Chan Hong: A new immigrant found her way to connect with Macau

Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Issue 813, Page 10 – 11
Word count: 1702
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Representing the Women’s General Association of Macau (AGMM) this year to partner with the General Union for the Neighbourhood Associations on the same list to run for the September 20 direct legislative election, Chan Hong admitted that she can feel the pressure.

Ms Chan used to be a new immigrant from Fujian Province in China. She moved to Macau in 1991 at age 25 and later completed a Master’s program in educational administration at the University of Macau.

Having lived in the SAR for 18 years now, she made all the way to become one of the 300 Election Committee members to elect the third Chief Executive of Macau in July.

Apart from being the vice-principal in Hou Kong Middle School, she holds several other titles in the areas of women’s and neighbourhood affairs.

Despite all these, some people think she is not well known in the public and thus are concerned about whether the Union for Promoting Progress list will be able to secure two directly elected seats at the Legislative Assembly as in the past.

The Macau Daily Times spoke with Ms Chan where she talked about her dedication to Macau, and why she and other candidates on the same list deserved voters’ support.

Reporter: What roles do you play in society?

Chan Hong: I’m the second candidate on the list of the Union for Promoting Progress (União Promotora para o Progresso). I’m also the vice-principal in Hou Kong Middle School, the vice-chairwoman of the Women’s General Association of Macau, the vice-president of the Northeastern District Neighbourhood Association, and the vice- secretary general of the Chinese Educators Association of Macau. Therefore I’m involved in the areas of education, women and neighbourhood. I’ve always been concerned about social affairs outside of the school, and I hope that through my own efforts I can push forward education, youth and women’s affairs and also residents’ rights and interests.

I became Hou Kong Middle School’s vice-principal in the 2008/09 academic year and before that, I was an assistant to the principal and then the assistant principal.

As for the Women’s General Association (AGMM), I had always been participating in its work but only until early this year when it held an election, I became the vice-chairwoman of the association.

AGMM dedicated to women and children’s welfare, including free education which echoes to my job (as a vice-principal), and child day care services to reduce housewives’ pressure, and vocational training for women to upgrade their skills, and also to protect women’s rights and interests in which we successfully fought for a 56-day paid maternity leave in the law.

We are also concerned about domestic violence and we’ve been dealing with the government to push forward the enactment of related legislation. A 24-hour human trafficking hotline is also in operation.

AGMM runs three integrated services centres, six nurseries, a primary school and kindergartens in order to provide all-round services for the community especially women.

R: We hardly see there is any “men’s association” around the world, so what is the importance of having an association only for women?

Ms Chan: It was a historical reason I assume. AGMM has been in Macau for 59 years and when it was founded in 1950, the status of Macau women was relatively low as you know New China was just established. It was necessary for women to group together to safeguard their rights and interests. At that time it was found that many women were illiterate and thus classes were organised and given to them as a way to empower themselves so that they could step outside from home.

I’m also an executive committee member of the Guangdong Women’s Association. Hence we want to promote women’s affairs through regional exchange and cooperation.

Women were deemed as weak in society but gradually it had changed, and their socio-economic status has been advanced nowadays. But it’s still not enough and we want to continue to push forward the progress.

R: Was there any milestone in the history of women’s affairs in Macau?

Ms Chan: We demanded the government to set up the Women’s Affairs Advisory Committee in 2006 in which Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah is the president. The committee makes the government to be more aware of women’s concern and allows society to pay more attention to women’s affairs. We hope that the government can include women’s affairs as one of the major public policy areas every year.

The establishment of the committee represented a significant sign. There are also advisory committees for culture, youth affairs and transportation, and having a women’s advisory committee showed the concern of the government.

Apart from the 56-day paid maternity leave I just mentioned, AGMM also set up Lai Yuen, a residential shelter for victims of domestic violence. Although there were not a large number of women seeking refuge, we cannot overlook each case and have to prevent it from happening.

R: In what ways has women’s status been advanced in Macau?

Ms Chan: There are more employment opportunities for women who will come out from home and enter the job market. In 2008, more than 60 percent of local women had a job, which showed that their capability was being recognised by society.

In addition, nowadays we have a lot of high ranking women officials such as the Secretary for Administration and Justice and the president of the Legislative Assembly. However, we want to keep encouraging women to take part in social affairs and politics in order to make good use of their talent.

R: Since you said there is still room for Macau to upgrade its status of women, what will be the most ideal situation?

Ms Chan: The most ideal situation is that women and men share the same level of equality in society. But I believe that it will still take a long time and a lot of efforts until we can achieve this goal.

Inequality between men and women can be seen in the traditional mindset that whenever someone in a family needs to sacrifice his or her career for certain reasons, women are usually the ones to be preferred to do so. But of course we have to recognise the value of women’s efforts in families.

In addition, women may encounter the “glass ceiling” situation in the job market where their promotion opportunities are being limited by invisible barriers when compared to men co-workers because of some form of discrimination.

As well, the deeply-rooted social belief of male dominance is even more prominent in oriental societies in certain parts of Asia.

R: As you have been involved in the education field for a long time, how do you see Macau’s current education system?

Ms Chan: Macau’s basic education is very different from that of mainland China or Hong Kong. In Macau, more than 90 percent of basic education providers are private schools. They practice a pluralistic education system which led to prosperity in the basic education of Macau. In regard to the performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Macau students’ ability in science and mathematics was not bad.

However, the government lacks vision and a mid to long term education strategic plan. In addition, there isn’t yet a framework for the vocational system of teaching staff in private schools. Therefore there is no standard in job requirements or definition of their rights and interests.

The vocational system can allow more training for teachers which eventually increase the education quality.

On the other hand, tertiary education has a relatively short history of about 20 years in Macau. The rapid development of higher education institutes showed that there is demand in society, but the issues are how we can advance their international reputation and teaching quality?

The government must have to inject more resources into both basic and tertiary education. At present, Macau’s resources to education are insufficient when compared to other places. We hope that it can be increased to account for at least five percent of the GDP. In recent years, the figure stayed at around 2.3 percent of the GDP.

R: You’re representing the Women’s General Association to run for the direct legislative election this year, do you feel a lot of pressure?

Ms Chan: Certainly there is pressure especially running for the direct ballot. But thanks to the great support from the members, I turn the pressure into motivation in order to do my best in the election.

We are always concerned about education, youth and women’s affairs. This is not something that we only do for the election.

R: Are you worried that voters may not know much about you and other candidates on the list because most of you are new faces in the election?

Ms Chan: The Union for Promoting Progress (UPP) is a team which has been working in the Legislative Assembly since 1991. During the past 18 years, we continued to have people from different sectors and professions joining us. It showed that our work is being recognised by the public. We aim to go inside the community and listen to what people need in order to improve their livelihood.

Although we have many new candidates this year, all of us have involved in social service work for a long time and have been in close contact with the neighbourhoods.

We will carry on the traditions of UPP to work sincerely for the public in a practical way. We hope that we can have a young and professional team to enter the Assembly so as to attain sustainable development of UPP.

R: UPP was involved in a complaint that the General Union of Neighbourhood Associations (UGAMM) allegedly promoted the candidates on its newsletters before the campaign began, are you worried that it would draw a bad public impression on your list?

Ms Chan: We always engaged in election campaigns in line with law and we did not try to campaign prior to the formal period. The newsletters were to introduce or report the work of UPP to the members. The public might have misunderstood but the newsletters were only given to UGAMM members. Some people might deliberately defame us and thus we preserve the right to sue.

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