This seminar is strategically organised in line with 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) adopted by Malaysia and the rest of the United Nations Members at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 25 September 2015. This 2030 Agenda is a global commitment to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In particular, this seminar aims to tackle SDG 4 which seeks to provide quality education, SDG 5 that promotes gender equality, and SDG 10 which purports to reduce inequalities. It is a widely known fact that disparity in gender is largely due to lack of access to education which ultimately affects level of literacy. Even though in Malaysia, youth literacy, as well as adult literacy, has significantly improved over the years, there are still concerns on literacy in legal, social and cultural issues.

In general, literacy refers to reading, writing, counting and critical thinking skills. However, one should also include awareness of rights in literacy. Not being able to read and comprehend also means that one may not have the necessary knowledge of their rights be it in legal, social and/or cultural issues. Lack of knowledge or literacy in these issues would ultimately lead to disparity in achievement between genders. Efforts have to be taken in eliminating if not, reducing these inequalities as this is crucial for Malaysia to achieve the status of a developed nation.

In addition to literacy in legal, social and/or cultural issues, there is also a need to empower women in entrepreneurship and developmental issues as part of the nation’s preparation to embrace Industrial Revolution 4.0. This matter should not be taken lightly as the impacts of the Industrial Revolution are unavoidable and far-reaching. Thus, in ensuring that no one is left behind, measures should be undertaken to ensure gender parity is attained in all fields. This seminar discusses these pertinent issues as well as highlighting appropriate solutions.

The seminar aimed to provide platform for effective discussion/collaboration in the effort to find solutions to these issues, to highlight the importance of achieving gender literacy and ensuring inclusiveness of all sections of the community in the efforts to achieve the SDGs and to procure avenue for establishing networking among various related parties.

Seminar on Gender and Literacy in Sabah: Eliminating the Gaps

The seminar on Gender and Literacy in Sabah: Eliminating the Gaps was held on the 21 February 2019 at Pacific Sutera Hotel, Kota Kinabalu. The one-day seminar was organised by the Institute for Development Studies (Sabah), in partnership with Konrad-Adenaeur-Stiftung (KAS) and in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sabah. The seminar was attended by 180 participants comprising of academician, educationist, officials from related government departments and agencies, interested NGOs and individuals, representatives from private sectors/corporations and representatives from the media.

The objectives of the seminar are:

i. To provide platform for effective discussion/collaboration in the effort to find solution to these issues;

ii. To highlight the importance of achieving gender literacy and ensuring inclusiveness of all sections in the community in the efforts to achieve the SDGs; and

iii. To procure avenue for establishing network among various related parties.

Key Panellists Forum

The seminar started with a key panellist forum with a theme of Gender Mainstreaming. The key panellists were the guest of honour Y.B. Madam Jannie Lasimbang, YBhg. Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, Chairman of Institute for Development Studies (Sabah), Mr. Wolfgang Hruschka, Representative of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Office Malaysia and Dr. Dayang Suria Hj. Mulia, Senior Lecturer of Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Heritage UMS. IDS CEO, Datuk Dr. Johan Arriffin Abd. Samad was the moderator for the session.

Summary from Key Panellist Forum:

• Gender mainstreaming is the public policy concept of assessing the different implications for people of different genders, of any kind policy actions including legislation and programmes;

• Literacy is ability to read and write text. In a broader meaning, of being knowledgeable and capable in particular field. Literacy also includes proper set of skills, literacy as applied practice to strengthen the different cultures and literacy as a learning process;

• 30% target yet to be achieved by women in decision making level;

• Human right is not about a man or a woman, but rather on qualities of a man and woman. In occupation, merit should be given to those qualifies and shows achievement’ and

• Technology (e.g. computer literacy) is an enabling tool which can help women to do their job at flexible hours, at home and do not have to be physically in the office.

Prof. Dr. Noraida Endut, Director of Centre for Research on Women and Gender (KANITA), Universiti Sains Malaysia delivered the seminar’s keynote paper entitled ‘Gender and Literacy in Malaysia (With Implication on Sabah: Legal, Socio-cultural & Political Issues)’. Literacy means not just in its’ natural context, but beyond its’ standard definition in relation to gender equality. Although women out-power men in terms of education and health, they are still far behind from being literate in political, social and economic empowerment matters. Thus it is important to further discuss on how the lack of literacy is affecting the women in ways that are often overlooked.


There were seven papers presented by speakers from universities, government department and NGOs. The seminar was divided into two sessions with question and answer at the end of each session.

The first session was moderated by Prof. Dr. Hajah Arsiah Haji Bahron, Dean of Centre for Postgraduate Studies UMS. The presenters are:-

i. Madam Marja Azlima Omar, Senior Lecturer of Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Heritage, UMS on Legal Literacy and Gender Inequalities: Tilting the Balance;

ii. Madam Noor Azah Abd Rahman, President of Sabah Muslim Women Lawyers Association (SALWA) on Women Rights under Syariah Law: Towards Achieving Gender Parity;

iii. Dr. Haryati Abd Karim, Senior Lecturer of Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Heritage, UMS on Literacy in Health: The Need to Empower Rural Women in Sabah for Better Healthcare;

iv. Prof. Dr. Mohd Anis Md. Nor, Adjunct Professor of Faculty of Music and Performing Arts, Sultan Idris Education University, on Gender Gaps in Cultural Studies: Tilting the Balance.

The second session was moderated by Prof. Dr. Hashim Awang, Fellow of Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Heritage, UMS. The presenters are:-


i. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sivapalan Selvadurai, Senior Lecturer of School of Social, Development and Environmental Studies, The National University of Malaysia, UKM on Entrepreneurial Literacy in Empowering Women in Rural Areas: Drawing on Experience of Local Champion.

ii. Prof. Dr. Junaenah Sulehan, Director of Institute of Borneo Studies, University College Sabah Foundation (UCSF) on Literacy in Inclusions of Ethnic Minority in Sabah

iii. Madam Morian Paidal from Enforcement Unit, Department of Labour Sabah on Legal Literacy and the Labour Rights of Women Workers in Sabah.


Gender Mainstreaming

• It is important to look into wider scope of literacy to empower women such as literacy in health, parenting skill, human rights, law, politics, entrepreneurial skill and etc.

• There is a serious need to revisit and strengthen our policies and programmes to support women empowerment.

• Men should attend and invited to seminar on gender, as it is important to get their views as well as to educate them on gender issues.

• Government investment in quality, affordable and safe child care centres has to be a priority as to encourage and enable more women to join work force and to earn a living for their families as well as to help cultivate a future workforce, secure long-term economic competitiveness and develop nation’s future leaders.

• It is important to have Gender Equality Act in Malaysia to tilt the balance as well as to empower women and to implement Malaysia’s obligation under CEDAW.

Syariah Law Literacy

• Awareness among Muslim women on their rights in Syariah Law is still low. Prolonged courts cases are also due to the women do not adhere to the procedure of the court. Therefore an effective awareness program is needed to disseminate the information to Muslim communities.

Health Literacy

• Education, knowledge and access to health information are crucial. Therefore, regular health talk is a must to ensure adequate dissemination of health information.

• Reactivate KOSPEN Programme (Komuniti Sihat Pembina Negara) with improved programme.

• Dissemination of information by improving health reporting in media especially in television and local radio station.

Culture and Gender

• Cultural studies on gender specific groups could be conducted on the other linguistic groupings, for example weavers, material arts and culture (gong makers, musical instruments) and rituals’ interlocutors amongst the Dusunic, Murutic, Paitanic and Brunei Malays.

• To observe the outcome of cultural studies on gender roles and gender types on Sabah’s cultural practices through the sociological perspectives on gender interrogation using structural function theory, symbolic interactive theory and /or social conflict theory.

Entrepreneurial Literacy

• Entrepreneurial literacy amongst rural women is a necessity to ensure women can capitalize the range of opportunities available in the rural landscape. The Entrepreneurial literacy includes financial, technical, innovative development, business operation and experience, network know-how, company knowledge, market and environment needs, institutional literacy, pricing strategy and certification awareness.<?p>

• Harnessing the local’s knowledge and skill in term of their local produce and local cultural artefacts can be a viable rural enterprise.

Literacy and Ethnic Minority

• To conduct studies to identify the relationship between literacy and ethnic minorities in Sabah by taking into account the varying variables that influenced and determine their social presence and status in this progressive society.

• To categorised and identify minority groups officially.

Legal Literacy and Labour Rights

• Women confronted with sexual harassment should lodge a report to Sabah Labour Department Employer should investigate thoroughly without any prejudice.

• To provide an awareness programme on the rights of workers especially women conducted by Labour Department.


The seminar highlighted the importance of literacy which aims to improve the well-being of the society especially the women in line with human rights, inclusiveness and gender equality which is mentioned in Sustainable Development Goal.


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