BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN –  More opportunities should be given for women to lead in the political and government spheres, a Legislative Council (LegCo) member said on Thursday.

Speaking at the closing of Brunei’s annual parliamentary session, YB Siti Rozaimeriyanty Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman said women are ready to step up national office, but they must be given more opportunities to do so.

“I support the statement made by YB Khairunnisa Hj Ash’ari to provide opportunities for qualified and capable women to hold higher positions.

“I feel that the appointment of Legislative Council members should be one area where more opportunities should be given to women, and it’s not impossible that in the future we can have the first female minister in Brunei Darussalam.”

Last week, youth representative YB Khairunnisa asked the government to review current rules that exclude women from being nominated as village heads.

The suggestion generated significant debate on Brunei social media, with the LegCo member subjected to a number of personal attacks.

According to the ASEAN Gender Outlook, a report published by the ASEAN Secretariat and UN Women, Brunei has the highest number of female executives in the region, but the lowest representation of women in politics.

Bruneian women occupied 37 percent of middle and senior management positions in the private sector — the highest rate in Southeast Asia — but held only nine percent of parliament seats. This is well below the global average of 25 percent, despite women outnumbering men in higher education over the past few years.

“Women’s representation in government, both at the national and local levels, is important to ensure women have a say about policies in their communities,” the report stated.