Subject: [fem-women2000 82] NGO Statement 28th Oct on Political Empowerment
From: lalamaziwa <>
Date: Sat, 30 Oct 1999 23:43:13 +0900
Seq: 82

Oral Statement by Asia-Pacific NGO Caucus for ESCAP '99
Agenda Item 5(c):  Political Empowerment of Women

Madame Chair, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

As members of the Asia Pacific NGO Caucus for the ESCAP High Level
Meeting to Review Regional Implementation of the Beijing Platform for
Action working on the issue of political empowerment, we would like to
focus our intervention on the statement contained in the Beijing
Platform for Action that 'women's equal participation in political life
plays a pivotal role in the general process of the advancement of women'.

In 1995, the Platform for Action reiterated that in spite of the
commitment of the UN Economic and Social Council to have 30% women in
decision-making positions by that year,  discriminatory attitudes and
practices and unequal power relations between women and men within the
family continue to limit women's potential in the arenas of political
participation and decision-making.

Four years after, these concerns re-emerged at the Asia-Pacific Regional
NGO Symposium held in Thailand in September 1999.  Women identified
discriminatory and traditional values as being principal factors in the
marginalization of women from public life, and called on states to
address a wide range of issues in this regard. In addition, women
identified growing religious fundamentalism and the lack of access to
new communication and information technologies as being factors that
limit their active political participation.

We note with interest that some of the strategic objectives outlined in
the Platform for Action have been reaffirmed in the papers presented by
this afternoon's panelists. Among them are the need for states to
explore electoral systems that would encourage and facilitate the equal
participation and representation of women, and the need to challenge
gender-based stereotypes within the family if women's participation in
public life is to increase. 

We also note that while there have been some improvements in the
participation of women in politics and decision-making in the Asia
Pacific region, as reflected in the Overview paper presented to this
meeting, in general, women remain minorities in national legislative
bodies. In addition, the Overview focuses on the co-relation between
this low level of political participation and gender imbalances at the
highest levels of public decision-making in all our states.

As the Asia-Pacific NGO Caucus at this meeting, we wish to take this
opportunity to recall the deliberations of the Asia-Pacific Regional
Symposium and reiterate our concerns regarding the following issues in
the spirit of our shared commitment to the equal rights and inherence
human dignity of women and men:

1. We are alarmed that women's decision-making role in the public
sectors remains in areas that are considered to be 'traditionally'
female, such as health, education and social welfare, reinforcing the
gender division of labor. The exclusion of women decision-makers from
sectors such as the economy and financial matters, national security,
trade and commerce, and the industry reinforce gender-based stereotypes
that the international community has pledged to eradicate.

2. The exorbitant financial costs of running for public office also
serves as a major barrier to the political participation of women, and
other marginalized social sectors.

3. There continues to be an absence of educational and awareness-raising
programmes that address gender equality in political and public life,
and that build consciousness among women that they can exercise
considerable political power as a major political constituency.

4. Women who have taken up the challenge and entered political life,
especially at the local government levels, have found themselves
vulnerable and actually subjected to various forms of violence such as
harassment, physical assault, rape and even murder.  Similarly, the
threat of and use of violence is being employed to intimidate women from
seeking office.

In order to preserve the gains we have made so far, and to further
increase the participation and representation of women in politics and
decision-making we submit the following recommendations for
consideration by the state and international agencies present at this

1. All governments should commit themselves to exert all means possible
to achieve the UN's 30% target of representation of women in politics by
2005.  Governments should also commit themselves to a 30% target for
women in decision-making positions in the bureaucracy across all sectors,
including those that have been traditionally male-dominated.

2. All governments should set in place a system of monitoring and
evaluation of women's participation in politics and decision-making.

3. All governments should seriously examine their present electoral
systems, in order to develop structures and systems that allow more
opportunities for the participation and representation of women in

4. All governments should enact laws that regulate electoral spending
and make funds accessible to women and persons from marginalised sectors
who want to participate in politics.

5. All governments should guarantee the protection of women in political
office and institute measures that would eliminate structural
constraints and ensure a safe and violence-free environment for all
women who aspire to public office.

6. All governments and international development agencies should focus
on the provision of gender-sensitive training for women candidates for
public office, for members of political parties, for media personnel,
and for all those public officials who are involved in promoting
democratic governance in our countries. Giving women access to new
information and communication technologies should also be a part of such
training programmes.

7. All governments should conduct awareness raising campaigns including
civic education programmes that stress the value of women's political
participation and representation.

8. All governments should commit financial resources to programmes and
activities that would provide the enabling conditions outlined in the
above recommendations. 

In conclusion, as women from the Asia-Pacific region, we congratulate
all the women across the region who have entered the political and
public arena in spite of all the barriers and obstacles they face,
including those of you who are among us today. We hope that our
governments will commit themselves to building on these achievements,
not only with rhetorical commitments but with concrete actions. 


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