Keeping this in mind the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has chosen "Women: A Force for Unity" as the theme for this year's National Women's Day.
"We want to convey that women are powerful agents of peace and unity.
"As women, we pledge individually and institutionally to strengthen and safeguard our rights.
"An empowered woman is an asset to herself, her family and her country," said Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in a recent interview.
This year's National Women's Day honours the outstanding achievements of two women through The Prime Minister's Award for Woman Entrepreneur and The Prime Minister's Award for Woman Social Activist.
The celebration also highlights the ministry's achievements over the years.
Particularly significant is a policy which requires a minimum of 30 per cent women at decision-making level in the public sector beginning 2004.
Since then, the number of women in decision-making positions has almost tripled.
Of particular significance is the increase of women officials at the JUSA (premier grade) level from 18.8 per cent in 2004 to 32.3 per cent last year.
Women in Malaysia have come a long way. Many of them are holding high positions as rectors and vice- chancellors of public universities, secretaries-general of ministries and Syariah court judges. Even Bank Negara governor and the Securities Commission chairman are women.
The ministry was also instrumental in the 2002 amendment to the Pensions Act 1980 which allows widowers who remarry to continue receiving pension and the Land (Group Settlement Areas) Act 1960 which allows wives or ex-wives or the settler's heirs to be part of land schemes and to become land owners.
In the area of women's health, the ministry has worked tirelessly to promote a healthy lifestyle, including mammogram testing for early detection of breast cancer. To make mammogram available to all women, including the poor, a subsidy of RM50 per person was introduced for those earning below RM5,000 a month over the age of 45.
This subsidy was given added value when the ministry came up with another scheme where external breast prostheses and special brassieres were made available to breast cancer patients. The scheme came with a government allocation of RM4.3 million a year.
The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2007 was the result of continuous advocacy and the ministry continued to raise the issue until the Attorney-General and Home Affairs Ministry were asked to draft an act.
The act was passed in Parliament in 2007 and the ministry was put in charge to protect and rehabilitate trafficked victims who are women and children.
To date, three shelters have been set up for such victims.
Other notable achievements include amendment of immigration law where children born overseas to Malaysian women and their foreign husbands are awarded citizenship; amendment of the Penal Code to increase the penalty for rape to a maximum of 30 years' jail, 15 years for incest and if the victim dies, the death sentence.
The National Women Policy and Women's Development Action Plan was passed on July 22, 2009, and launched by the prime minister on Aug 29, 2009. It aimed to accelerate the achievement of gender equality in line with the country's international commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Beginning mid-October last year, the government had extended maternity leave of civil servants from 42 days to 90 days.
The appointment of senior officers as Gender Focal Points (GFP) at all ministries is also a hallmark of the ministry's efforts over the years. As GFPs, these officers will assist the ministry in ensuring that gender equality is implemented within all government agencies.