Month: February 2012

Of SUKE and Lynas : Back to Basics

Of SUKE

It was not until I watched the news coverage by Buletin AWANI that I know about the plan to build a new highway shortnamed SUKE (Sungai Besi – Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway). It is a plan aimed to reduce the massive traffic nightmare motorists have to face in MRR2 everyday . When we were looking for a house, we had to cross out a few options because  of the traffic problems we might have to face to get to work if we choose to live there – we heard Jalan Ampang is almost a no-go during rush hours, and even an empty parking space at Ampang LRT station would be a rare find on working days. It is just common sense that the authority, upon receiving complaints, will take the step to build another expressway that would reduce the commute time from these areas –Sungai Besi, Alam Damai, Cheras-Kajang, Taman Bukit Permai, Taman Putra, Taman Permai Jaya, Taman Dagang, Taman Kosas, Ampang and Taman Hillview before ending it in Ulu Kelang.

The authority has came out with good stakeholder engagement initiatives, and many turned out to its public briefing sessions. But it was not at all roses – many opposed the idea of building another highway citing potential environmental problems, safety issues, and some even claimed that having SUKE will only increase the traffic in certain areas instead of reducing it.

Of Lynas

I have not been following the issue of Lynas rare earth plant very closely, but I do know the basic arguments for and against it. Rare earth, as some might have known, are elements used in most of our electronic devices (that includes your iPad and mobile phones, flat panel displays); also used in defense and alternative energy industries. It is only recently that we saw thousands came out and protested on the construction of the rare earth processing plant for its radioactivity, and other associated risks, citing the example of Bukit Merah plant in Perak, a similar plant which allegedly cause severe birth defects and leukemia cases in the local community.

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When I ponder about these two issues, I found many similarities that I can’t just ignore.

Both touch the rights of the people for safety – which is basically human rights. Many raise environmental concerns too – and this is definitely applaudable. It shows that at one level, Malaysians do not only care about themselves. For the case of Lynas, think about the money pocketed by the state government and federal government, which some portions of it (the leftover of what’s being given to corrupted individuals if there’s any) will go back to the mass, also the employment opportunities that come with the plan.

Nevertheless, I found it hard not to take this to beyond the environmental and safety concerns.

For both cases, the authorities approved the plans for both, I supposed, because both manifest development. And fundamentally, that is what we have been asking from them – we explicitly mention having the ability to bring physical development as a key criterion for one to be voted to be in the office. We hear this every now and then, especially when the election is nearer. The authorities are only giving us what they thought what we demand of them, hoping that the votes will go to them again next time.

And what we object now, in both cases, are somehow not parallel with what we are currently doing. It is a mixed signal that we sent.

We object another highway built in our backyard – but we never shut up from complaining about bad traffic. While some specifically suggest building better public transport systems instead of a new expressway, many of us (including me) still choose to drive to our destinations, and not even carpooling at that.

We object having a rare earth plant in our homeland, but did it ever cross our mind that essentially without the demand from the mass (all of us consumers, not only Malaysians of course), there will be no need for a supply of rare earth elements? If there is less need for more iPhones, iPads, LCDs, and the likes of it, there is no business case for a whole new processing plant.

I am a culprit myself, no denying to it. My household has two cars we might actually not need, we are thinking of upgrading our CRT to a flat screen TV, and bought a house which space is considered excessive for three occupiers.

But in a world where owning physical items become more than a mean to improve our quality of life, but also to satisfy one’s need to be seen as better than their contemporaries – we tend to be happy with consuming more. Less doesn’t equal more satisfaction. We are constantly upgrading our phones, laptops, cars, houses etc. We are taking more than what we need – and now we are complaining about our rights for safety and better environment being violated.

This is very contradictory from sustainability point of view, and essentially from my view, the root cause of the problem.

Playing safety and environment cards, I guess, can only go so far, but just remember, though as basic as it is,  it is this simple economic law of supply and demand that governs this world.

Only what you need

Women empowered?

When I was home yesterday evening after a long, tiring (but fairly interesting) day visiting the company’s rubber operations and conducting a briefing, I was exhausted. Absolutely flat. Nothing was left of me.

Then my mind started wondering – is this the only downside of feeling empowered as a woman, or there is a lot more to come?

Let me put it here as a disclaimer: I am married, very contentedly at that, and safely into my 27 weeks of pregnancy.My career path is in a line that I love and purposely chose.

Career-wise, yesterday was a milestone. I have been tagging along with the third-party hired to set up our carbon inventory (in seven countries, covering hundreds of business units – if you’re to get some idea on how huge this is), and this was sort of the first session handed over to me to do it with my internal team. If we are to look at it this way; that I am doing what I am most passionate about, being trusted with such a task to handle, I should have felt very excited – accomplished even, maybe.

It felt that way at first, but then it gets me thinking about the aftermath – I am doing all this, but at the same time I am flat tired – is it worth it?

I could barely open my eyes throughout the 2.5-hour journey back to KL, let alone move my hip freely (It has become so painful after a long day walking in one estate and two factories).

The Partner picked me up at our meeting point, and as I kissed his hand thanking him for braving through the 7pm rush hour in KL, my heart was crying. I am too tired to even say some nice words to him, and I wonder how worse could it be if I have a child begging for my attention at that very point in time.

I don’t choose to have a day job to feel empowered. I have long abandoned that notion. If you want to work, for God’s sake go, and stop bullshitting about women needing to have important outside job to feel empowered. I feel just as powerful in my home (I know this could sound VERY wrong indeed! =P), and should I leave the company and become a stay-at-home wife and mother, there are plenty of other channels through which I could make myself useful for a circle larger than my family.

I read news on a research conducted in several developed and emerging nations on their women – and the headline of the news on this says ‘Nielsen: Women empowered yet stressed’.

It could not be any truer than that, I thought, even without reading the whole news.

Here is an excerpt of its media press:

‘Nearly 80 percent of women in developed economies indicated they believe the role of women will change and of those, 90 percent believe it will change for the better. While female respondents say they are pressured for time and feel stressed and overworked, women in emerging countries indicated they feel the pressure even more so than women in developed countries. Women across the world are managing multiple roles, but a contributing factor in the higher stress levels reported by women in emerging markets is that there is little spare cash remaining after the basic essentials to spend on themselves or take vacations.

Among female respondents in emerging markets, women in India (87%), Mexico (74%) and Russia (69%) said they were most stressed/pressured for time; while among developed countries, women expressed feeling this pressure most in Spain (66%), France (65%) and Italy (64%).’

Women empowerment has been in the agenda for quite some times. I don’t disregard it as pointless. As fortunate that I am living in Malaysia to be able to figure out by looking around me on what are the roles of women in the society and having the freedom to choose, there are many of my sisters who are deprived of this choice, due to the cultural tradition which degrades women – think about genital mutilation, honour killing and such.

However, looking at commonly used dimensions of women empowerment in broader arenas, I feel sick looking at things such as ‘Women’s representation in high-paying jobs’, ‘Women CEO’s’ etc. If this is what defines empowerment at its highest level (above household and community), I guess somehow this points towards the wrong direction.

It could simply means that the absence of such in a nation means that the women of the nation are not yet empowered. That’s why the government comes up with regulation to have x% of women on board of directors for examples.

It looks fine in a micro way. But from a bird-eye view of the whole system, I suppose this creates imbalances. Look at it first in a household, than imagines these households turning into communities then nations, then multiply all the problems due to imbalance of roles in a household to the scale of a nation – you’ll see potential magnified numbers of child-abuse and neglect, stress-related diseases, increased healthcare cost…and so the list goes.

At one level, it is all about having choices.

And at another level is what choices do you actually make.

I think, if I have a choice, I would like to homeschool my child.

If I have the choice.

I am no powerpuff girl!

Would like to read more?

Some of my previous posts you might want to read:

Tuesdays with Morrie : A Reflection
University Life: Part 2
Saya, Sarah dan Alhambra (written in Malay)
Menanti An-Najah (written in Malay)
Reminiscing Some Old Stories 98-02 
The Triumph of Love
No Act of Kindness is Ever Wasted (written in Malay)
Engkau Menulis Kerana Apa (written in Malay)
Moralities: Relax No More
A Night to Remember

Reading Challenge 2012

We are already in the middle of February, and I am glad to report that I am on track with the personal reading challenge I set this year, thanks to two non-fiction I finished within a day respectively, well, actually I called that cheating.

Last year I aimed to finish 30 books, and failed miserably at that, but this year I am motivated to push a bit further by putting 36 books in 12 months. Yes, I know it is not anywhere near impressive for one who claims to love reading, but to finish three non-fiction books, writing and reflecting about them in a blog is not an easy feat at least for me.

I predict that there are certain genres I’d be reading a lot more this year:

1. Parenting
2. Child Psychology/Education
3. Business – Corporate Sustainability to be exact
4. Religion – perhaps more tafsir and history this year

And also, I’ve started reading more articles related to my Worldview in Islam Series (WISE) classes I’m attending, which could not be counted in my challenge.

I failed my last year mission, so this year I need to devise a new plan to ensure that at least 36 books are read – and reflected too, at that. I used to read book during my 20 minutes journey on train to work, but now as I’m pregnant and choose to drive instead, I lost that particular reading slot. Bedtime reading also used to work for me, but exhaustion gets the best of me, and now by 9 I am normally already flat and asleep.

Since I’m lucky enough not to suffer motion sickness more often that not.I guess, I should get back to reading in the car while the Partner’s driving. I’m also trying to read aloud for my unborn baby (I’m pretty sure the little kid could not comprehend corporate sustainability at this stage, but somebody said that would help with brain development and the development and recognition of language skills – no harm done I suppose!)

I guess it is so true that one should really put more effort to read while they are still studying, because apparently, once you start working, it will be a bit more challenging to do so – and of course, I do have greater respect for mothers who read. I’m still figuring out how to fix reading into my routine soon, now that the habit is somehow seems to be lost in transition.

Oh, I am so looking forward for my 60 days maternity cum confinement break – Insha Allah – to have more time to read!

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Afnizar Mohdhasread 1 book toward her goal of 36 books.
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