, especially if it is a sustainable one.

What are some affordable ways people can practice sustainability?

Up-cycling, of course! It’s the most economical way to practise sustainability. You can do it with food by making leftovers, repurposing empty jars, or restyling your old clothes. There’s a lot of ways!

Keep up with Upcycle4better’s efforts and join their community by following them on Instagram!

The persisting stigma surrounding menstruation can be seen by the many euphemisms that exist for the term: “shark week”, “code red”, “female trouble”, “time of month”, “Aunt Flow”…and these are just in English! While some may be entertaining to use, they are actually harmful as they reinforce the idea that having your period is something to be ashamed of and should be hidden from others. Because of this stigma and taboo, menstruation isn’t discussed as openly as it should be, and this leads to false information being shared from generation to generation. It’s now become crucial to have open conversations about periods, and dismantle cultures of misinformation and shame that have been around for centuries.

Let’s debunk these menstrual myths to prove how healthy and normal menstruation is:

 

MYTH #1
“EW, PERIOD BLOOD IS DIRTY!”

This is one of the oldest myths that have been around, and passed down from generation to generation. Period blood isn’t dirty blood. Period blood is simply a different form of bodily fluids (which is naturally secreted by the body) that contains a little bit of blood, uterine tissue, mucus lining and bacteria.

 

MYTH #2
PERIODS = WOMANHOOD

We’ve all heard the notion, “Once you get your period, you become a woman”. Now, throw that notion out the window! Not all women menstruate and not everyone who menstruates is a woman. Periods aren’t experienced by cisgender women only – they are also experienced by trans men, and non-binary, genderqueer and intersex individuals.

 

MYTH #3
“YOUR PMS IS NOT REAL / YOU’RE JUST BEING DRAMATIC”

For those who menstruate, PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) is a naturally occurring monthly change in their body – not a mindset! Right before a menstruation cycle, the sex hormone (oestrogen and progesterone) levels drop drastically, causing emotional and physical symptoms such as mood swings, tiredness, painful cramps and headaches. When the human body experiences these changes, it is bound to affect their emotions and reactions to daily stressors. It is not made up or an excuse – it is very much real!

The next time your period causes you to not feel like your usual self, please remember that it is completely normal and perfectly okay to feel that way.

 

MYTH #4
“YOU WILL LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY IF YOU USE A TAMPON / PERIOD CUP”

The sanitary products developed for dealing with our periods are predominantly safe and won’t affect your virginity at all. These products, which are designed to go inside of you, may cause the hymen to stretch. However, they will not cause someone to lose their virginity. Check out our list of safe, eco-friendly and organic period products here!

 

MYTH #5
LATE PERIODS = PREGNANCY 

False! There are plenty of reasons why a period might be late. Sudden weight loss, stress, contraceptive pills and irregular periods can affect your menstrual cycle – hence, making your period late. If you’re worried, take a pregnancy test to ease your mind or visit your gynaecologist. Don’t forget to practice safe sex!

You can understand your period cycle better by downloading period tracker apps like Flo and Clue.

 

It can be extremely empowering to exchange experiences, information and ideas about menstruation. By encouraging candid conversation about periods, we are supporting the individuals in our lives, and breaking the taboos and myths around them. Having your period is a normal thing – as ordinary as having to go to the bathroom! No person should ever be held back just because they are on their period.

You may have skipped school because of period pain, or have gone home early because of a stain, but in many countries, including Malaysia, children have been missing school because they can’t afford menstrual hygiene products or are afraid of being bullied for having their periods. 

 

Period poverty is a global problem that affects up to 500 million individuals (more than 800 million people menstruate daily). They have limited access to sanitary products and hygiene facilities, such as toilets, handwashing facilities and/or waste management. This human rights issue is exacerbated by the lack of education on menstrual health and hygiene, and the prevailing taboos and stigma. As a result, millions of individuals are held back from reaching their full potential at school and work because it threatens their opportunities, health and overall social status.

 

In Malaysia, the pandemic has made matters worse. Individuals in poor urban areas were already struggling to find an absorbent substitute for unaffordable sanitary pads, resorting to paper, newspaper and ‘kain batik’. In rural areas, they’ve even had to make use of coconut husks and banana leavesNot only are these ‘alternatives’ extremely uncomfortable, the unsanitary conditions they provide put wearers at risk of developing infections, which can lead to serious health issues.

 

Period poverty doesn’t just affect girls and women, it is a global sanitation problem. According to UNICEF, 2.3 billion people live without basic sanitation services worldwide, and in developing countries, only 27% of the population have a hand washing facility (soap and water) at home. The lack of education on menstrual health and hygiene among boys and men also harms for those who menstruate, as it affects their confidence and social solidarity. 

 

Menstrual Hygiene Day is a global advocacy platform that promotes good menstrual health and hygiene for all. Their goal is to end period poverty and stigma by 2030 by raising awareness and breaking the stigma around menstrual health and hygiene, and engaging decision makers to increase action and investment in menstrual health and hygiene at global, national and local levels. 

 

Achieving menstrual equity worldwide will empower people to manage their menstruation safely and hygienically, with confidence and without shame. It will allow everyone access to menstrual products, proper toilets, hand washing facilities, waste management, and education.

Did you know that 18-year-old Malaysians are old enough to:

  1. Start an NGO
  2. Start working
  3. Register a business
  4. Drive a vehicle
  5. Own a credit card
  6. Buy property
  7. Travel unaccompanied
  8. Join the military
  9. Get married
  10. File a lawsuit

But they are not old enough to vote. They are allowed the same roles and responsibilities as those who can vote, but are still denied of the right to vote.

Young adults should not be unfairly excluded from the decision-making of societies. They have a larger stake in our future and are more affected by political issues. This is why The Body Shop Malaysia has launched a nationwide campaign to petition the government for the timely implementation of lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, as passed by the Malaysian Parliament in July 2019 to amend Article 119(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.

The petition calls upon the government to ensure that this amendment is honoured as initially promised by July 2021. It was recently announced that the implementation of the amended Act would only take effect in September next year. Hence, this will affect the eligibility of 1.2 million 18-year-olds to vote in the coming general elections.

The Body Shop’s My Vote My Right18 campaign and petition will be running for the whole month of May. Malaysians can support and sign the petition in-stores or online. They aim to submit the petition to our cabinet members in the first week of June, 2021.

For more information, and latest updates, on the My Vote My Right18 campaign, you can follow The Body Shop on Instagram or email them here.

According to a report analysis by World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), Malaysians are Asia’s largest consumer of plastic. Single-use plastic is still one of the biggest culprits behind our serious waste problem, especially when not disposed properly. The wrongful disposal of single-use plastic items, such as plastic bags and plastic water bottles, poses a threat to wildlife – harming innocent animals from accidental consumption, and polluting our ocean waters and coral reefs.

Stepping up to stop this environmental problem, Love Beauty and Planet (Unilever’s eco-friendly beauty brand), has launched a sustainability campaign in partnership with Watsons Malaysia and in conjunction with Earth Month, to educate consumers about the impact of plastic waste and encourage them to play their part in making the planet a better place.

To teach the public about recycling, the brand has created an interactive mobile game that offers Malaysians a chance to be an online eco-warrior and save a virtual marine world. With every successful gameplay, you can earn an exclusive voucher that is valid to be used for any Love Beauty and Planet product at Watsons’ stores, website, or in-app purchases!

When it comes to combatting Malaysia’s low recycling rate of 30%, as reported by Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp)’s last year, the brand is collaborating with Watsons to place recycling bins in 20 Watsons retail stores within the Klang Valley. You can visit the participating Watsons stores from 12 April 2021 to 31 May 2021 to drop off any used plastic bottles to be recycled – all of the collected bottles will be sent to a local plastic management company to be given a second life. As a reward for doing your part for the planet, you will be entitled to a reward voucher from Love Beauty and Planet to be used at Watsons!

To take part in the recycling initiative, you can visit any of the participating stores below:

You’re probably reading this because you haven’t watched Seaspiracy, so full disclaimer: this article contains spoilers. If you’re not planning to watch the documentary, then keep reading!

 

The reason Seaspiracy is all the rage right now is because of the shocking facts it unveiled to the public. Released by Netflix and produced by Kip Anderson, Seaspiracy revolves around raising awareness on environmental pollution – specifically, as you may have guessed, ocean pollution. 

Over the course of 89 minutes, numerous factors contributing to ocean pollution are discussed and dissected, so let’s dive into the details:

 

Eliminating Plastic Straws Is Not The Answer

 

Eliminating Fishing Gear Is The Answer

 

Sustainable Fishing Is Not Actually Sustainable 

 

The Major and Main Issue: Bycatch 

 

Oh And Human Slavery Still Exists

 

How You Can Help

Feeling shook? That’s more than understandable, but here’s some good news: you can help. Seriously. By boycotting the commercial fishing industry, you basically vote with your dollar as the saying goes!

Of course, don’t stop, drop, and immediately roll into vegetarianism or veganism – take baby steps. You can start by incorporating ‘Fishless Fridays’ into your week then gradually add more ‘fishless’ days into your calendar. Alternatively, you can choose to purchase only from local fishermen that you know are not adding to the problem. Simply raising awareness on the data provided by Seaspiracy will help as well – even more so if you sign petitions or create your own. 

Start where you can and take it from there. 

You got this!

MERAH HAREM, a lingerie and underwear webshop, breaks down rape culture with this article.

 

What is rape culture?

Firstly, ‘rape’ is defined as the gross act of demeaning and commodifying a person by way of forced sexual intercourse without consent. Rape culture refers to a social environment where sexual violence or assault is normalised, justified and excused, fueled by deep-rooted attitudes towards gender and sexual inequalities. Giving rise to a culture where the victim is to be blamed for their own sexual violence or assault, rather than to punish the rapist or perpetrator. 

Victim-blaming would typically focus on the victim’s physical appearance such as their looks, clothes or makeup and their motives or choices leading up to the incident. This would then lend itself towards invisible social narratives to justify that the rapist was acting on sexual desires, unable to control their sexual urges or was sexually provoked, hence shifting the blame towards the victim. Further strengthened by cultural norms and institutions which would protect the rapist and subject the victim – most often women – and their entire gender to make changes on their actions and choices instead, thereby creating a society which disregards women’s rights and safety.

Rape culture would then perpetuate this inhumane act and allow sexual violence or assault to flourish, as the stigma associated to it, victim-blaming and institutional failure surrounding it would discourage victims from coming forward with their accounts. However, although the term ‘rape culture’ was first coined back in the 1970s, many recent incidences have propelled rape culture and questions surrounding it into the limelight, such as the #MeToo and #SlutWalk movements, which have addressed rape culture in mainstream outlets and encouraged people and victims to share their accounts or stories through hashtags on social media.

 

The Sexual Violence Pyramid

‘Harmless’ jokes and sexist attitudes within rape culture will do more harm than any good, as the use of misogynistic language such as “she asked for it”, “boys will be boys” or “women say ‘no’ when they mean ‘yes’ has elements of victim-blaming and objectification of women which trivialises sexual violence or assault. Such statements imply gender inequalities between men and women, where ‘manhood’ is to be seen as dominant and sexually aggressive, and ‘womanhood’ as submissive and sexually passive. 

This is often amplified in the media and popular culture through mediums such as movies and television, which tend to gratify gender roles, sexual violence and tolerate sexually explicit jokes. An example on the last point, on a popular American dating reality show, the woman accidentally choked on her food during a dinner date and the man implied that the size of his d*ck would make her choke even more (alluding towards his crude intentions after the date). The woman confronts him immediately but was criticised for being “too sensitive” and “cannot take a joke”, which gaslights her experience. This triangle chart below by 11th Principle: Consent! exemplifies how dangerous such normalised attitudes and behaviours in rape culture can accumulatively add up towards further degradation and assault:

Wild Ginger previously wrote an article on online sexual harassment where behaviours such as stalking / following, sending non-consensual photos or videos and unsolicited dick pics would run rampant yet go ignored in this digital day and age. When the perpetrators are confronted on their actions, they would brush it off as women “overreacting” or “it’s not like it’s rape” – but it is precisely these sort of behaviours and the tolerance of them that is dangerous, because it has the potential to grow into worse outcomes as accountability was never held or pinned down to the perpetrator.

 

Rape Culture in Malaysia

A publication titled Enough of This Nonsense! Rape is Rape: A Malaysian Perspective (2019) shared that an average of five rape cases are being reported in Malaysia every day, alluding that it is a societal problem affecting all Malaysians who choose to engage in rape culture by endorsing rape myths. Earlier a rape myth was discussed on physical appearance, other popular rape myths in the publication refer to the emotional reactions of the victims, physical injuries, rape only happening between strangers, women lying about being raped and the idea that men cannot be raped. Another statistic indicates that one rape case happens every 35 minutes in Malaysia (Women’s Centre for Change, 2015) and, worse, towards minors; so to debunk one of the popular rape myths, an astounding seven out of ten rape cases are committed by someone known to the victim. Let these statistics sink in that these are indeed happening in our beloved country Malaysia. 

Instead of seeking for justice, those in a position of power such as MPs would encourage rape victims to marry their rapists as an escape route from what they conceive rape to be – that the incident was simply sexual intercourse outside of marriage (charged under Section 376 of the Penal Code in the Sessions Court), which criminalises the sexual act rather than rape itself. Hence, rape culture in Malaysia carries heavy religious undertones to cover up perverted thoughts by harking on women to tutup aurat (cover up their modesty). For example, an accomplished woman MP was sexually harassed by a man who commented on her buah dada (breasts) despite wearing a hijab. The host, who seemed to be immuned to this degrading slur, thanked the man for his advice instead of calling him out in this public sexual harassment. This article also criticises the lack of moral gatekeeping compounded by Malaysian dramas, which tend to glamourise and vindicate gender stereotypes and violence rather than using media as an educational tool. 

 

How can we combat rape culture?

We, as a global or Malaysian society member, have the opportunity to assess whether our behaviours and beliefs for biases permit rape culture to stay prevalent. On a smaller-scale, attitudes we have towards rape culture can be evaluated by identifying our stance towards inequalities surrounding gender and sexuality, as well as the policies we choose to support and the institutional failures we choose to challenge in order to play a role in influencing others:

These are just some actions you can take to combat rape culture – the first step is awareness that rape culture is indeed a prevalent issue, and following that, to quote a popular Bahasa Malaysia peribahasa, sedikit sedikit, lama lama jadi bukit (with little by little determination, soon the outcome will be substantial). You, can make a difference.

 

Note: Although this write-up debates gender inequalities between men and women, it is by no means an attempt to overlook others situated outside this gender binary. In challenging ‘Not All Men’, this is not to say that men do not experience sexual violence or assault too, however it is the notion that the majority of these incidences are perpetrated by men and this is the problem. 

 

You can follow Merah Harem on Instagram for sex education resources and visit their website for more. If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual violence, you can contact the Women’s Aid Organisation Hotline at 03 3000 8858 or SMS/WhatsApp TINA at 018 988 8058 .

Every year, on April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day is globally recognised by the United Nations to raise awareness on people with autistic spectrum disorders, including autism and Asperger Syndrome. Member States of the United Nations are urged to provide those on the autism spectrum with the assistance needed to improve their quality of life, so they can lead a meaningful life as an integral part of society.

Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD is a developmental disability that affects the way people communicate and process sensory information. There is no single cause for it, and it varies from person to person in severity and combinations of symptoms.

This year, the theme of World Autism Awareness Day is “Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World“. There is a severe underemployment of adults on the autism spectrum, and on top of these pressing discriminatory hiring practices, those who are employed face challenges in their workplace environments as they don’t provide accessibility for persons with autism or other disabilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only made these inequalities worse with the loss of hundreds of millions of jobs. To tackle this issue, the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) has just launched the world’s first Certified E-Commerce Specialist (CES) Level 1 Programme for youths with autism in Malaysia. The specialised training and internship programme aims to empower these youths with skills in digital marketing and E-Commerce, providing new career opportunities for the community.

Although the rate of autism is high worldwide, there is still a lack of understanding, leading to stigmatisation and discrimination, that tremendously impacts these individuals, their families and communities. NASOM is working towards achieving an inclusive society in Malaysia where people with autism can reach their full potential, participate in their communities and lead a meaningful life with dignity.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). For the past 20 years, the global campaign has fought to raise visibility about sexual assault and share how it can be prevented. Sexual violence is not a personal problem – it is a public health, human rights and social justice issue. Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault. SAAM aims to end sexualized violence and achieve a world free from abuse through educating communities and individuals on healthy sexuality, consent and bystander intervention.

 

This year, SAAM is bringing awareness to the shadow pandemic after seeing a significant increase in online sexual harassment and domestic violence during COVID-19. Themed “We Can Build Safe Online Spaces”, the campaign is focused on preventing sexual abuse online and providing survivors with trauma-informed spaces. Lockdowns moved harassment from the streets to social media, causing the same psychological damage. Victims have been left feeling unsafe with cyberviolence having the potential to lead to physical harm.

 

In Malaysia, the Sexual Harassment Bill has still not been tabled although online sexual harassment continues to rise amid the pandemic. An Anti-Stalking Law has not been passed either to protect individuals from both offline and online stalking and harassment. Among the increase in digital misogyny and harassment, local online searches related to intimate partner violence has grown by almost 50% and searches seeking domestic violence has grown by 70% since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented.

 

We must work together when it comes to ending sexual assault, harassment and abuse. Join us this Sexual Assault Awareness Month as we raise awareness, show actional support to survivors, promote equality and change social norms. We all share the responsibility to create safer communities, online and offline, that are free from sexual violence.

 

If you or anyone you know is a victim, you can contact the Women’s Aid Organisation Hotline at 03 3000 8858 or SMS/WhatsApp TINA at 018 988 8058 .

The theme of this year’s Global Recycling Day is #RecyclingHeroes, and it celebrates the people, places and activities that work hard towards achieving an environmentally stable planet and a greener future for all. We’ve recently been experiencing record-breaking temperatures as we face a climate emergency that threatens international peace and security. This has made it more urgent than ever for us to work together to combat the rising global temperatures, melting ice caps, burning continents and increasing deforestation. 

 

Today, we wanted to showcase our local #RecyclingHeroes who have continuously campaigned for a better future for our planet. By doing their part and more to preserve the environment, these heroes have become crucial to our wellbeing. Below are 10 Malaysian #RecyclingHeroes that will inspire you to be more eco-friendly with their innovative recycling practices and admirable habits:

 

 

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A post shared by Alam Flora (@alamflorasdnbhd)

The solid waste management company’s recycling initiative accepts 20 different types of recyclables and encourages the community to partake by buying their recyclable items for cash. You can exchange your waste, including electronics and cooking oil, at their centres and lorries in Kuala Lumpur, Cyberjaya and Putrajaya. 

 

 

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A post shared by Biji-biji Initiative (@bijibiji.initiative)

An initiative by Biji-Biji, this campaign transforms plastic waste into recycled products while offering an alternative source of income to underprivileged communities. Their products include notebooks, key chains, customized award plaques and more, and instil a sustainability mindset in those who produce and purchase them. 

 

 

 

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A post shared by ERTH (@erthhq)

Short for E-waste Recycling Through Heroes, the electronic waste recycling service will pay you for old electronics to be recycled. If you have any unused devices or appliances, book a free pick-up in Klang Valley or drop it off at their 24/7 centre in Cyberjaya.

 

 

 

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A post shared by iCYCLE GLOBAL (@icycleglobal)

This rewards-based recycling platform motivates users to recycle by allowing them to track their efforts and accumulate points. By sticking personalised barcode stickers on the bags of recyclables you drop off at their bins, you will be credited points to be exchanged for merchandise or cash vouchers.

 

 

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A post shared by IPC Shopping Centre (@ipcshoppingcentre)

At IPC Shopping Centre, you can earn cash by discarding at least 1kg of recyclable waste at their drop off station. They accept items such as old magazines and newspapers, plastics and metals, as well as used bulbs and batteries.

 

 

 

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A post shared by Kloth (@klothlifestyle)

The first fabric recycling movement in Malaysia, this social entrepreneur keeps fabrics out of landfills by donating them to charitable organisations, exporting them to developing countries, or giving them new life as cloths or upcycled garments. Feel free to donate all your unwanted clothes, shoes and bags – even those that are unwearable. 

 

 

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A post shared by OiLilin (@oililin.my)

This candle brand recycles used cooking oil for their environmentally-friendly scented candles. They upcycle cooking oil to prevent it from clogging drainage pipes and contaminating surface water and the land – this can disrupt the flow of oxygen for flora and fauna.

 

 

 

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A post shared by The Hive Bulk Foods ™ (@thehivebulkfoods)

Malaysia’s very first zero-waste store, they also accept items to be recycled, ranging from paper bags and glass jars / bottles to e-waste. The store advocates a zero waste lifestyle for the betterment of our planet by offering the largest bulk whole foods option and other green products.

 

 

 

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A post shared by The Mineraw® Skincare (@themineraw)

This eco-friendly skincare brand packages their natural beauty products in recyclable containers. They have a Reuse, Recycle, Return programme that allows customers to drop off empty bottles at any zero-waste store that stocks them or their own store at The Curve.

 

 

 

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A post shared by Zero Waste Malaysia 🌏 (@zerowastemalaysia_official)

A non-profit organisation, they raise awareness, provide talks and conduct sharing sessions to promote having a zero waste lifestyle. The organisation offers plenty of free resources from maps to handbooks, enabling the public to execute a zero waste action plan.

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., ​“We are made by history”;​ so it’s important that we touch base with the history of women’s rights in Malaysia for a firmer grasp on how we want to shape our future.

Ever since Malaysia gained Independence in 1957, girls and women in Malaysia have always had open access to education. However, it came with more constrictions and cultural rules, as compared to their male counterparts. Hence why women aimed for simpler positions such as clerks, typists, and teachers. Only in the 1970s did we start seeing girls courageously crossing the barrier, persevering, and proving the earlier stigmas wrong – that women were not suitable for “manlier” jobs involving technical education, engineering, or even court duty.

Regardless of women progressing in education, as well as the country developing more and more everyday, and in spite of the policies set by the government to support women’s entry and retention at the workforce, barriers such as lack of mentoring, stereotyping, and being excluded from networks still exists.

People across the world have many misperceptions about equality: we underestimate women’s experience of sexual harassment, and are overly optimistic about when economic and pay equality will be achieved. In reality, women in the Malaysian workforce still face unjust challenges every single day.

A ​survey done by Women’s Aid Organisation shows that up to 21% of women have encountered a form of sexual harassment, but many are still misinformed on what entails as sexual harassment in the workplace. Many still think that behaviours that their colleagues do, such as unwelcomed touching or grabbing, stalking or repeatedly making advances after being rejected, as “unprofessional behaviour”. Education on women’s safety and rights need to be boosted to ensure that women know that they are being treated respectably and just.

In June 2016, women accounted for only 15.2% of director positions in the top 100 listed companies on Bursa Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange). According to ​this study by the Human Resource Management Academic Research Society, 75% agree that the stereotypes about women’s abilities and roles still exist in the industry and 51.9% receive less mentoring than men in this industry. The ‘glass ceiling’, which still exists in most organisations, acts as the biggest barrier in women advancing in their careers.

The ‘glass ceiling’ refers to the invisible barriers that prevents qualified women from reaching their full potential within their company. Women are inclined to be over-represented in the junior level, but under-represented at the senior level in a company. It has resulted in a disadvantageous effect on the economy and morale of any organisation.

Unfortunately, there are many who still perceive women as weak, unable to carry out certain roles, or that women are only to play the “caring” roles in organizations. This phenomenon is also known as ​“Stereotype Confirmation Bias​”, and it happens when leaders confirm their stereotypes while filtering out all other examples. This adds on to the factor of discrimination.

According to a ​survey done by Women’s Aid Organisation, 56% of working women have experienced one or more types of gender discrimination at the workplace, including being asked personal questions regarding their marital or family status, being tasked to perform jobs that are not asked of men in the same position, receiving questions or comments about their ability to perform certain tasks, and being omitted from promotions even though their qualifications surpass the other candidates.

What To Do If You Encounter Discrimination?

If you feel that you are being discriminated against, there are many organisations that you may reach out to seek help. You can consider getting in touch with:

  • The Human Resource Department (who deals with internal grievances)
  • The Malaysian Labour Office
  • Your Trade Unions

The first thing to do would be to contact the Human Resource Department to find out about your company’s grievance processes. If the situation cannot be resolved internally, you may escalate it further to the labour office.

Although there has been significant progress in the representation of women in the workplace, women are still far from being seen as an equal. Katherine Davis, the former Managing Director of IPSOS in Malaysia said, “Where women are fully represented, societies are more peaceful and stable. Standing up for women’s rights and development is standing up for the global good”. We need to keep spreading awareness on this issue and keep talking about it in our conversations in order for real change to take place!

Did you know that in Malaysia:

These are the dire consequences of undetailed sexual health education. 

In a society such as ours, sexual health isn’t counted as physical health – it’s a subject that’s actually avoided. Youths are taught the very bare necessities, leaving too much room for misinformation. This has caused many to make harmful decisions, including baby dumping, having teenage pregnancies, and spreading sexually-transmitted infections.

It has become crucial for us to openly start acknowledging sexual health in order to protect our physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as others’. But how do we turn this taboo topic, which continuously sparks criticism, into a positive dialogue? 

We asked Jasmine King (a sex positive advocate, speaker and sexual health educator), for her advice on breaking the stigma and normalising conversations around sex. She currently does this on her Instagram page, Jas Explains, where she promotes sexual empowerment by creating educational content, sparking important conversations and sharing sex positive resources.

What exactly is sexual health?

According to WHO, sexual health is the “positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence”. In ensuring everyone receives adequate sexual health, it is important for us to have:

Simply put, sexual health encompasses everything that is connected to our sexual wellbeing, whether it be reproduction, relationships, laws and reforms, or diseases and dysfunctions.

 

What are the common misconceptions Malaysians have about sexual health?

A common one would probably be that sexual health is only about sex and the health of our reproductive organs, but it spans beyond that. It’s about health and rights, as well as the social aspect of sex. This encompasses our reproductive health and rights, sexual relationships, knowledge and education, diseases and dysfunctions, sexual violence like harassment or abuse, and harmful practices like female genital mutilation.

 

Why is it so important?

It’s important because sexual health is an aspect of our health, and despite the taboo and stigma that’s attached to it, it’s still very much important for us to educate ourselves on it – despite being married or not, young or old. Usually sexual health is only prioritized when couples want to start a family or when something traumatic happens like abuse/harassment.

 

How can we overcome sexual shame as a society?

A first big step to overcoming sexual shame is to first of all educate ourselves. We need to unlearn years of education and beliefs, which are masked by layers of taboo, stigma and shame, and relearn everything again from the start. By relearning and normalizing the conversation, we are then able to provide a safe space to educate others and receive without judgement.

 

As individuals, what are the benefits of overcoming sexual shame?

It releases us from some of the shame, judgement and fear that we carry. Sex and our bodies are a normal and healthy part of our lives and should be treated with respect, instead of disgust and shame. By allowing ourselves to overcome shame, we would be able to fully embrace our sexual and sensual side instead of fearing them.

 

What does it mean to be sex positive?

Someone who is sex positive values consent, communication, education that allows people to make informed choices about their bodies, and pleasure. They respect and do not judge those who consensually practise diverse sexuality and gender expressions.

 

As sex is a religious stigma here, how can we promote a more sex positive culture?

We can do this by not focusing so much on the term ‘sex’ and changing the language to make it more accessible and neutral for everyone. Hence why, sex education is also known as ‘comprehensive sexuality education (CSE)’ and sex positivity is also referred to as ‘positive sexuality’. Changing the language as well as acknowledging that it’s more than just about sex can promote a more sex positive culture. CSE covers an array of topics which includes:

Etc.

For more information on sexual health, tune into Jasmine’s podcast, I Wish Someone Told Me, to hear stories by Asians, or those living in Asia, on gender, sexuality, dating, intimacy and sexual empowerment. You can also follow @iwishthepod and @jasexplains on Instagram for more sex positive content and resources!