Princess Rashidah pays tribute to career women
By Zasika Musdi

Women have made magnanimous contributions in undertaking responsibilities in all aspects of the nation's development. They can become successful career women while maintaining a harmonious family life and such a balance is not an easy task.

This was said by Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah in her sabda at the official opening of the 'Women and Career Conference' held at the International Convention Centre yesterday.

"I am very happy to know that an academic conference such as this has been organised through the collaboration of two bodies, which are the Persatuan Siswazah Wanita (PSW), and the Islamic Dakwah Centre, Ministry of Religious Affairs.

"The globalisation process has opened many opportunities that could be claimed by women, especially in the field of information communication technology. To succeed, women need to be positive and ready, furthermore smart in beholding and choosing career choices based on knowledge and skills.

"On May 24th 2006, Brunei Darussalam became a member of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. This convention gives serious attention to a number of fundamental issues, including basic women's rights to work, obtaining work, and obtaining work opportunities similar to those of men.

"However, the quality of such convention should be made properly so that it is relevant forthe development and improvement of our women, as well as suitable in the socio-economic context and socio-culture of our nation and country.

Her Royal Highness' sabda was then followed by a forum entitled 'Wanita Berkerjaya Menjana Kemajuan Negara' or 'Careered Women for the Country's Development' where three perspectives were presented by three panel members from the private sector, public sector and syariah section.

One of the panel members, Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Muhammad Hussain, the Director of Development and Management, Public Service Department, Prime Minister's Office said that the opportunities given to women is the same and in competition with men. He said that it has been observed that there is an encouraging percentage increase in careers such as in the armed forces, police force, postwomen, fire and rescue and also office assistants, which had been monopolised by men before.

Figures have shown that women's involvement in the public service has increased significantly: from 7% (2001) to 20% (2005) to 29% (2007) for Section I officers; from 44% (2001) to 28% (2005) to 55% (2007) for Section II officers; only a slight increase for Section III officers of 54% (2001 and 2005) to 55% (2007); an increase from 40% (2005) to 20.06% (2007) for Section V.

He also said that a number of studies conducted by various agencies have shown that women are more intelligent, more committed and more dedicated compared to men.

Furthermore, he said that women face the dilemma of balancing their career and family, but steps have been taken to ensure that a work life balance is maintained so women can work towards their fullest potential. Part of these efforts includes a specific room at their place of work where mothers in the public service can breastfeed and look after their children.

Hajah Zasia binte Sirin, Senior Special Duties Officer at the Islamic Dakwah Centre said that a successful Muslim women first fulfils her responsibility to Allah by performing prayers and fasting; then comes her responsibility towards family by nurturing and looking after them; and finally responsibility towards the community by contributing her best without tainting her integrity; she said that one should not only maintain their prestige from the outside, but also from the inside. "All in all, a balance of heart, body and soul is needed." she said.

Haji Shazali bin Dato Haji Sulaiman, a partner of KPMG Brunei spoke on his company's inclination towards women, saying that they are most likely to be recruited because they are more committed to their career as compared to men - men are more likely to be transient because they are more inclined towards working for the government.

He also brought up an interesting concept, which was the establishment of a Ministry of Women Affairs or Women Social Affairs. He said that this should not be a problem as there other Islamic countries with such a ministry, such as Malaysia's Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, adding that he supports the idea of a woman minister because they are just as capable and responsible as men.

This conference was one of the activities in the Women's Education Programme that gives attention to women's associations particularly in the field of religious and professional activities for PSW. It was held as an additional response from the An-Nuur programme organised by the Islamic Dakwah Centre concerning women and careers that was held on December 28th 2006. - Borneo Bulletin (9th Mar 2008)