Women to the Fore

This is my early stage interview by STAR , 23 Mac 2008 when i was just elected as an assemblywomen for Rawang.

Gan Pei Nei, assemblywoman for Rawang

Her choice of meeting place, a McDonalds outlet, was refreshing.

“My life will not change drastically. I will still be the same person with simple tastes and a modest lifestyle. And that is what we want to do, too, to create a new political culture and change people’s perception of what a politician should be like – no flashy cars or wealthy lifestyles,” says Gan Pei Nei, the new assemblywoman for Rawang.

At 26, Gan was the youngest candidate in the recent elections but she is no greenhorn when it comes to politics.

“I have always been interested in politics and took part in campus elections while in university. I even got into trouble in my final year when I helped out in the 2004 general election. But contesting in this election was an eye-opener because I had to really go down to the community and work with them,” adds the slight-built young woman.

Gan won the state seat with 10, 467 votes against BN’s Goh Ai Ling who got 6,275 seats and independent candidate Chandrasegaran Arumugam who secured 704 votes. She joined PKR in 2004 after graduating from Universiti Sains Malaysia with a Mass Communications degree, and headed the PKR service centre in Batu before being asked to set up a PKR branch in Rawang early this year.

Her family was afraid for her at first, she says.

“Like many Chinese families, they thought it wasn’t a good career move – especially joining an opposition party. If it was (ruling party) BN it was okay,” she jokes.

But they soon came around and when she told them of her decision to run in the elections, she got their full blessing.

When asked if her age and gender were a hindrance to her, she replies: “At first the community in Rawang found it hard to accept that I was young and a woman but after meeting me and hearing what I had to say, they said, why not, the incumbent has been there for 20 years and many problems have not been addressed.

“They said they’d give me a chance,” relates Gan, whose aim is to address the problems caused by the irregular development of Rawang such as traffic jams, floods in the area and lack of recreational centres.

Like many of the woman candidates in the general elections, money was a problem.

“I did various fundraising activities to raise the money needed to run a campaign. Now I have to raise funds for my service centre in Rawang because after calculating the ADUN (state assembly representative) salary and allowance I am getting (about RM8,000), it is still not enough for the service centre. I have to get the funding from other means,” she says.

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