KUALA LUMPUR: A childcare centre will be set up in Malaysia's parliament for the convenience of female members of parliament and staff who have young children, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Mohamad Ariff Yusof said on Monday (Feb 18).
The move is part of the government's policy to encourage more active participation of women in politics, policy-making and the workforce.
The centre is expected to begin operations this year.
"We have identified the space and it is going to be renovated quite soon. Definitely it’s going to be (operational) this year,” said the speaker.
The centre will also benefit female members of the media who have to work long hours when parliament sits, said Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh.
“If we (MPs) have to work until 10pm in the evening, it will be the same challenge for reporters who need to work beyond office hours," she said.
“If I am struggling with childcare, you are struggling with childcare too, so we start with the parliament," she said. "It has to start here."
Yeoh also said that about 500 government offices across the country have yet to set up childcare centres.
Two factors hampering this progress are lack of funds and lack of space, as many government offices operate on rented premises, said the minister.
"So we are conducting an audit and we are talking to every agency to see how they can overcome this,” she said.
It is important to put in place support structures such as childcare centres to increase female participation in politics and the workforce, she added.
"There (is) enough money in government agencies to organise study tours, meetings and conferences; but never enough money to set up childcare centres, and that can’t be right."
Out of 222 MPs there are only 34 female members of parliament (14.4 per cent). There are also only 13 female senators out of 67 senators in the Dewan Negara (the upper house of Malaysia's parliament).
The Malaysian government had initially aimed for all its agencies and departments to have childcare centres at their respective workplaces last month.