Category Archives: Asia

Young women fight the ‘Talibanisation’ of rural Pakistan

Much attention has been focused on the process of radicalisation of young men in the areas of Pakistan that border Afghanistan. Peshawar, the town near the border between the two countries, is infamous for being the centre of a vibrant industry and trade in homemade guns. For more than two decades, violence has become the dominant currency of almost every aspect of life in this area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, once known as the North West Frontier Province.

So it takes remarkable courage for a 16-year-old girl to decide to challenge how this culture of violence was reinforcing and strengthening the oppression of women. Eight years on, Gulalai Ismail, now a poised 24-year-old, is running two programmes of work – one on gender empowerment and the other on peacebuilding – from her home in Peshawar, where she grew up. Brought to London by Peace Direct, Ismail was talking to youngsters about her work.

“I set up Aware Girls when I was 16 because all around me I saw girls being treated differently to boys. My girl cousin was 15 when her marriage was arranged to someone twice her age; she couldn’t finish her education while my boy cousins were [doing so]. This was considered normal. Girls have internalised all this discrimination – a woman who suffers violence but doesn’t say anything is much admired in the village as a role model. A good woman submits to her husband or father.

“Aware Girls raised awareness of equal status. We did training that women have human rights, and taught leadership skills and how to negotiate within their families and with their parents to get education and to have control over their own lives.”

Ismail is well aware of how the position of women has deteriorated over the course of her life. “Peshawar used to be very progressive, but after “Talibanisation” it became much more conservative and life is more difficult for my younger sister than it was for me. Just going out to the market is difficult because of the sexual harassment.”

That kind of harassment makes organising training for young women particularly difficult. Ismail and her staff have to strive very hard with communities in the villages where they work to build trust that if daughters attend the training they will be safe. Parents worry that their daughters will be “westernised” and forget their “cultural values”. For a recent training course on political leadership to help boost the participation of women in politics, Aware Girls had to organise 20 local community meetings to identify the 30 girls who eventually went on the course. Working in remote rural areas requires considerable patience and time, but Ismail is not interested in the easier option of working only in urban areas.

It was the gender work that came first, but Ismail soon realised the close relationship between gender and peace. “In training, a woman told the story of how her 12-year-old son was taken away to Afghanistan by the militants, and 10 months later he was dead. That made me think that we must stop these young people joining the militants.”

The result was the Seeds of Peace network, which Ismail set up last year and which has trained 25 young people. They, in turn, will train another 20, to slowly expand a network across 10 districts of the province. She believes each person can reach 500 young people to promote tolerance and challenge extremism.

“They identify young people in the community who might be vulnerable to militants and they organise study circles to discuss the causes and consequences of conflict and the history of Talibanisation. We talk about tolerance for people of other faiths,” says Ismail.

Almost every aspect of children’s upbringing is affected by extremism. Even the school textbooks urge children to be ready for jihad, says Ismail, and all around are songs and films that glorify war, martyrdom and violence.

“Seeds of Peace aims to give another perspective by getting people to think about human rights. Peace is not just the absence of war, it is about respect and tolerance – and women have an important role in educating their children.”

Ismail is well aware that her work challenges the Taliban’s power, and that brings dangers. She is also aware that there are huge political issues involved in the radicalisation of the region where she lives, but believes that a grassroots community challenge to a culture of extremist intolerance is also a crucial part of the search for peace. Both high-level political negotiation and community participation are required in conflict resolution.

Peace Direct’s Ruairi Nolan backs up Ismail’s analysis of a peace process, using the analogy of political negotiation as the bricks and community engagement as the cement that hold the bricks together. Pointing to Northern Ireland’s experience, he suggests that several decades of community peacebuilding was a crucial precondition to the success of the political process that culminated in the Northern Ireland agreement.

At international conferences, Ismail has met counterparts from Uganda, Sri Lanka and many other parts of the world. Despite the very different forms of conflict, she can see plenty of similarities in the work they are doing – and she says that gives her hope.

Malaysia: Women vital source of resources – Yong

Deputy Works Minister Datuk Yong Khoon Seng has termed women as Malaysia’s vital source of human resources to spur its development.

He thus called on more women to assume leading roles to help the country achieve further breakthroughs.

“Women of today are no longer confined to the roles of wife and mother. Many of them have excelled in many areas such as politics, finance, industries and education,” he told a dinner marking the Kuching and Samarahan Divisions Chinese Women Association’s 63rd anniversary last Saturday.

Yong, who is Stampin member of parliament, said it was quite obsolete to insist that only a certain gender should serve in selected industries, particularly in this modern era.

He stressed that for as long as a person had the capability, the issue of gender should not get in the way.

“If the person has great knowledge in a certain field and is capable of discharging the duty, we shall by all means support the person to lead,” he said.

He noted that the women association was one of the earliest community-based organisations (CBOs) in the city.

Given its history, the association had played its part to elevate the social status of women besides enlightening them on their rights, he said.

He hoped that it would persevere in its undertakings so as to be able to organise more healthy programmes for members and the communities.

During the dinner, the association through Yong also handed out ‘angpow’ and goodies to eligible elderly members.

http://www.theborneopost.com/?p=130610

Women power triumphs in state polls. What next?

The people’s verdict in the state elections of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu has put Mamata Banerjee and J. Jayalalithaa in the chief minister’s chair. With Sheila Dikshit in Delhi and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, India will now have four women chief ministers — no mean feat for a country that usually associates politics with the male gender.

Still, the poll triumphs can’t hide that the road to women’s empowerment in India has plenty of bottlenecks. For one, critics of the Women’s Reservation Bill (which if passed will reserve one-third of parliament and assembly seats for women) have ensured the bill has remained on the table in the lower house of parliament.

And despite the examples of Indian President Pratibha Patil and Congress party head Sonia Gandhi, few can deny that the number of women in Indian politics is not commensurate with the corporate world where several Indian women hold sway over multinational companies.

Women’s liberation groups say that discrimination in politics is derived from the deep-seated hypocrisy of Indian culture, one where female deities are worshipped but women still have little say over their lives.

And that even in cases where suitable female candidates are available for national and state elections, the choice has gone in favour of a male candidate.

While the Congress party headed by Gandhi has only one woman chief minister in Dikshit, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party doesn’t have any, despite its vocal support for the Women’s Reservation Bill.

Have things changed since the state polls? Are the election wins for Banerjee and Jayalalithaa a milestone for women’s empowerment in India? Share your views.

http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2011/05/16/women-power-triumphs-in-state-polls-what-next/

Only 7 women make it to Kerala state Assembly

Women got a raw deal once again in Kerala politics with just seven female aspirants getting elected to the state Assembly, the same as the last time.

The outcome has strengthened a general belief that Kerala is not yet free from “male-hegemony”, despite the state being projected as a role model for women empowerment.

The first Kerala Assembly in 1957 had six women members, when politics was dominated by men in most parts of India.

Out of the seven elected women this time around, the ruling UDF has just one representative, Congress’ P Jayalakshmi, who was part of the list drawn up by AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi. Jayalakshmi, elected from Manathawadi (ST) segment in Wayanad district, is among the ministerial probables as the only woman member on the ruling side.

According to T N Seema, Rajya Sabha member and leader of CPI-M’s women wing AIDWA, it can’t be glossed over that generally there is an “anti-women” attitude in all spheres in Kerala.

“As in other fields, male-hegemony is deep-rooted in politics also. No party is free from this,” Seema told PTI.

Women empowerment has gained some momentum at the local bodies level where 50 per cent of the seats are reserved for women.

But women who excel in politics and governance are not allowed to go beyond a certain level by the male-dominated leadership of major parties, she said.

The six women MLAs of the LDF are K K Lathika, P Ayisha Potty and K S Saleekha, all from the CPI-M; E S Bijimol, Geetha Gopi from the CPI; Jameela Prakasam of the JD(S).

Geetha Gopi, Jameela Prakasam and Jayalakshmi are first-time MLAs while the other four are into their second stint as legislators.

A total of 78 women candidates including Independents tried their luck at the hustings.

While the LDF fielded 14 women candidates, including 10 from CPI-M, three CPI and one JD (S), the UDF offered seats to 8 and the BJP fielded 14 women.

However, UDF partners like the IUML and the Kerala Congress (M) did not field any woman candidate.

Prominent women who fell by the wayside include 92-year old Gowri Amma of JSS, a component of the UDF, in Cherthala in Alappuzha district.

The grand old lady of Kerala politics and once firebrand Communist, Gowri Amma has been part of most of the Communist ministries from 1957 to 2006. She left the CPI-M in the 1990s and floated JSS.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/only-7-women-make-it-to-kerala-state-assembly/articleshow/8367555.cms

Magna Carta of Women finally a law

MANILA, Philippines — After seven years languishing in the legislative mill, a landmark legislation on women’s rights has finally been enacted.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act 9710, or the Magna Carta of Women, Friday morning in a ceremony attended by lawmakers and women leaders at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang.

RA 9710 recognizes and protects women’s rights at home, at work and in all spheres of society toward developing all aspects of their well-being. Its most salient features include increasing the number of women personnel until they fill half of third-level positions in the government, setting up in every barangay (village) a “violence against women’s desk,” providing incentives to parties with women’s agenda and barring the derogatory portrayal of women in media and film.

The new law’s most “empowering provision” is its recognition that “women’s rights are human rights,” Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Leila de Lima told reporters after the 10 a.m. signing.

Section 8 of RA 9710 reads: “All rights in the Constitution and those rights recognized under international instruments duly signed and ratified by the Philippines, in consonance with Philippine law, shall be rights of women under this Act to be enjoyed without discrimination.”

“And therefore,” De Lima said, “the principles of human rights are there—non-discrimination, equality, participation, non-exclusion, etc.”

According to the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), legislative debates on two bills—Magna Carta for Women and Magna Carta of Women in Rural Development—began in 2002 during the 12th Congress.

The two bills were merged in the 13th Congress, and came to be called Magna Carta of Women.

Said NCRFW Chair Myrna Yao in a statement: “The Magna Carta of Women seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women by recognizing, protecting, fulfilling and promoting all human rights and fundamental freedoms of Filipino women, particularly those in the marginalized sector.”

The NCRFW said women’s groups lobbied intensely for the approval of the measure in the Senate and the House of Representatives, but it was fast-tracked after Ms Arroyo declared it one of her priority bills.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Maza praised women’s groups for steering the measure until its approval by Congress.

“After all the attempts to block the passage of the Magna Carta of Women, the Filipino women have finally emerged victorious. This is a byproduct of women’s continuous struggle for equality and serves as a gateway in support of women’s legitimate concerns,” Maza said in a statement.

She said she skipped the ceremonial signing of the measure because of purported previous attempts by the administration to water it down, specifically its provisions on reproductive health.

But Speaker Prospero Nograles and Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, as well as other lawmakers who authored and sponsored the measure, witnessed the signing.

Under Rights and Empowerment, RA 9710 mandates an incremental increase in the recruitment and training of women in the police force, forensics and medico-legal, legal services and social work services in the next five years until they make up half the number of the personnel.

With the goal of ensuring the equitable representation of women in all spheres of society, the Magna Carta also provides for the incremental increase of women personnel in third-level government positions in the next five years to achieve a “50-50 gender balance.”

It mandates that 40 percent of members of development councils in all government levels should be women, and that incentives be provided to political parties with women’s agenda.

RA 9710 clearly states in Section 12 that the State should amend or repeal within three years any law discriminatory to women.

It grants women the right to security in armed conflict, as well as protection from all forms of gender-based violence such as rape, and prohibits the State from forcing women, especially indigenous women, to abandon their land or relocating them in special centers for military purposes under any “discriminatory condition.”

The law mandates government personnel involved in the protection and defense of women to train in human rights and gender sensitivity.

It designates the CHR as the Gender and Development Ombudsman to ensure the promotion and protection of women’s rights.

The law also ensures women’s equal access to education and sports, and mandates the government to eliminate discrimination against women in the military and police, and bars the discriminatory portrayal of women in media and film.

It likewise ensures women’s rights to health, food security, housing, decent work, livelihood, social protection and preservation of cultural identity, among others, and spells out equal rights in marriage and family, including a joint decision on the number and spacing of children.

More important, RA 9710 guarantees the civil, political, social and economic rights of women in marginalized sectors.

Source: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090815-220369/Magna-Carta-of-Women-finally-a-law

Malaysian Women Third Advanced in Asia/Pacific

Women in Malaysia continue to rank as one of the highest scoring countries around the Asia/Pacific region. They are feeling more confident and positive about the role they play within the business and economic environment according to the research study.

According to the fourth annual MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement 2008, released by MasterCard Worldwide today, Malaysia’s score rose to clinch third highest within the Asia/Pacific region, drawing a score of 76.89. Around the region, the overall Index score across the 13 Asia/Pacific markets surveyed dropped from 73.24 in 2007 to 70.38 in 2008.

The MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement measures the socioeconomic level of women in relation to men using four key indicators;

  • Two showing the ratio of female to male participation in the labor force and tertiary education, are based on source data from national statistics bureaus.
  • Two based on survey data, measuring female and male respondent perceptions of whether they hold managerial positions and earn above median income. These subjective factors are a gauge of how positively or negatively respondents feel about their place in the workforce.

The resulting total Index figure obtained is a combined calculation of these indicators showing how close or how far women in each market are to being equal to men. A score under 100 indicates gender inequality in favor of males while a score above 100 indicates inequality in favor of females. A score of 100 indicates equality between the sexes.

Within the four indicators, Malaysia’s score are as follows:

  • tertiary education (135.02)
  • labor force (59.0)
  • managerial position (65.91) and
  • above median income (47.62).

“Malaysia continues to be a key market in encouraging the evolution of women as consumers and as influencers changing the socio-economic dynamics across Asia/Pacific. Malaysian women seem to be closing the gap with men in the socio-economic arena. These are subjective indicators which gauge how positive the respondents feel about their place in the workforce. The scores indicate that Malaysian working women are more confident and self-assured,” said Georgette Tan, vice president, Communications, Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa, MasterCard Worldwide. “As they become more educated and qualified, evolving in tandem, the workplace has become more inclusive with greater opportunities for women to attain roles in management and leadership.

The MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement Across Asia Pacific

Across the 13 Asia/Pacific markets, the Index scores ranged from a low of 49.83 in Japan to a high of 86.82 in the Philippines. Hong Kong took second place at 77.37, closely followed by Malaysia in third place 76.89.

In South-East Asia, positive sentiment amongst women was clear. Four out of the six markets surveyed, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, achieved an uplift in 2008 on their 2007 total Index scores. In the remaining two markets – The Philippines and Singapore – only a very slight decline was recorded over the same period.

In the rest of the Asia/Pacific region, five of the seven markets saw a decline. The greatest of these were in New Zealand, China and Taiwan, suggesting that women’s positive sentiments in these markets are on the wane. By comparison, Hong Kong and Japan illustrated a very slight uplift.

Largely, the decline in this year’s Index score for the region was the result of fewer women considering their work roles ‘managerial’ or their income ‘above the median’ than they did one year ago. The Index found that across the region, the number of women considering themselves in managerial positions fell from 56 women per 100 men in 2007 53 in 2008. Meantime those considering their income to be above the median fell from 68 women per 100 men to in 2007 to 59 per 100 men in 2008.

“While women continue to close the gap in achieving parity with men in the areas of labor force participation and tertiary education, women’s self-perception regarding the subjective factors of the Index – managerial positions and above median income – have continued to dip for the second year in a row. This appears to indicate that women are feeling less confident about their current status, and whether due to the economic, political or social landscape, the direct result is that men’s confidence and resulting advancement is increasing to fill the gaps,” said Tan.

“As women continue to enter the labor force and seek tertiary education, new avenues are opened up for their employment and their careers. However, in 2008 it appears that women continue to perceive themselves as not receiving the same opportunities as men. This, combined with the shifting economic climate, has negatively affected the scores pertaining to the self-perception of women, resulting in a lower MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement score.”

When speaking about the results of the Index, President of The Global Summit of Women Irene Natividad said “The MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement clearly shows that business and Government leaders in the Asia Pacific region should pay as much attention to lifting women off the “sticky floor” of entry-level employment, where women feel trapped, as they do with helping them break the ‘glass ceiling’ of senior management.”

The Global Summit of Women is an annual forum bringing women leaders in business, government and enterprises of all sizes together for exchanges of best practices in advancing women’s economic opportunities worldwide.

MasterCard has devoted extensive resources to developing a deeper understanding of the women’s segment in Asia/Pacific. The findings from this fourth MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement highlights that there is still much to be done in terms of improving women’s self-perceptions.

MasterCard is committed to empowering women through initiatives such as its U21 Global Scholarship for Women in Travel and Tourism, which was launched in 2006 to provide working women professionals a program to develop their leadership skills and realize their full potential in the area of travel and tourism. The program comprises 20 scholarships for the U21Global Executive Diploma of Business Administration that can articulate into The University of Nottingham MSc in Tourism and Travel Management.

MasterCard has also released a series of consumer and travel reports on women, found at www.masterintelligence.com – an online repository of MasterCard’s proprietary research.

Some Key findings of the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement:

Labour force participation

  • There are now three quarters as many women working in the Asia/Pacific region as there are men. Over the four year period since MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement began, the Asia/Pacific Index score for Labour force participation has very slightly increased across all markets – from 75.07 in 2005 to 76.78 in 2008.
  • Vietnam’s economic growth is perhaps driven by women, because the market’s indicator score for women’s participation in the labour force reached 93.77 in 2008. This means there are now 94 women for every 100 men in the labour force in Vietnam – the nearest to parity of any market in the region.
  • The next market with a large participation of women in the labour force is New Zealand where the indicator score in 2008 was 88.29. This means there are 88 women to every 100 men in the labour force in New Zealand. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, Malaysia’s data reveals the lowest rate of women’s participation in the labour force with 59 women to every 100 men.

Tertiary education participation

  • The total Index score for Asia/Pacific for the number of women in tertiary education this year was 93.15 – or put another way there are 93 women for every 100 men in Tertiary education across Asia/Pacific. In each of the four years since the Index began this number has risen slightly indicating that women’s participation in tertiary education is edging closer to parity all the time.
  • Most impressive of all was the figures for this indicator in Malaysia. Here, more women in tertiary education than men with 135 women to every 100 men. The Philippines also returned some very positive figures with 116 women to every 100, Thailand at 107 and New Zealand’s at 103.

Personal perception of participation in managerial positions

  • Across Asia/Pacific the results for the number of women who perceive themselves to be in managerial positions has consistently decreased since 2006 and in 2008 has reached a total Index score of 52.85. This means that in 2008 across Asia/Pacific, over half as many women believe they are in managerial positions as men.


Personal perception of participation in managerial positions / continued

  • Women’s perception of their participation in management positions has decreased across seven of the thirteen markets in Asia/Pacific in 2008 (Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, the Philippines and Singapore) and increased in six (Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam).
  • The most dramatic drop for this indicator was in China where the 2007 indicator score of 71.27 dropped to 55.94. This means that in China in 2008 there are now only just over half as many women (56 women to every 100 men) as there are men who perceive their roles to be managerial.


Personal perception of income level being above median

  • Women’s perceptions that they were earning above the median income has decreased across the region. In 2007 the total Index score for Asia/Pacific was 67.8 meaning there were 68 women per 100 men who perceived their income to be above the median. In 2008 this indicator score has decreased to 59.
  • The most dramatic drop in perception regarding salary was in Taiwan where in 2007 more women perceived that they earned above the median wage than men (113 women to every 100 men). In 2008 this indicator score has dropped to only 68 women per 100 men.
  • In New Zealand a similar decline also took place. In 2007 the indicator score was 97.46, this meaning that 97 women per 100 men thought they earned more than median income. But in 2008 this dropped to less than half as many women as men as New Zealand received a new an indicator score of only 42 women per 100 men.

The full report, which provides details on the scores for the four indicators by market, can be found at the website www.masterintelligence.com

Source: http://www.adoimagazine.com/newhome/index.php?view=article&catid=1%3Abreaking-news&id=2915%3Amalaysian-women-third-advanced-in-asiapacific&option=com_content&Itemid=2

The Philippines’ first woman president to be buried in simple, white tomb

coryaquino

MANILA, Philippines —  In death as in life,  former President Corazon Aquino will be remembered as a simple woman unaffected by the trappings of power.

The former democracy icon and the country’s first woman President will be laid to rest beside her husband, former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., in a simple white tomb with  the  inscription “Corazon C. Aquino ‘Cory’, Jan. 25,1933-Aug. 1, 2009.”

Six yellow ribbons were tied around two pillars of the Aquino mausoleum, while yellow flowers were placed on top of Mrs. Aquino’s tomb early this morning.

Inside the cemetery, yellow ribbons were tied to trees and posts leading to the mausoleum. Loyal supporters of the former President, mostly women, were already seated near the mausoleum as of this posting, where photographers and mediamen await the funeral cortege from the Manila Cathedral.

The Aquino family has opted to have a private funeral for Mrs. Aquino instead of the state honors usually accorded to former presidents.

Full military honors will however be accorded the former chief executive as she is laid to rest  at the Manila Memorial Park, including a 21-gun salute – one salvo fired every minute for a 21-minute period – once the casket leaves the cathedral.

http://ph.news.yahoo.com/star/20090805/tph-update-rp-s-first-woman-president-be-541dfb4.html