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

Protecting the Rights of Afghan Women is AlterNet’s Top Take Action Campaign This Week

The Afghan parliament is expected to soon approve revisions to its marriage law that will do very little in the way of improving women’s rights. Despite recent demands that the country radically rework its policies on issues such as polygamy and a woman’s right to work, Afghanistan’s government is signaling a continued adherence to regressive traditions.

In a recent letter to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, activists said, “slight changes in the wordings of the law, rather than changes in content,” have rendered the revisions ineffectual.

Additionally, Shinkai Kharokhel, a lawmaker involved in the legislation, told the Associated Press on July 14 that the law’s revisions do little more than uphold structural inequalities in the country. She said many Afghan women “are illiterate, and they don’t have financial security and no one will give her money … shelter, medical, food, all these expenses belong to the man, and he can hold that back.”

What is perhaps most unfortunate among the “revisions” is the Afghan government’s failure to erase a law that calls on women to engage in sex with their husbands at least every four days. Although the proposed revisions do eliminate a time frame for sexual requirements, they still allow a man to withhold financial support for his wife if she refuses to “submit to her husband’s reasonable sexual enjoyment,” Human Rights Watch has reported.

Women’s rights issues in the country don’t stop there; violence continues at an alarming rate. “The situation of women is becoming more disastrous,” ex-parliamentarian and women’s-rights advocate Malalai Joya told IPS news on July 17. “The killing of women is like killing a bird today in Afghanistan.”

Elaborating on her claim is this excerpt from a recent U.N. report:

Violence against women is widespread and deeply rooted as well as acute. The violence that scars the lives of a huge proportion of Afghan women and girls is rooted in Afghan culture, customs, attitudes and practices.

Afghan women have limited freedom to escape the norms and traditions that dictate a subservient status for females. Women in Afghanistan are also subjected to the violence inherent in armed conflict that has intensified in recent years and is exacting an increasingly heavy toll on Afghan civilians.

Violence, in its acute form, makes it presence felt in widespread lawlessness and criminality. All these forms of violence are closely linked to a deeply entrenched culture of impunity that is, in part, an outcome of decades of conflict and indifference to a justice agenda that would also allow for a transition from, and draw a line under, a long history of egregious human-rights violations.

Helping Afghanistan’s courageous women means accumulating international voices to condemn their mistreatment. You can be part of the solution here.

Raise awareness about women’s participation in politics

The speakers at a seminar stressed upon measures to raise awareness on women’s participation in political arena and affirmative actions to ensure women’s exercise of right to vote and contest in the elections. Aurat Foundation organised a seminar on “Challenges and Obstacles in Women Right to vote” here on Friday at a local hotel. PPP MNA Ms Yasmeen Rehman, PPP MPA Sajida Mir, PML-Q representative Ms Mehnaz Rafi, regional coordinator Aurat Foundation Mumtaz Mughal, provincial election commissioner Punjab Qamar-uz-Zaman, DGM Nadra Colonel Muhammad Nawaz and President High Court Bar Association Justice Nasira Javaid Iqbal addressed the seminar. Ms Yasmeen said that PPP was working for women betterment especially in rural and tribal areas. She said that feudalism in Punjab and Jirga system in NWFP were main hurdles for women’s active role in politics. She said that women wanted to vote or participate in political activities but their male family members did not allow them to come out of their respective homes. She said that media should play its due role to change the prevailing thinking of society regarding women standing. Sajida Mir said women are living in male dominant society where permission of male is necessary especially in rural areas to come out even for casting a vote. She observed that the condition of women in urban is somewhat better as during current election campaign, female workers were more active as compared to male workers but unfortunately still women are being deprived of their right to participate in country’s politics. Ms Mehnaz Rafi said that women consist of more than half population in Pakistan but they were not interested in casting their votes due to lack of awareness. She said that it was the duty of government to take measures to encourage them to cast their right of vote.

She stressed that all the political parties should give 33 per cent representation to women in their parties. She said that registration of those parties should be cancelled who discourage females to caste their vote in elections.  Qamar-uz-Zaman said that Pakistan Election Commission had completed computerise record of all voters in Pakistan. He said that it was not their duty to make laws and they are bound to follow only rules. He said that if  people were facing difficulties in registration then it was duty of parliamentarians to change those laws. He said that PEC had provided door-to-door service for registration but unfortunately most of the people were not interested in attaining this service. He also informed that immoveable property or permanent residence was required for the registration.Muhammad Nawaz said that 543 centres of Nadra were working to make easy accessibility of CNIC. Friday was allocated specially for women’s registration whereas they could also applied for new CNIC during the whole week, he added. He said that female staff was also deployed to facilitate women.  He said that any body could get his new CNIC without any cost as all kinds of fees had been waived off.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/Lahore/25-Jul-2009/Raise-awareness-about-womens-participation-in-politics/1

PKR’s plan for women

IN early June 2009, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) announced it would be amending its constitution to include, among others, a 30% quota for women leaders at all levels. PKR’s move likely made it the first party from either the Pakatan Rakyat or the Barisan Nasional to make a concrete commitment towards including more women in politics.

Women’s rights advocates agree that PKR’s new quota for women in leadership positions is a step in the right direction. The party has clearly absorbed many points women’s advocacy groups have been making for years about gender equality.

But how effective will PKR’s gender quota be, and how exactly will it be put into place?

Women of substance

Wanita PKR deputy chief Rodziah Ismail stresses one point repeatedly: the women who fill her party’s new quota must be able to make a substantial contribution, not just fill seats.

“If we pick you as a candidate, it’s not because you are beautiful, or you are nice to others. You must go on this line: you are capable, you are giving the best performance, people are seeing you as a leader. If not, sorry,” she tells The Nut Graph in an interview at her office in Shah Alam.

zuraida But both Rodziah and Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin have expressed concerns about a lack of qualified women to fill top positions. Indeed, if women are traditionally kept out of leadership positions, what will ensure that qualified women actually make it to top posts in a party or organisation?

PKR is addressing the lack of qualified female candidates by implementing training programmes, which would focus on skill and confidence building, Rodziah said. The most promising participants in these programmes could be fast-tracked into leadership positions. Most of the efforts to implement the quota are currently concentrated on developing and implementing such programmes, she said.

A strategy focused on fast-track training programmes is also in line with recommendations from women’s groups, says Dr Cecilia Ng, an academic and women’s rights activist, in a phone interview.

ngNg, who is visiting professor at the Women’s Development Research Centre at Universiti Sains Malaysia, notes that training programmes like these are essential to ensure that women are qualified to do substantial work. “You have to do a lot more groundwork, and identify potential leaders, identify the younger leaders, [and] together go through trainings [and] empowerment programmes,” she said.

What does it mean?

Skills training aside, PKR’s constitutional amendment could be defined in any number of ways. But Rodziah explained that the 30% quota would be incorporated at every level.

For example, in a branch with 15 seats, five should be held by women. If five of those 15 seats are decision-making positions, at least one should be held by a woman, Rodziah says. The same principle would apply at the federal level.

Still, 30% of women in leadership positions does not necessarily translate into 30% of women as elected representatives.

Rodziah said the party would meet in July 2009 to plot a two-year plan for increasing the number of female candidates in the next elections. However, she did not indicate what that plan would consist of, just as she was short on detailing the party’s training programmes or what the party’s deadline was to achieve its 30% quota.

“We have our strategy but I can’t expose it,” she says.

Racial barriers

Rodziah also expressed barriers to women’s participation in Malaysian politics in racial terms, revealing that gender discrimination is just one of many issues female politicians have to deal with.

When asked what the biggest barriers are to Malaysian women’s participation in politics, she divided them along racial lines. “Chinese women are good in giving ideas, projecting themselves. But some Malay women are a bit slow in that.”rodziah

In other words, despite the fact that PKR is multiracial, party members still face racial prejudice from their peers about how they will perform.

Political parties can’t achieve equality among their members by considering gender alone, Ng notes. They also have to tackle discrimination based on age and race.

“The 30% quota has to represent the different ethnic groups, different age groups, and geographical locations,” she argues.

Preventing ghettos

These issues aside, Simranjit Kaur Gill, who lobbies for more women in positions of power with the Women’s Candidacy Initiative, says applying the quota could address the problem of women being ghettoised in certain positions.

“Society considers women as only being relevant to consider women’s issues, like family and healthcare,” she said. “And if you look at the political system in Malaysia, with the exception of (Tan Sri) Rafidah Aziz, the usual cabinet positions given to women relate to social welfare, national unity, sports, youth, women, family and community.”simranjit

This limitation on the acceptable roles that women can play in public office is yet another barrier for Malaysian women in politics, Simranjit adds. “We are ready for the ministries of defence, finance and, yes — even to be prime minister.”

But it remains unclear if PKR’s women’s wing is on the same page as women’s rights advocates.

“[Women] can’t only be championing women’s issues,” Rodziah says, for example. “Women’s issues should be on par with other issues.”

In other words, women should not be emphasising women’s issues more than other issues. But that argument presupposes that women’s issues are already given the same level of importance as others, and that male politicians would address and promote women’s concerns in the absence of female counterparts.

The lack of clarity aside on the issues involved in gender equality, PKR should be commended. While other politicians and political parties have merely announced objectives for increasing female representation, PKR has enshrined a women’s quota in their constitution, setting a benchmark for others to follow.

Equally important, it means other political parties and civil society can hold them accountable if they fail to achieve what they promise they would do.

Source: http://thenutgraph.com/article-4447.html

In Exile, An Iranian “Lion” Keeps Fighting

haghighatjoo

The “Lion Woman” of Iran sits outside her 10th floor office atop the main library of the University of Massachusetts-Boston campus, chaffing with frustration as she talks of the turbulence shaking her homeland.

She knows this story all too well: The upwelling of resistance, the retaliatory fist of state power, the fading sense of hope.

“This government is acting like wild animal”, Fatemeh Haghighatjoo says.

After four years of exile, she has lost none of her quiet ferocity or blunt determination. A visiting scholar at UMass, she has led an appeal to the United Nations secretary general to appoint a special envoy to investigate abuses against activists in Iran, and is pushing for the United States to do more as well.

But while she has come to enjoy some of the peaceful pleasures of life here—like curling up with her 6-year old daughter to watch cartoons—she longs to be back in the boiling center of things.

Haghihatjoo was one of the youngest members of the Iranian Parliament when she took on the power structure the underpins the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. After a clerical crackdown on reformers, 124 members agreed to resign. And when they considered who among them should be first to speak, all eyes turned to her.

Then as now, determined women like her played a key role in demanding democracy in Iran. And what she said seems remarkably prescient today: “By conducting sham elections, the power-drunk opponents of the popular vote have turned their backs on all the achievements of the revolution. They seek to erase republicanism and freedom from the political face of the country forever”.

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