Women empowerment in its very
essence is the undertaking by
women to create and recreate
their own purpose, regardless of
Today, women are faced with
a lack of respect for their
participation in the society,
as well as undermined in
their abilities, knowledge and
intellect. Women receive less
education, less salary, and less
responsibilities as opposed to
Empowering women places the decision-making torch in
their hands enabling them to light up all the spheres of life,
to ensure long-term sustainability of the status of women
in society. Education plays an important role in arming
women with the knowledge, skills and confidence required
to participate in the development process of communities.
It also helps in eliminating poverty, and improving the health
and well-being among generations.
Every human being has a right to freely choose and make
decisions to better one’s life. Women empowerment is doing
just that. It is giving women control over their own lives,
returning their sense of self-worth, while giving them access
to resources and opportunities as a right, and in return
creating a more tolerable and entitled society. Glass ceilings
exist not only in the corporate world but in the very minute
of places; but as women we have to realise that it is not a
reflection of our values as a person, nor of our capabilities as
a professional. Breaking the glass ceilings should not even be
an achievement; it has to be a right.
Women constitute nearly half of the world population,
but their participation in the world economy is meagre.
In the wider scope of things, bringing women into the
mainstream and their role in decision making at all levels is
vital in maintaining a sustainable global development, and
significantly improving the quality of life for individuals.
As Kofi Annan says, “There is no tool for development more
effective than the empowerment of women” and we agree.
Empowering women in no way means undermining the value
or the abilities of men; in fact, it promotes diversity, as every
gender and every individual brings new ideas and different
skills to the table, be it at home or in the office.
Empowering women is not only about increasing their share
in the business and corporate sectors, but respecting the
choices made by each and every woman, in homes and
beyond. True empowerment is allowing women and every
individual to make choices without being discriminated
against, having rights as human beings, and entitlement to a
What does Women
Empowerment mean to you?
Senior Officer- Finance at Dubai Holding
As more women lead the world in different industries and regions, there
are still parts of the world that are lagging behind in empowering the
female gender to fulfil their potential. Women empowerment on a primary
level means ensuring women feel safe in their own environment, have
access to education and the knowledge they would like to attain as well as
gain the financial freedom they need to make their own decisions and live
life the way they want. Safety, financial freedom and access to education,
in my humble opinion; are the basic components needed to empower
women to empower themselves.
On a secondary level, female empowerment means having laws in place to
ensure women no longer have to make sacrifices as the direct result of social gender discrimination. These include having ample or flexible maternity and paternity leaves; increasing the presence and voice of organisations and groups that advocate against social issues that catalyst gender prejudice; and having strong regulatory measures that champion women’s equal rights and protection.
Researcher at the National Team for
the Acceleration of Poverty Reduction
As someone who aspires to make the voices of women heard
and acknowledged, I believe that we still experience public
misconceptions about what empowered women and women
empowerment purport to be.
People tend to associate an empowered woman with overly
ambitious, ready-to-conquer-the-world kind of a person;
someone who would not listen to other’s opinion but her own.
Women empowerment is neither about power nor selfabsorption. It is about having the right to do things the way
they want and to take opportunities that are presented to
them with zero limitation and without prejudice. It is about
being able to fulfil their fundamental needs and not suffering
from any of the three dimensions of deprivation (health,
education, and living standards). Also, women empowerment
is about being able to use the power acquired without forgetting the presence of men as human beings that deserve as much rights as them. Empowering women requires devotion and boundless efforts. To stay silence is a disgrace of our ability to speak up about what’s in our mind. Only when we as women trust our guts and start taking the leap would we achieve eternal women empowerment.
Chief Risk Officer, Prudential BSN Takaful
Women’s empowerment is the hallmark of a developed
society and to me is the ability for women to make decisions
and act for themselves without having the shackles of
limitations placed by society. It is about women having equal
access to education and employment and to have the ability
to move around freely without fear. The Takaful industry
being no exception to this, enabling women to take on
leadership roles to contribute to its development. This will
allow women to be respected for their competencies and
capabilities, working side by side with men to be comfortable
in their own skin and management style. It is also just as
much about respecting women who make the decision to
stay at home and be full time home makers, but it should be
as a result of a women’s own choice and not because she is
expected to be the nurturer and the person to hang up her
career aspirations when she becomes a parent. It is when all
women come together that women are truly empowered.
Jennifer Ng Abdullah
Head, Islamic Wealth Management at
Alliance Islamic Bank Bhd
Today, being a woman demands one to excel in all that they
do — be it at work or at home, which can be physically,
mentally and emotionally exhausting. Women generally are
constantly judged on how well they cope with work and
family by the people around them.
Women empowerment for me is sending the message to all
women that not being the best in everything or every time is
ok. It is ok that you are not a supermom or that you missed
your child’s PTA meeting because you just had to be at work.
It’s ok that you missed an important discussion in the office
because you are unwell and all you want to do is to lie in bed.
Women empowerment is about giving women the prerogative to decide what is best for them instead of always looking after the interest of others before themselves or having to think if they will be criticised for their actions or decisions. Women empowerment is allowing women to be free to decide what makes them happy, be it going beyond their means to complete a task or taking that well deserved break they always wanted.
CEO at Investment Account Platform
The typical notion of women empowerment is to empower
women to be equal to men. This indirectly acknowledges the
inequality of women. Where is the disparity? Perhaps in the
pay scale and opportunities or in perception and expectations?
I have a different perspective: Women are not equal to men.
Women have the capacity, the ability, and a sense of
responsibilities that men can never have and vice versa.
On the biological standpoint of childbearing and nurturing
alone; the discussion concludes. Emotions, physical abilities,
biological structure, genetics, and all propensities based on
these makes it a feat to say women are equal to men.
I can also argue that perhaps the demise of the society is because we forget the uniqueness of a woman — the power she holds and the responsibilities she must bear. We perhaps get lost in the debacle of thinking women are equal to men and recklessly believe that roles can be freely reversed without much consideration. The unique beauty and capacity of a woman of any age and race cannot be questioned and is obvious to every human being. It has forever been revered in mythologies, holy books, oral and written traditions. Every child who has a mother, sister, aunt or a female friend can attest to this innate reality. Women empowerment is about giving women the opportunity to shine and showcase their talents and therefore, allowed to give back
VP/Head, HR Shared Services,
Group Human Resource at Malaysia
Development Bank Berhad
Empowerment has often been deliberated as an authority
granted to an individual or a group to make the right
decision in various acts and to overcome challenges. It is
also associated with trust element in people’s capability to
drive initiative. Regardless of gender or place, either at work
or home, people must be empowered to a certain degree to
strengthen their leadership and ultimately be able to achieve
their targeted life goals.
Focusing on women empowerment, in 2018 women
constituted half of the world’s population but only 48.5%
participated in the labour force. Living in both the private
and corporate worlds, women empowerment really means to
stand independently with unrestricted possibilities to make the right decision. It motivates and promotes women’s participation in all sectors and enhances their capabilities in all areas that they venture into to improve their quality of life. Education plays as an important element to achieve workplace gender equality, and thus allowing women to compete on merits and be aware of their rights in social and economic development for their growth and helping others to grow. The society at this moment need not worry about recognising women empowerment as women have a a very impressive track record of living with their hearts full of responsibilities in managing their own family and nurturing the nation globally.
Sarifa Alonto Younes
Keynote Speaker and Author
Empowerment means different things to different women.
Margaret Thatcher equated empowerment to an ability to
dedicate oneself to a task. She said: “I’ve got a woman’s
ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone
else walks off and leaves it.” While Michelle Obama defines
empowerment as the ability to overcome limiting beliefs. She
puts it bluntly: “There is no limit to what we, as women, can
accomplish.” On the other hand, Oprah Winfrey describes
empowerment as the ability to overcome your fear of failure:
One may view women empowerment as success in
leadership, management and politics. Others may define it as
achievement in the face of adversities. Yet others may see a
rise to celebrity despite the odds being stacked against you as
empowering. Regardless of how you view and define women
empowerment, we all share the same feelings, vision, and
dreams of empowering women for success.
My view is that women empowerment is the process of
equipping women to realise their true potential so that they
have the courage to respond to situations according to their
abilities and interests. This allows them to play the role they
are most comfortable and confident in, be that politics,
economics, education, or so on. Empowering women allows
them to intelligently participate in decision making. It’s about
allowing themselves to learn and grow despite the obstacles
that may try to hinder their progress and development.
As Margaret Thatcher would say “you may have to fight a
battle more than once to win it”. As women, we may need to
keep resisting and persisting to reach our full potential. Only
then can we make a difference and empower other women to
push even further in future generations.
There are various factors or barriers that affect, and even
cripple, women as they try to achieve their dreams. Issues
such as societal norms, beliefs, traditions, cultures, marital
status, and education are just some of the many barriers that
women may need to overcome.
But of all those factors, I see education as the most
important and dominant barrier that affects most women. A
lack of education results in women having less participation
in politics, socio-economics, leadership, and management
in corporate sectors. Through education, women equipped
with the ability to learn and acquire other skills that allow them to progress. Education will pull women out of misery
and exploitation and will help them to make better decisions
for themselves. It’s a particular problem for women in thirdworld countries who have no access to education and may
even have been deprived of education as they grew up.
In such countries, we see women struggling to participate
in the workforce, education, and politics. It is perhaps no
coincidence that these countries are experiencing slow
growth in economic development.
To empower women is to allow them access to both formal
and informal education that would equip them to have more
bargaining power in the house and workplace and would
prepare them to raise brilliant future generations. I believe
in a saying that behind every successful man is a powerful
woman. And likewise, behind every successful woman is a
loving and supportive husband.
Datin Paduka Ir. Dr.
Siti Hamisah Tapsir
Director General, Department of Higher
Education Ministry of Education Malaysia
Empowering girls and women is powerful and critical in
today’s circumstances. A country’s future is largely shaped by
the girls of today and the women of tomorrow. Hence, there
is a grave need to empower them to realise their potentials
through expanding their economic opportunities, lifting their
educational aspirations and exploring their hidden talents.
Personally, there are three notions that define women
empowerment. First, I believe that women are empowered
if they are financially independent and enjoy the freedom of
choice in living their life to the fullest. Empowerment also
signifies their independence in managing risks, improving
economic status and wellbeing.
Secondly, I am convinced that education is the key to
women empowerment. Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. A literate girl and an educated woman are change makers who will empower their communities and uplift their countries to a better level.
Thirdly, I take the liberty to empower other women in discovering their skills and capabilities. Assumed responsibility and granted authority will make women stronger and more confident, therefore cognizant of their rights and privileges. Women are indispensable members of a society. Empowerment will help elevate the status of women and enhance their decision-making capacity at all levels in all spheres of life.
EMPLOYEE NEEDS A NEW CHALLENGE FOR ISLAMIC BANKS?
Islamic financial institutions operate in different countries with each country having
its own unique laws, cultures and values that influence an employee’s expectations of
that country in general and Islamic financial institutions in particular. However, when
it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, Islamic banks need to understand
what their needs and expectations are.
For a while, the worldwide assumption on employee needs and expectations
have revolved around financial benefits, with many others overlooked. Though an
employee’s needs or expectations are increasingly becoming hard to generalize as
each individual in a culturally diverse society might have different factors influencing
a particular need or expectation.
Both employee needs and human needs pose a
challenge to Islamic banks. Below is an attempt to
explore some of these challenges.
Embracing new technology: Work places are
increasingly becoming technologically driven.
Employees are exposed to technological developments
such as customer relationship management systems,
human resource management systems, procurement
systems, credit processing systems, disasters and
recovery management systems, cyber security systems,
queue management systems among others are likely to
face work place shock operating in an environment that
lacks some of these systems. Therefore, Islamic banks
are required to keep pace with the latest technological
developments in work places.
Opportunity to own: Part of increasing employee
participation, employee retention, and employee
compensation is providing employees with options
to own shares of the company they work for. Certain
developed and developing countries are increasingly
embracing Employee Share Ownership Plans
(ESOPs) for not only the top management team but
all employees. Therefore, as Islamic banks embrace
partnerships with its external customers through
profit and loss sharing arrangement, it is paramount
that internal customers, i.e. employees, are given the
opportunity to participate in the share ownership of
the Islamic banks.
Financial wellness programmes: Financial education
is increasingly becoming a necessity for Islamic banks’
customers and employees alike. Some studies have
established a link between weak financial management
and employee stress, absenteeism, poor performance
and job dissatisfaction. As a result, corporates have
started to offer financial education to their employees
to learn about saving, investing, retirement planning,
and estate planning among others. Islamic banks
have to streamline their non-monetary benefits by
giving opportunity to employees to become financially
Excitement and creativity: Having fun is part of
human necessities, provided it is within the dictates
of Shari’a. Making the work place productive and
exciting is a tall order to balance but an essential
requirement. On the other hand, people have internal
capacity to be creative provided that they are given
enabling environment to flourish. Developing creative
minds at work places is becoming an increasing
feature of learning organisations. Islamic banks are
facing challenges to provide excitement and creative
environment to their employees.
Love and relationship: Office romance has become
a challenge that requires unconventional methods to
deal with before it becomes a serious reputational risk
to contain. Whereas some Islamic banks might have
different work areas for males and females or limit
male-female interactions, this does not completely
stop people from developing connectivity through
social media. While illicit relationship is morally
condemned, however, Islamic banks should be open
to recognising the genuine need of employees to
establish families. Unfortunately, some Islamic banks
have lost some talents due to enforcement of policies
that prohibit a husband and a wife from working in a
similar organisation. While the risk is understandable,
exposing employees to choose between forming a
family and work requires serious evaluation of possible
Dr. Hylmun Izhar
Senior Economist, Islamic Research & Training
Institute, Islamic Development Bank Group
- WHAT WAS YOUR EARLIEST AMBITION?
I recall when I was kid, I dreamt of becoming a policeman.
- WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
Spending quality time with my family.
- WHY ARE YOU INTO ISLAMIC BANKING AND FINANCE?
I owe this to Adiwarman Karim, a pioneer and champion of
Islamic finance in Indonesia who introduced me to the ‘universe’
of Islamic economics and finance in the first year of my bachelor
degree and has consistently instilled in me a great passion of
Islamic economics and finance, even now.
- WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
Watching movies, sports, and reading history books.
- WHICH MOVIE IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVOURITE?
[IF YOU WATCH MOVIES]
Definitely Shawshank Redemption and Karate Kid 1 & 2.
- WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST MENTOR?
Without any doubt, my late mum and dad have substantially
shaped my worldview. And subsequently I was blessed to
have a range of mentors from whom I, still now, seek advice,
guidance and inspirations; they are, Prof. Mehmet Asutay,
Adiwarman Karim, Sheikh Ahmad Nuryadi, Prof. Azmi Omar and
Prof. Seif Tageldin.
- WHERE ARE YOU THE HAPPIEST?
Socialising with people who have positive energy, are full of
ideas and willing to execute them.
- IF YOUR 15 YEARS OLD SEES YOU TODAY WHAT
WOULD HE SAY?
Not bad at all dude…you are blessed.
- IN A FEW SENTENCES DESCRIBE YOUR 65 YEARS OLD.
I hope to stay healthy, content and productive.
- ANY DISAPPOINTMENT IN LIFE?
Well…whatever the nature of events in our life,
I am a firm believer that we all have been
shaped by the past that would eventually
create our own landscape in the future.