Zainar Anwar at Jewel Women's Day event

Zainar Anwar introducing her topic at the Jewel
Women's Day event in Johor Baru
The Johor Women’s League or Jewel in short, has a tradition in celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) with a Hi-Tea that features guest speakers who are dynamic women and human rights activists.  Last year, the keynote speaker was human rights advocate, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir while Programme Director for Sisters in Islam (SIS), Suri Kempe, was the speaker in the previous year.  This year, the guest speaker at the Jewel IWD Hi-Tea was acclaimed women’s rights advocate and Director of Musawah, Zainah Anwar.

Zainah, who is also a co-founder of SIS, spoke about women and work, and the issue of low numbers of women in leadership positions and the labour force.  In her presentation entitled, Enhancing Women, Enhancing Humanity: Women and Work, she shared relevant data to support her findings on women’s standing in work and leadership in Malaysia.  SIS is at the forefront of the women’s movement that seeks to end discrimination against women in the name of religion while Musawah, the SIS-initiated Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family, works at the international level, bringing together activists and scholars working on issues of equality and justice in Muslim contexts.

The guest speaker, Zainar Anwar,
making a point in her presentation
Johor Baru-born Zainah was warmly welcomed to Jewel’s annual event where a large audience had gathered to meet this passionate and eloquent advocate for the rights of Muslim women and girls.  While she was the executive director, SIS was part of the coalition of NGOs that fought for the passage of the Domestic Violence Act in 1994 that made Malaysia the first Muslim-majority nation in the world to pass legislation to protect family members against domestic violence.  While travelling the world to deliver lectures and engaging with agencies such as the United Nations to further the cause of Muslim women’s rights, Zainah also writes a monthly column of politics, religion and women’s rights for the Sunday Star publication.

“We are humbled and excited that Zainah, who earned the accolade of being among the ten Most Influential Muslim Women in the World, has taken time out of her tight schedule to speak at our event,” said Jewel President, Thanam Visvanathan-Suresh.

Zainar's presentation was supported by well-researched data
Jewel, a non-profit society of women volunteers established in October 2008, aims to advance the status of women and children, strive for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and children and encourage the empowerment of women and children by means of education, advocacy and other forms of assistance.  It recognizes that education is the key to preventing violence against women and girls and in the last seven years, have regularly organised Urban Safety forums and workshops to educate and empower lady teachers, school counselors and secondary school girls.

Thanam said Jewel has been working with the Johor Police and JB District Education Office through such events to draw attention to the latest trends in crimes that they feel would impact the lives of women and girls.  She took the opportunity to express Jewel’s appreciation to special guest, Johor Police Chief, Datuk Mohd Mokhtar Haji Mohd Sharif, who was at the event with his wife, Datin Bibi Zakiah Meraslam.  With his recent appointment as the new Bukit Aman Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department director and promotion to the rank of Commissioner of Police in a Federal role, it was also timely to wish him well and bid him farewell.

Guest of Honour, Datuk Nur Jazlan Tan Sri Mohamed,
addressing the audience at the event
“Jewel was instrumental in getting the Johor Police to provide better levels of service,” said Mokhtar as he thanked Thanam and her team of volunteers who often came to the Police with cases for them to solve.  He was pleased that the crime rate in Johor has reduced through the Police and public working closely together with shared responsibility to deny criminals the opportunity to commit crimes.

Guest of Honour, Member of Parliament for Pulai and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Datuk Nur Jazlan Tan Sri Mohamed, congratulated Jewel on their Women’s Day celebration and announced the donation of RM10,000 to help Jewel finance their programmes. For more info on Jewel, visit:

A version of this was published in The Malaysian Insider on 15 April 2015

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