10 Facts About Girls' Education in Malaysia 
There is a jarring gender gap within Malaysia’s workplace despite the fact that there are more women than men in higher education institutions in the country. Girls are also more successful in primary school than secondary school because of teaching tactics and gender stereotyping they encounter in schools. Below are 10 facts about girls’ education in Malaysia.

10 Facts About Girls Education in Malaysia

  1. Literacy Rate: The literacy rate between boys and girls is unequal. Malaysia measures its literacy rate by how many people over the age of 15 can read and write. The population’s literacy rate is 94 percent. Meanwhile, it is 96.2 percent among boys and 93.2 percent among girls.

  2. The Women’s Aid Organization (WAO): The Women’s Aid Organisation in Malaysia advocates for gender equality and provides refuge for domestic abuse victims. It emerged in 1982 and works to raise awareness in order to increase Malaysia’s understanding and respect for women. The WAO has reached over 3,000 women and has provided 154 women and children refuge in 2018. It understands that education is important and at its shelters, it provides educational programs for children as well as lessons about domestic abuse.

  3. Gender Stereotyping: Malaysia is reviewing its current textbooks from gender equality yielding perspective. A social media post in 2018 triggered this by bringing attention to gender stereotyping within Malaysian textbooks in elementary schools. The textbooks taught girls how to be wives, weave and sow. Malaysia is now trying to ensure boys and girls do not have stereotyped life roles.

  4. Gender Parity in Secondary Education: Based on data from the EFA Global Monitoring Report in 2008, Malaysia will likely not achieve total gender parity for enrollment in secondary education in Malaysia by 2015 or 2025 based on past trends. This report also determined that there are more boys enrolled in secondary education than girls, however, the drop out rate is higher for boys. This information stands true today.

  5. Girls Education Improvements: Still, there have been improvements. In 1957, only 33 percent of girls enrolled in secondary school, but in 2018, girls’ enrollment rose to 75 percent. Both society and education institutions changed their attitudes about whether girls should receive education or not, which influenced this increase. It is no longer as unusual for girls to seek an education to gain a career, so schools started changing the curriculum to include girls.

  6. Likelihood of Dropping Out: According to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report in 2015, boys are three times more likely to drop out after secondary school than girls. Many dropouts come from impoverished families because boys receive encouragement to do manual labor jobs so they can make money at a young age. Meanwhile, girls are more likely to go to higher education institutions than boys.

  7. Gender Disparity at University: The only Malaysian public university with extreme gender disparity against women is the National Defense University of Malaysia. Thirty percent of those attending the university are female because Malaysians do not typically see jobs within the uniformed forces as suitable for women. The uniformed forces, which include the military, police and fire and rescue forces, reported that 10 percent of the military are women. Additionally, the percentage of female cops in high ranking officer positions rose from 59 percent (2012) to 74 percent (2016) because the country is gradually finding it more acceptable for women to work these jobs.

  8. Merit Rather than Discrimination: In Malaysia, colleges choose applicants based on merit and women do not receive any discrimination. The gender gap within STEM fields seems to be based on gender stereotyping within society. Malaysian society has often thought that girls should be mothers and wives, and until recent years, that was what many expected. This, in turn, caused a lack of interest among women and girls to seek out education.

  9. Absence of Women in Leadership Positions: Women make up 62 percent of the total enrollment in higher education institutions. However, women are still absent from many leadership, business labor market or decision-making positions. MiWEPs, a nonprofit that works with Malaysian Indian women from three categories including employed women of blue or white-collar professions, self-employed or entrepreneurs, advocates for and helps women to be in manager, Board of Director and C-suite positions.

  10. Policies to Increase Girls Participation in STEM Education: The Malaysian government has placed STEM education as a focus in the process of becoming a developed nation. It acknowledges the role of women and has formulated policies such as the Malaysia Woman Policy in 2009 and the National Policy on Science, Technology, & Innovation in 2013-2020. These policies have increased women researchers form 35.8 percent in 2004 to 49.9 percent in 2012.

These 10 facts about girls’ education in Malaysia show that women are taking over universities and higher education institutions, but secondary school girls are still struggling with gender bias. Government policies veered towards economic education, women’s welfare and STEM fields are leading Malaysia to have more gender equality and women in leadership positions.

– Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

Digital Inclusion in Malaysia

In this age of rapid digital evolution, ensuring widespread access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) has become a serious goal for countries seeking economic modernization. And Malaysia is no exception. Efforts to increase digital inclusion in Malaysia are well underway.

Malaysia’s National Information Technology Council invests in building communications infrastructure in remote rural areas, including lands inhabited by peninsular Malaysia‘s Orang Asli indigenous people. The scope and expense of this task has raised questions regarding the practicability of installing effective communications infrastructure in outlying areas, and large segments of marginalized populations remain without digital access. However, Malaysia persists in its commitment to expanding ICT access and receives assistance in this regard from multinational conglomerates such as the Samsung Group.

Malaysia’s Orang Asli

Orang Asli, meaning “original people” in Malay, is an umbrella term encompassing the indigenous people of the Malay peninsula in modern-day Malaysia. These peoples comprise 18 distinct groups, together constituting half a percent of Malaysia’s population. Such communities are more likely to live in remote rural regions.

As an impoverished minority, nearly 30.8 percent of Orang Asli are illiterate compared with only 8 percent of the total Malaysian population. Access of Malaysia’s Orang Asli to digital technology is more limited than in neighboring populations.

Digital Inclusion in Malaysia and Cultural Integrity

A study published in 2011 revealed that within the indigenous Semai population of Kampung Bukit Terang, only 5.2 percent were computer literate. This study’s outcome can be attributed to the remoteness and low educational and socioeconomic outcomes of these groups as compared with urban and non-indigenous populations within the country. The authors of the study recommend proactive policies, such as direct provisioning of technologies to remote communities, to expedite these communities’ integration into the digital economy.

Besides economic considerations, access to digital space has positive consequences for the preservation of indigenous culture. Digital technology facilitates spreading knowledge of the existence and cultures of indigenous groups and thus provides opportunities for cultural diffusion. An online presence may galvanize outside support for the preservation and appreciation of indigenous cultures.

Yet, access to modern technology may inadvertently corrupt centuries-old traditions, flattening uniqueness and disrupting continuity with the past. This threatens to irreversibly alter the identity of indigenous peoples, even to the extent of assimilation and loss of traditions. However, these potentially negative consequences do not necessarily outweigh the potentially positive consequences.

Promoting and Preserving the Culture

Through scientific polling, the Department of Social and Development Sciences of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Human Ecology uncovered that only 20.7 percent of Malaysia’s Orang Asli used ICT to spread cultural awareness to others and preserve their heritage. As of November 2015, two Facebook pages operated to promote indigenous culture, according to the nonprofit organization Gerai Orang Asli.

According to Dr. Sarjit Singh, particularly the young Orang Asli, as shown by their enjoyment of cyber cafes, are enthusiastic about the prospect of increased online access. The young are quick to master new technologies, and Dr. Singh suggests that authorities prioritize the installation of relevant technologies in schools wherever possible.

Increasing Digital Access

Programs initiated by the Samsung Group in Orang Asli regions have highlighted the adeptness and eagerness of Orang Asli youth in adapting to new technologies. For instance, in 2015 Samsung Malaysia Electronics sponsored a trip for Orang Asli children to a Malaysian amusement park, designing activities that required the youths to use smartphone technology. In affirmation of the possibility of coexistence between modern technology and the preservation of traditional lifestyles, a tree-planting followed these technology-centered activities.

In a separate initiative, Perak saw the establishment of a Samsung Smart Community Center in Perak providing improved digital access, products and an air-conditioned learning space to people in deprived areas. The Chief Minister of Perak expressed his hope that these investments will bolster the Malaysian government’s economic goals and lift these communities out of poverty.

Moving Forward

The government, in conjunction with multinational corporations such as the Samsung Group, has made progress in expanding digital inclusion in Malaysia. Obstacles remain because of the remoteness and relative poverty of these populations, but such impediments are overcome rather rapidly alongside the development of these technologies.

While the impact of digital technology on indigenous traditions and identity remains a concern, there is room to use digital technology in the preservation and promotion of these unique cultures. Though statistics gathered in prior studies confirm low rates of access to Malaysia’s Orang Asli to digital technology, if efforts persist, improvements will continue. As digital access and literacy continue to rise, poverty and marginalization will be conquered gradually, meaning that there is reason for optimism regarding the future of the Orang Asli in a modern economy.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Every Stock Photo

10 Facts About Poverty in Malaysia
Malaysia is a South Asian country that consists of two noncontiguous regions; Peninsular Malaysia which West Malaysia and Thailand share, and East Malaysia which Malaysia shares with the island of Borneo. While this nation has been able to rapidly tackle its poverty situation, millions of Malaysians still struggle every day. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Malaysia.

10 Facts About Poverty in Malaysia

  1. Malaysia’s Poverty Definition – Malaysia’s government defines poverty as families earning between the Poverty Line Income (PLI) of MYR800 and those families living below the national median household earnings by 50 percent. As of 2015, only 0.4 percent of the population was living below the national poverty line.
  2. How Malaysia Measures Poverty – Malaysia calculates poverty with the PLI and Consumer Price Index. The Department of Statistics (DOSM) uses micro-data to calculate poverty. It conducts household surveys and the micro-data refers to those responses. The lack of transparency between the government and its citizens lies in the fact that the government hides these results from the public. This leaves many unanswered questions about the poverty situation in Malaysia.
  3. Unemployment – As of September 2018, Malaysia had a 3.3 percent unemployment rate and youth unemployment of just over 10 percent. The total number of unemployed people is 516,400. Limited English language proficiency, unpolished skills and a lack of digital literacy are common reasons for unemployment.
  4. Access to Clean Water – The Orang Asli, or the first peoples of Malaysia, are significantly unhealthier compared to others due to their inability to access clean water. This caused the Global Peace Foundation to initiate the Communities Unite for Pure Water (CUP) initiative by installing water pumps in a village to filter water into each household. This helped the entire village gain access to clean running water.
  5. Access to Health Care – Malaysia has a two-tier health system, public and private. Both are easily accessible, yet the public sector suffers from severe overcrowing and wait times are very long. This resulted in many people changing from public to private health care, which is very expensive, leaving families one accident away from becoming poor.
  6. High Living Costs – The government implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1, 2015, in order to replace sales and services tax. This added tax of six percent caused people to look for new jobs in order to better situate themselves for the new tax. Only 19 percent of responders said that the tax had done nothing to their routine.
  7. Corruption – People know corruption to be Malaysia’s “public enemy number one.” Bribery and corrupt activities went from 19 percent in 2014 to 30 percent in 2016. The 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case is an example of corruption in the government. Prime Minister Najib Razak looted $4.5 billion from a state fund focused on financing infrastructure and “other economy-linked deals.” This scandal affected a wide spread of people “including financial institutions” from Malaysia to Singapore.
  8. Minimum Wage – Malaysia’s minimum wage was RM1,000 per month before the National Wage Council’s September 2018 meeting announced its new minimum wage of RM1,050. The government wanted to keep costs of production and wages low so Malaysians did not lose competitiveness with foreign investors. After many protests, Malaysia raised its minimum wage to RM1,100.
  9. Common Diseases – Poor diet and nutrition cause killer diseases in Malaysia. Coronary heart disease, cancer and strokes affect Malaysians the most. The Malaysian Rare Disorders Society, founded in 2004, is a voluntary organization that looks out for the welfare of families and represents them as rare disorders affect them. The organization helped Aminisha, a girl with the congenital disorder of glycosylation (CDG) Type1b, in May 2004. It provided her tube feeding, plasma transfusion and extraction of excess fluids.
  10. Social Programs – Under Malaysia’s 2017 Budget, the Malaysian government allocated about RM10 billion for government aid and subsidies. The government helped the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development, which financially helps single mothers for a year by providing a minimum of RM100 per month per child and a maximum of RM450 per month if there are more than four children.

Another way Malaysia combats poverty is through EPIC Homes. This NGO has been providing “safe and sustainable housing” for poor families, mainly the Orang Asli, since 2010. About 82 percent of Orang Asli are in need of housing. Over 5,000 builders have constructed over 100+ houses in over 10+ villages. With the continued work from Malaysia’s government to increase the country’s minimum wage and aid from different initiatives, Malaysia’s poverty status should improve.

–  Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malaysia
A former British colony, Malaysia achieved independence in 1957. Since gaining its freedom, Malaysia has seen steady growth, reducing its poverty rate, increasing literacy rates and providing affordable health care services. Life expectancy in Malaysia is at an all-time high. However, the promising statistics surrounding Malaysia’s booming economy provide a narrow window into poverty, mortality and other crises within the still-growing nation. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Malaysia give a closer look at the quality of life in the country.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malaysia

  1. The life expectancy in Malaysia is around 75 years. While the life expectancy in Malaysia has increased from 50 years in the 1960s, it has remained stagnant at 75 years for over a decade.
  2. The primary cause of stagnated life expectancy in Malaysia is non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs like high blood pressure, diabetes and many cancers are going unchecked because of a lack of awareness and education. Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad has said that 50 percent of the patients attended for treatable NCDs like high blood pressure and diabetes in Malaysia were unaware that they were living with the diseases at all.
  3. Population aging has been a serious concern in Malaysia since the early 1990s. The population of people aged 60 and over in Malaysia more than doubled in a 19-year span. This age group also happens to be part of the population that NCDs most affect. The massive increase affects the social and economic progress of Malaysia and puts an immense strain on its health care system.
  4. Those who live in poverty have a higher mortality risk than those living above poverty lines. Although life expectancy in Malaysia is 75 years, more than half of older Malaysians live in poverty. Reported household incomes for this group are less than $5,222 per year and 22 percent reported an even lower income.
  5. Malaysia has made a powerful effort to make public health a priority by focusing on giving the best care to the elderly. Whether it was the National Policy for the Elderly in 1995, the National Health Policy for Older Persons in 2008 or the National Policy for Older Persons and Plan of Action for Older Persons in 2011, health care for the elderly has been a major undertaking by both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development. Programs like the National Policy for Older Persons and Plan of Action for Older Persons seeks to accomplish improvements to life expectancy in Malaysia and mortality rates by developing social programs and legislation that improve health, wellbeing, safety and security.
  6. Part of the nationwide strategy has been to set up numerous nongovernmental organizations, like the MyKasih Foundation in 2009. The MyKasih Foundation centers its efforts on multiple facets of poverty reduction, like financial literacy programs, skills training and children’s education programs. MyKasih Foundation has provided cashless aid to 260,000 underprivileged families and students that equals $240 million RM (Malaysian Ringgit). Comparatively, that is over $57 million USD.
  7. The poverty rate in Malaysia has improved from 60 percent in the 1950s to three or four percent today. However, poverty has become a rotating door in Malaysia; many people who manage to claw their way out of poverty with the help of social programs end up back under the poverty line eventually. According to economist Fatimah Kari, the poverty cycle is due to generalized, one-size-fits-all programs that do not address the various needs that different regions have.
  8. Food poverty is a rising problem for rural and urban Malaysian citizens. This has led to many Malaysians not attaining sufficient nutrients, which may affect the performances of children in school and result in higher drop-out rates. If these children do not get an education, they also miss out on essential social programs that could help get them out of poverty. The good news is there are a plethora of Malaysian nonprofit organizations, like the MyKasih Foundation, that are affecting change. However, many of them lack the financial support to effectively extend their reach.
  9. Poverty affects life expectancy in Malaysia. A 2016 study about the distribution of mortality indicators by socioeconomic quintiles showed that disadvantaged districts in Malaysia had higher mortality outcomes than other more privileged districts. The poorer districts had fewer opportunities or necessary facilities to obtain a better quality of life. On the other hand, the study showed that rich districts have the essential infrastructure, health care and social services to mitigate the burden of disease.
  10. Economic development may not have equal distribution. Two landmasses make up Malaysia; the Malay Peninsula and the island of Borneo, Borneo being the poorer of the two. Since Malaysia’s independence and substantial growth, research exhibits income disparities between and within ethnic groups in these areas. Malays and indigenous natives carry the burden of that disparity because Malays made up 50 percent of the population as of 2010. Although the Chinese and Indian ethnic groups make up a significantly smaller portion of the population, both are more advantaged than the Malays and their socioeconomic statuses impact levels of mortality.

The 10 facts about life expectancy in Malaysia prove a disheartening truth but are also a reason for immense hope. The disadvantaged in Malaysia suffer greatly because of a lack of health awareness, insufficient health care resources and income disparity. However, the revitalization of Malaysia after its independence displays how a nation can survive and flourish when given the help and change in governance it needs. The economy of Malaysia continues to ascend and with more work, so too should life expectancy.

Anthony Negron
Photo: Flickr

Education in Malaysia

Dr. Maszlee bin Malik, Malaysia’s Minister of Education, has implemented budget increases and new programs to increase the quality of education in Malaysia. Approximately 60.2 billion Malaysian ringgit (or $14.63 billion) has been set aside for 2019 — once again accounting for the largest share of the total federal budget at 19.1 percent.

Around 2.9 billion Malaysian ringgit will be used towards helping impoverished areas, including purchasing new books and food. Some of the increased budget has also been designated for school improvements and repair. In fact, 100 million Malaysian ringgit will go toward rebuilding schools in need of a facelift.

New Education Initiatives in Malaysia

The Ministry of Education in Malaysia has also been striving to make education more inclusive for all children, particularly for the B40 group or the “Bottom 40” — which represents the lowest earners in the country. According to Maszlee, 60 percent of residential school spots have been reserved for B40 students. These students have also been given priority enrollment into secondary and tertiary institutions.

The Ministry has also been targeting special-needs enrollment by implementing a “Zero Reject Policy” in schools throughout the country. More than 5,400 special needs students are now enrolled in Malaysian schools as of 2019. The government is also working toward making 11 years of education compulsory by revising the Education Act of 1996. Making secondary education mandatory will help to improve the quality of education in Malaysia by enforcing higher levels of classes throughout the country.

STEM education has also taken a forefront throughout 2019 in the Ministry’s new STEM4ALL campaign. The initiative is working towards making STEM education a priority for both boys and girls throughout primary and secondary education. STEM4ALL is working toward bringing technology to rural schools as well, since many of these schools are only accessible by boats or dirt paths. The program is also partnered with Microsoft Malaysia to bring more technology into classrooms to better prepare students for future careers.

Student-Centered Education

The Ministry decided to eliminate midyear and final exams for years one through three in schools to adopt a more student-oriented method of learning. This has impacted more than 1.3 million students because teachers can focus less on test-oriented materials and adopt more personal approaches for teaching. This swap also allows parents to see more growth from their children as opposed to only seeing test results at the end of the year.

Dr. Maszlee bin Malik has made multiple strides to enhance the quality of Malaysian education. His many initiatives to infuse technology into classrooms and increase funding to repair school buildings have significantly improved Malaysian school systems in recent years.

– Kristen Bastin
Photo: Flickr

education in Malaysia

In March 2019, Malaysia’s Minister of Education, Dr. Maszlee bin Malik, recently partnered with Microsoft’s STEM4ALL initiative to provide a higher level of STEM education in Malaysia. STEM4ALL stays true to its name, targeting all students across the country equally to encourage interest in STEM fields and ensure graduates possess a wide span of technological information to take into future careers.

Malaysia’s Current Educational System

In 2018, Malaysia had 9,404 children under the age of 18, which is 29 percent of the total population in 2018. Out of those children, 2,565 of them are under the age of five when many children are starting pre-school or kindergarten. Pre-school is not compulsory in Malaysia, but it is available.

Malaysia currently has six years of primary compulsory education, from ages six to 12. Secondary education is not compulsory as of 2018. Primary enrollment had increased from 2,770,340 to 2,795,058 between 2015 to 2017. Unfortunately, primary school enrollment rates dropped to 2,693,318 students enrolled in 2018. Secondary enrollment in 2018 was lower at 2,041,798 students.

Microsoft’s STEM4ALL

Microsoft has been known for assisting educational programs throughout South Asia within recent years with notable programs in India and Sri Lanka. STEM4ALL is Microsoft’s latest venture to emphasize STEM education throughout primary and secondary schools around the country. The campaign targets students, parents, educators and lawmakers around the country to put STEM education at the forefront of school materials to keep up with the current demand in technological field advancements.

The program encourages after-school STEM programs in multiple schools around Malaysia, impacting an estimated 100,000 students. Microsoft’s campaign is working to target all students regardless of social situations. STEM4ALL is meant to reach both urban and rural school areas to improve education in Malaysia overall. The program hosted a panel to discuss Malaysian STEM education and discussed the impact of AI on the educational and workforce environments throughout the country.

Key Events from the STEM4ALL Conference

The panel discussion, hosted by the Prime Minister of Education, included two prominent students in the world of technological advancements. The two students were Serena Zara Taufiq, the CEO of an outreach for children with autism called ‘Serena’s Secrets,’ and Chloe Soh Ke Er, who debuted her latest robot to help with agricultural management at the conference.

The conference focused on the recent impact of AI and technology on future job environments. Artificial Intelligence is shaping career paths around the world, and Microsoft is working to ensure that all students are gaining an efficient skillset to keep up with technology changes. Using new technologies will also improve learning techniques through classrooms in Malaysia.

Microsoft School Partnerships

Microsoft recently began funding the AI Business School for current business leaders throughout Malaysia. The classes will infuse more technological skills into the current business world to keep up with changes in current job markets. Students who succeed in the STEM classes will have more opportunities in the business world to use their education.

Through STEM4ALL, Microsoft has also partnered with Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka as a pilot school for the ‘Microsoft Professional Program for Data Science Curriculum’ (MPP). This is the largest version of the MPP program in the educational world. MPP is starting with 250 students to gain Microsoft data science certifications and improve the overall quality of education in Malaysia. The program’s goals align with the national goal to educate 20,000 data scientists by 2020.

Microsoft’s STEM4ALL campaign is expected to have a massive impact on the students of Malaysia. The campaign impacts all students regardless of major and education track. It ensures that proper technological knowledge is embedded in school systems across the country. The program will also ensure that education in Malaysia is adapting positively with the ever-changing technological environment in the workforce inside and outside the country’s borders.

Kristen E. Bastin
Photo: Flickr

Malaysian Women
In the country of Malaysia where 30 million people are affected by widespread poverty, human trafficking, crime, a growing Islamic movement, as well as numerous other misfortunes, women are the most affected by these problems. In some Islamic cultures, there is an outlook that Muslim women should be subservient, submissive and should not have equal rights. However, compared to other Islamic countries, women’s aid in Malaysia has been a much greater success.

In this Southeast Asian country, there have been significant developments in the fight to protects women’s rights. One such organization that has joined this fight is the Women’s Aid Organization. This organization is challenging the antiquated views of women as well as helping to end violence against women and work towards equality between men and women.

The Women’s Aid Organization

The Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) was started, courtesy of Tan Siew Sin, the first Minister of Commerce and Industry in Malaysia, who donated a cash reward of RM 30 thousand to establish a shelter for battered women and their children in 1979. This shelter was eventually made into what is today the Women’s Aid Organization.

The vision of this organization is for violence against women to be eliminated. Its mission statement is “to promote and create respect, protection and fulfillment of equal rights for women. To work towards the elimination of discrimination against women, and to bring about equality between women and men.” Women’s aid in Malaysia has been largely influenced by this organization.

The objective of the Women’s Aid Organization is to provide protection, shelter and counseling to women and their children in the case of mental, physical or sexual abuse at any given time. The WAO also takes on research into the factors that play a part in the inequality of women.

Additionally, the organization advocates with government organizations and NGO’s to abolish factors contributing to the subordination of women through law, policy and organized reforms. It strives to provide a better understanding of the issues of violence against women and the underlying inequalities that they face on a daily basis.

Programs in the Women’s Aid Organization

The Women’s Aid Organization has three main services available to help women and their children in times of need.

  1. The first service is the Refuge, which operates as a shelter for abused women and their children. The Refuge is the center for WAO activities to educate women about domestic violence and women and family concerns, which are inevitably associated with this issue.
  2. The second service is the Child Care Centre, which is a place for children of former WAO’s residents who are going back to work and starting their lives over. The children of these women are cared for, either full-time or during the mother’s work hours, and provided an education at local schools along with recreational activities.
  3. The third service is social work, which is the center for advocacy on behalf of the women and children needing help. This section provides services to help women through legal, medical and welfare departments and ensure they are being treated fairly.

These services give women and their children the support and protection they need. Through the combination of these programs and several other services offered through the WAO, an extremely supportive system is created for maltreated women to use whenever it is needed.

Women’s aid in Malaysia has come a long way because of the WAO. Compared to other Islamic countries, this country is more progressive in its approach to the issue of women’s inequalities. Through more organizations like this one, women’s rights will become more of a priority for the authority figures of Malaysia. Aid is very much so needed in this Southeast Asian country, but much more so for women, whose odds are stacked up against them because of the way they have been seen in society for so long.

– Megan Maxwell
Photo: Flickr

Is it Possible to Eradicate HIV in Malaysia?
In Malaysia, 31.6 million people live below the national poverty line, meaning they live on less than $1.90 a day. In 2014, World Bank reported that 0.6 percent of the population lived below the national poverty line.

While this statistic may seem optimistic, Malaysia still has big problems in trying to reduce HIV for the country’s poorest. Malaysia is ranked seventh highest in the prevalence of HIV in the adult population amongst all Asian countries. 

Current Situation

The Malaysia AIDS Council reported in 2016 that there were 3,397 new cases of the HIV infection. This number contributed to the overall population of people living with HIV in Malaysia, which is reportedly 93,089 people. Additionally, there were 911 AIDS-related deaths that same year. 

After failing to meet their Millennium Development Goal in reducing HIV/AIDS amongst the population, the government responded by introducing a variety of harm reduction programs. These programs predominately aim to reduce the amount of drug injection users in the country, since they are particularly vulnerable to HIV contraction.

Reduction Programs

World Bank reports that HIV harm reduction programs are the “most cost-effective” programs in terms of future savings. The projection of long-term benefits from 2006 to 2050 indicated savings of around $22 million. 

These types of programs have significantly reduced the number of new HIV cases amongst drug injection users. World Bank reports that in 2005 there were around 4,000 new cases of HIV within the Malaysian population. In 2017, the statistic dropped to merely 115 new cases. The prevalence of HIV in Malaysia amongst drug injection users reduced between 2009 and 2017, from 22 percent to 13.4 percent.

The Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme

Created in 2006, The Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme (NSEP) was introduced by the Ministry of Health and the Malaysian AIDS Council. It was a community-based health care service, primarily for people who inject drugs. As of 2012, they reached more than 24,000 registered people.

The activities of the NSEP in Malaysia include exchanging used needles for sterile ones, disposing of needles in a safe manner, educating, providing rehabilitation and encouraging safer sex practices through condom distribution. The service also provides Drop-In Centers that allow patients to receive counseling, light treatment, meals and a place to rest.

Patients receiving aid from NSEP are typically aged from 25 to 50. People under 18 cannot visit the Drop-In centers and are referred to other services. There are currently 17 Outreach Sites associated with the program in all states within Malaysia- excluding Sabah and Sarawak.

Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT)

Methadone Maintenance Therapy is a form of drug replacement therapy. It functions by incrementally decreasing the amount of the drug injected into the user, slowly weaning them off the substance. The amounts are so low that users do not feel high when using it, and the process helps reduce the desire to inject altogether. This type of therapy reduces drug-related crimes and allows users to recover and return to work.

It became apparent after implementation of harm reduction therapy that many drug injection users were fishermen from the city ports on the east coast peninsula of Malaysia.

Successes

In 2011, the collective programs have reached approximately 35,000 injecting drug users. The latest National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS hoped to expand its reach to 136,000 drug users by 2015, which would equate to about 80 percent of the injecting drug user population in Malaysia.

Although not entirely fulfilled, the amount of the drug user population that began receiving Opiate Substitution Therapy, similar to Methadone Maintenance Therapy, was 50.4 percent by 2015. This was based on an estimate of the overall number of drug injection users in the country, which was 170,000 people.

The numbers show a drastic drop from the pandemic’s original scope. In 2002, there were 6,978 new cases of HIV, while in 2016 there were only 3,397 reported. This is a 60 percent drop in new cases of HIV in Malaysia. Out of all the new cases, 2,984 were sexually transmitted, while 377 were transmitted via drug use, which proves the success of implemented programs.

In 2015, the Global AIDS Response Report showed that there were almost 900 facilities throughout the country, both governmental and private, aimed at rehabilitation and therapy for HIV patients. This is a tremendous increase from the previous number in 2006, that was less than 100 facilities.

The projection of HIV cases in Malaysia shows a steady decline from its original peak in 2002. There are clear advancements in eradicating the disease amongst the population. More work needs to be done, yet the progress thus far is very promising.

– Taylor Jennings

Photo: Flickr

SOLS 24/7
SOLS 24/7 is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to ending poverty in Malaysia. It aims to provide poor and underserved people with technology and education to which they otherwise would not have access. The nonprofit runs five social enterprises to help eradicate poverty in Malaysia.

Five Ways SOLS 24/7 Promotes Technology and Education

  1. SOLS Energy
    SOLS Energy believes that solar panels are the best way to alleviate poverty in Malaysia in a lasting, sustainable way. Malaysia is the world’s third-largest producer of solar panels; local production makes solar panels affordable and their purchase supports the domestic economy. Malaysian homes with solar panels get, on average, a 16.9 percent return on their investment annually from being able to sell excess solar power to the electric grid. In total, the solar panels distributed by SOLS Energy have prevented more than 162,000 pounds of CO2 emissions from electricity generated by fossil fuels. SOLS Energy also runs Solar Academy, which trains Malaysians in solar technology to create jobs and spread the knowledge of how to maintain, install and repair solar panels.
  2. SOLS Tech
    SOLS Tech has a twofold goal: eliminate e-waste and spread digital literacy in Malaysia. As a licensed electronics refurbisher, SOLS Tech collects, repurposes and distributes discarded electronic devices. In 2015 alone, Malaysians discarded 44 million electronic devices. Rather than let this waste sit in landfills and pollute the environment, SOLS Tech fixes discarded electronics and shares them with those in need. Approximately 10 million Malaysians do not have access to a computer. SOLS 24/7 believes that computer literacy skills and computer ownership will widen economic opportunities and help alleviate poverty.
  3. SOLS Smart
    SOLS Smart aims to provide high quality and affordable education to all Malaysians. It teaches English and computer literacy, two skills that SOLS 24/7 views as essential to thriving in the modern economy. SOLS Smart is a certified Cambridge English Language Assessment Centre, meanings its students can take the internationally recognized Cambridge English Exams. Learning English and passing these exams opens new opportunities in employment and further education. To date, English classes have reached more than 10,000 Malaysians, and another 5,000 have received training in computer skills. SOLS Smart is one of seven Google for Education partners in Asia. Students are taught to use Google software and products and, at the end of their training, can receive an official certification from Google.
  4. SOLS Scholars
    SOLS Scholars works to help promising students from underprivileged Malaysian communities pursue higher education. It has held more than 100 development workshops, at which students receive academic coaching, job preparation training and college counseling. It has provided more than 450 scholarships to universities across Malaysia for students who otherwise would not be able to afford higher education.
  5. SOLS Edu
    Combining SOLS 24/7’s interests in education and technology, SOLS Edu is a digital learning platform that can be accessed by app or online. The idea behind SOLS Edu is to offer Malaysians, newly equipped with technology through the SOLS Tech program, another way to receive an education. The digital platform is interactive; students learn in a variety of ways (games, videos, etc.) and teachers remotely track students’ progress. SOLS 24/7 believes that access to education and technology will give Malaysians living in poverty new economic opportunities and a brighter future.

Through its many social enterprises, SOLS 24/7 is working to alleviate poverty in Malaysia. Its focus on both education and technology is reflective of the highly globalized, highly electronic modern world of today. By offering classes, job training and education opportunities, as well as providing people access to electricity and electronic devices, SOLS 24/7 is helping millions of poor Malaysians shape a brighter future for themselves.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ education in Malaysia
Girls’ education and access to education have been improving around the world, particularly because of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which set access to education as a major focus. In particular, girls’ education in Malaysia has been on an upward trend for the past few years.

Enrollment levels for girls are equal to or higher than enrollment for boys across the nation, and a higher number of girls complete advanced education than boys. Enrollment trends are a major way of assessing access to education and inclusion in the education system.

Malaysian Female Participation in STEM

However, while these statistics show real progress and effective attempts at change by the government and other organizations, there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed. For example, the number of girls participating in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Malaysia is significantly lower than that of boys.

Girls in Malaysia need to be encouraged to pursue STEM fields and teachers and programs need to be more gender inclusive and sensitive. As STEM fields continue to grow in the nation, gender disparities will continue to increase unless they are targeted by policy and programs.

Gender Inequality in Girls’ Education in Malaysia

Another issue is that girls’ education in Malaysia is not translating into equal opportunities and empowerment once they finish school. In 2016, the World Economic Forum produced the Global Gender Gap Report which scored and ranked nations on the Global Gender Gap Index. It focused on five main aspects of equality: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. Malaysia ranked 106 in the world, with a score of 0.666, where 1.00 indicates gender parity and 0.00 indicates the worst inequality.

While Malaysia scored a .985 for educational attainment, girls still do not have equal economic opportunities or political empowerment. This is an area that the government must focus on by implementing programs to target these issues and ensuring that education translates into tangible advantages once girls have left the school system and entered the workforce.

Working to Improve Education in Malaysia

There are a number of organizations that have committed to working on girls’ education in Malaysia, such as UNICEF Malaysia and the All Women’s Action Society Malaysia. These organizations can be an asset to the government and can further the progress that has already been made.

While these are not the only issues challenging gender parity, using a more targeted approach will be beneficial in the long run. With this approach to education and strong planning for the future, Malaysia may be on its way to a more well-rounded society.

– Liyanga de Silva
Photo: Flickr