Integrating Women in Defence for greater peace and stability

A very good morning to all of you and to our international guests, welcome to Malaysia.

It is indeed an honour for me to be here today to officiate the opening of the Women, Peace and Security course. I am moved to see such a strong representation female personnel in this hall, not only from Malaysia, but also from participating countries such as Bangladesh, Canada, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam.

As you are well aware, Malaysia has tabled our inaugural Defence White Paper in December 2019. The White Paper positioned Malaysia  as a “bridging linchpin” between the Pacific and Indian Oceans regions, and reaffirmed our commitment in maintaining the regional peace and stability and beyond. Indeed, our fate as a nation is intertwined with that of our neighbours, and the broader geopolitical developments in this globalised world. Your presence here will help us to think about these ever-changing scenarios and more meaningful engagements among our countries.

The White paper reaffirmed the importance of Malaysia’s involvement in peacekeeping operations and other humanitarian missions, including our Malaysian Field Hospital in Cox’s Bazaar and our involvement in the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao. These efforts are an indispensable instrument not only in pursuing Malaysia’s core interests and international standing, but more importantly to support Malaysia’s foreign policy commitment in upholding world peace and collective security. 

As such, Malaysia will continue its efforts to enhance the capacity of the MAF peacekeeping troops, which has had a longstanding contribution to UN peacekeeping operations since 1960. This will include improving the interoperability of peacekeepers among nations. 

Malaysia welcomes contributions and opportunities for wider partnerships to further strengthen the role of the Malaysian Peacekeeping Centre, the first of its kind, a multi-dimensional PKO training centre in the region started in 1995. We also continue to work closely with our fellow ASEAN member states via the ASEAN Peacekeeping Centres Network in this endeavour.    

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Women are an integral component in the defence arena, despite the common stereotype that this is a men’s world. The Defence White Paper also underlined the importance of having more diversity and gender balance in the Malaysian Armed Forces. We are resolved to increase the women participation in Malaysian Armed Forces. The idea of women is not suitable for combat is gradually changing – indeed, Malaysian Armed Forces has some very remarkable female fighter pilots – a combat role in every definition. This is crucial, and in line with the United Nations’ call to action to the member states to deploy more women peacekeepers. To encourage female participation in the workforce, the Government is committed to provide necessary support to women in the MAF include ensuring equal career progression opportunities, provision of nursing facilities and subsidised childcare services. 

Indeed, I believe that while we need to treat women equally as men, we must at the same time acknowledge the gender-specific challenges that they face in order to advance in their military careers. 

Malaysia has always remained committed to achieving the goals of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. It has been 20 years since the United Nations adopted the watershed resolution 1325: Women, Peace and Security. At its heart, 1325 affirmed that international peace and security can only be achieved when men and women are equal partners in the prevention and management of conflict and the forging of sustainable peace. Not only is women an equal stakeholder in this matter, they also bring unique experiences and perspectives  that are valuable to the often male-dominated decision-making process. Their involvement in Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict is also extremely useful to the peacekeeping operations.  

Nonetheless, efforts to improve diversity and gender balance in military service is no easy road for any military force. It takes time to build skill and experience, as well as to effect change and mainstreaming the understanding of gender empowerment within the military culture and organisations. 

As such, the course that you will participate in over the coming week is a crucial step towards these goals. I thank our Canadian partners for their commitment, together with the staff of Malaysia Peacekeeping Centre, as I believe that the training you receive here will be outstanding. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The course you are about to embark on is designed to help you to understand how other military organisations, and in particular the Canadian Armed Forces have worked to develop an inclusive and operationally functional military culture. You will learn the good and bad lessons from the experience of others and recognise the key role that military leaders, like yourselves, must play in order to facilitate a more inclusive military culture that improves the operational efficiency of the organisation.

I cherish the hope that this course will be a milestone that allows you to learn more effective preventive and responsive systems to protect women and girls specifically in a conflict situation. The knowledge gained should then be implemented not only in our daily lives but to enhance the capability of your various armed forces in implementing the pledge for world peace. I hope that you will all contribute and participate fully in the next five days. I look forward to hearing good reports about the conduct and outcomes of this course.

With that, I now open the 1/2020 Women, Peace and Security Course and wish you a fruitful week ahead. 

Thank you. 

* Opening Remarks for Women Peace & Security Course 2020, at the Malaysian Peacekeeping Center, Port Dickson

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