WHEN it comes to national development, the efforts of both men and women are of equal importance. It is also without a doubt that this progress is thanks, in part, to the efforts of Muslimah women, who show determination and will to contribute to national development.
This was recently shared by Dr Lily Suzana binti Haji Shamsu, the Dean of Usuluddin Faculty at Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA), in her keynote presentation on ‘Brunei’s Muslimah in a Country’s Development: Prospects and Challenges’ at the Regional Women Conference 2016 held last week at the International Convention Centre (ICC).
According to a consensus carried out every decade since 1981, statistics showed that the Muslimah population of the country stands at around 49 per cent – nearly half the population. These women, the backbone of a family, play a vital role.
Before independence, the role of a Muslimah woman in the Sultanate was limited to assisting men or their husbands in daily life.
As time passed, however, there grew a situation where the demand for women to fill in several positions in the government and private sectors was apparent, and women started filling these positions.
According to statistics released in 2014, the involvement of women either in the government or private sector increased to 2.6 per cent as compared to 2010.
The 2014 statistics revealed that 26,395 (or 52.6 per cent) held posts between divisions 1 to 5. Of the figure, 13,558 women (59.6 per cent) served in the first three upper divisions – including positions as heads of department, senior officials, officers and supervisors.
Likewise, the enrolment of students at local higher educational institutions also increased over the years, with the number of female students pursuing further education dominating the figures.
To further enhance the potential and status of women in the country, the government has outlined a number of action plans and is currently implementing some of them under the National Council on Social Issues.
The action plan aims to develop the potential of women in the country through eight priority focuses – strengthening family institution, balancing work and family, economy, women’s legal right, source of information for the family, health, education, and mechanisms to empower women.
The government’s strategies and and projects under the National Development Plan (NDP) steered by the Brunei Vision 2035 has brought a positive impact in maximising women’s potential. Therefore women, particularly the Bruneian Muslimah, are more competent in facing knowledge-based challenges.