I am pleased to join you tonight in witnessing the Installation of SWEPA’s new Executive Committee. SWEPA has been under the leadership of some capable women, like its founder president Datuk Nancy Ho, turning it into a dynamic organisation. Now, SWEPA starts a new phase under the leadership of former civil servant Datuk Adeline Leong. I must also congratulate Puan Dolly Jimayol, the immediate past president, for her efforts in leading the organisation for the last two years.


Since its formation 17 years ago, SWEPA has organised a range of activities including Business Conventions that provide opportunities for its members to excel in their businesses and careers. You have helped encourage young women to become confident and empowered them through your trainings so that they can serve the community better.  SWEPA is a fine example of an NGO that assists the State Government in its efforts to build a better society.


The Sabah State Government has always been very supportive of women’s development.  For many years, women in Sabah wanted a woman to hold a Ministerial post in the Cabinet.  I have fulfilled your wishes by appointing YB Datuk Azizah Mohd. Dun as the Minister of Community Development and Consumer Affairs.  We are also proud that YB Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin is now the Head of Puteri UMNO and Federal Deputy Health Minister, while Datuk Armani is the Deputy Speaker of the Senate. 


This goes to show that women in Sabah are very capable and can hold high positions at national level. We also have capable women in the State civil service, with some holding very senior positions. Women in our civil service are dedicated and committed, and I must thank them for their hard work.


The State Government has also shown its support to women in Sabah by providing the Wisma Wanita building, which now stands tall at Jalan Tuaran. I must credit Datuk Noni Said, the former MPWS Chairperson and Datuk Asnimar Sukardi, the present MPWS Chairperson, for being so persistent in getting land and funding from the State Government. We will always support women, and organisations that strive to improve well being of women. Sabah benefits from contributions and efforts of women.  As mentioned by Datuk Adeline in her speech earlier, women form 50% of the state’s population.  This is a huge human resource to tap into for the state’s development and economic growth.


I also hope women related organisations will conduct more out reach programmes, especially to rural areas, and identify the needs of women who may be facing problems due to their remote locations. There are women in rural areas who are hardworking and are keen to market their products, but do not have knowledge in marketing, or even access to businesses that could sell their products.


Having said that, I wish to point out a matter of grave concern to me.  It saddens me to note that Sabah has the highest no of single mothers in the country, most of them abandoned by men without any sense of responsibility.  What is even more unfortunate is these women are usually left to care for their children, sometimes up to four or five, on a little or worse still, no income. With little or no education, these women would find it difficult to secure work and therefore resort to the generosity of family and friends.  However, generosity often runs out and some of these women have to stoop to immoral activities, which I do not need to spell out. 


This is where organisations like SWEPA can be roped in. Perhaps women related organisations could check with universities and other research institutions their findings on the needs of women, and use this information to design programmes that will benefit women in Sabah. By taking this extra step, women will have more avenues to voice their concerns on important issues like health care and education for their children.


Women are generally entrusted to shop for their households and know what to buy for their families. You can give the Government useful feedback on consumer products so that we will know if there are critical items which are over-priced, or out of stock. It is apt that we have appointed YB Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun into the Consumer Affairs and Community Development portfolio. As a woman, she is able to relate to problems that women face in getting consumer products, and how rising costs impact their livelihoods.


Women can also do their part for the environment. As household managers, they could practice composting of food waste and recycling of household waste such as paper, plastic and bottles. Women can be educated to conserve water by using rain water to water the garden.  They can be good citizens by reporting on open burning and throwing of rubbish from cars. These are small steps in improving the environment we live in.


I would like to encourage SWEPA, being a top woman organisation to carry out environment related projects to create awareness on the importance of saving the environment. Climate change is upon us and we are now experiencing extreme temperatures and violent storms. We need concerted plans to reduce carbon emissions.  SWEPA could play its part by organising talks and seminars on this critical issue of climate change, and what women can do to find solutions to reduce carbon emissions.


Your theme, “Love SWEPA, Grow Members, Give Back” is indeed well thought of.  Yes, it is time to Give Back to society with your talent, your effort and your knowledge.  I look forward to seeing SWEPA’s achievements in the many projects you are doing for women. 


My congratulations to the new Executive Committee of  SWEPA.  May you continue to shine and be an excellent organisation for others to emulate. I wish all of you the very best and hope you have an enjoyable evening.


Thank you.