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People’s SAARC and Women’s Issues

The first people’s SAARC concluded here on 25 March, 2007 enunciating a 25 points Kathmandu declaration. Of the many demands put forward, the conference called for strengthening and institutionalizing democracy, combat religious, ethnic and gender based violence, guarantee sovereign rights of the people for food, solve the problems of refugees and internally displaced people, extend support to the struggle of the Bhutanese refugees, promote free media, downsize the defense

budget, declare 2007-2017 as SAARC Dalit decade, guarantee 50 per cent reservation to women in all aspects of governance and end of all forms of indentured labor in the region. The declaration has urged all the parties concerned to act together to fight against poverty, injustice, imperialism and discrimination. With the objective of making efforts for a new and better South Asia, the People’s SAARC had begun on March 23. People from all walks of life from all SAARC nations took part in the assembly.

Earlier on march 23, the representatives from SAARC countries discussed the issues of south Asian women as how women can contribute in peace building process in south Asia in Kathmandu. In the program, seven prominent representatives from belonging SAARC countries put forward the issues and the status of women in SAARC countries. They unveiled that women are always treated as second graded citizens in south Asia and a combined south-Asian-effort is needed to settle down the program. There, Shobha Gautam, Coordinator of Shantimalika presented a paper on how women can play a meaningful role in peace building process in south Asia and Jagaran Nepal President Sharmial Karki conducted the program. The women groups from SAARC countries discussed the issues of women and they put forward the recommendations for peace building process in South Asia.

South Asia is a region where women ruled as a Head of the state; as a Prime Minister and President. South Asia is second only to Scandinavia in having had more women heads of government than any other region in the world. Women leaders are well empowered both in the government and major opposition in South Asian country, namely, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh. Analyzing the background of the most powerful women leaders of South Asia; most of them are from political families; either they are daughter or wife of leaders. As a Prime Minister and President of their respective countries; their performance was similar to their male counterparts, they were unable to increase the participation of women in the politics; especially at the decision making level.

SAARC region Universal Declaration on Human Rights 1948 has emphasized on the people’s participation at the decision making level. It is necessary to raise the social, economic and political status of women for the sustainable development and good governance in the country. Participation of women at the decision making level is necessary for the overall development of women. Democracy is possible through women’s participation in the decision making level. Political participation is a corner stone to increase the proportionate representation of women at the decision making level. Representation in the government and political decision making positions increases women’s access to information and resources; which can increase control over resources too. Though Constitutions of South Asian countries provided equal rights to men and women, gender discrimination has not been decreased. Various laws are still discriminatory. There is very low participation of women at the decision making level in South Asia.

In south Asia, women have faced and been facing various problems. Due to such problems, their participation is low in every sector. Besides, the factors like,
• Low political awareness
• The Patriarchy social structure
• Violence against women
• Religious Fundamentalism
• Militarism
• Arm Conflict
• Lack of access to resources
• Rampant Poverty
• Illiteracy or lack of education
• Lack of access to information and technology
• Lack of capacity building programs
• Lack of commitment of political leaders
• Difficult to continue in the politics after marriage
• Generation Gap among cadres and leaders
• Work load
• Lack of gender sensitive constitution, policies and programs of political parties.
• Lack of co-ordination among women political leaders are also contributing for their vulnerability and backwardness. So, some measures should be taken into consideration for women’s participation and empowerment in the region;

• Proportional representation of women in all sectors including politics is necessary to increase the number of women in the parliament, political parties and local authority. 33 % is the starting point and proportional representation is our goal.
• Affirmative action should be taken to increase the participation of women in politics.
• Capacity building programs should be launched to increase the knowledge and skill of political leaders and cadres.
• Cooperation and support to the women political leaders and cadres during maternal period should be ensured.
• Amendment of the constitution and laws is necessary to provide justice to the women.
• Proportionate representation of women in all sectors should be ensured.
• Employment opportunity should be ensured.
• Constitution, policies and programs of the political parties should be women sensitive.
• Campaign to end the violence against women from South Asia.
• A network of South Asian women politicians’ should be formed.
• More women youth inclusiveness approach should be formulated
• Not only participation but women partnership approach should be initiated
• Women unity among the south Asian countries to fight against women’s discriminatory laws
• Patriarchal structure should be rooted out
• Child education focus on girl child education
• Equal rights on property and others
• Policy is to be made for disable women in south Asia
• CEDAW, CRC and other resolutions should be ratified properly by the corresponding countries and regular monitoring is needed to find out its proper implementation.
• Uniformity in education within the region for cultivating harmony
• South Asian Women peace commission is to be established so that women from south Asia can have the access for regular dialogue among themselves
• The most vulnerable group in conflict is women and child so concrete and mechanized approach is needed to minimize the tendency of vulnerability
• Women citizenship issue should be settled down
• Equality in wages should be followed by the corresponding countries
• Economic sustainability programs for women

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