Tag Archives: news on women in politics

Online Women Bulletin, July 5, 2009

WOMEN IN POLITICS

India: Dalit , Muslim Women Bodies For Sub-Quota For Women in Bill

Contending that the Women’s Reservation Bill in its present form will benefit only those from affluent sections. Dalit and Muslim bodies demanded a sub-quota for women from weaker sections to ensure fair representation. At a convention in New Delhi, representatives of the All India Milli Council, the Muslim Welfare Organization, Dr B R Ambedkar Sewa Dal and Samajik Nyan Morcha among others said a quota without a sub-quota will augment inequalities in the country and fail to serve its purpose. “While we welcome the proposal of reserving seats form women, we strongly believe there should be a provision ensuring that Muslim and Dalit women, who are the most backward in the country and need representation, get their due share in proportion to their population,” said Manzoor Alam, General Secretary, All India Milli Concil. Alam said in its present form, the bill will further strengthen and empower, “the already educated and economically empowered ladies” and those who belong to families with political background

Lebanon: Where’s the Woman’s Place?

If you think Lebanon is a complicated place, the state of Lebanese women’s political participation should be no surprise. Lebanese women won the right to vote and to participate in national elections in 1952, 19 years b efore women in Switzerland. Yet, today, political participation by Lebanese women remains dismal at the national level. In the June parliamentary elections, only 12 women ran for office and only 4 were elected out of 128 seats. Since suffrage, in fact, only 77 women have served in Lebanon’s parliament. The reasons are complicated but male domination if the country’s politics is one major reason. Another is that political parties are f ocused in sectarian interests, marginalizing women’s voices.

Fiji: Interim Government Approves New Women’s  Groups

Fiji’s leading women’s advocacy group says a new interim government endoresed women’s group will not take the place of existing institutions. In a statement, Fiji’s interim government says the new “Fiji Women’s Federation”, will be the advocate for, and representative of, women’s rights in the country. The coordinator of one of the longest serving women rights groups, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Shamima Ali, say previous governments have tried and failed to create something similar, ” Often these things have fallen by the wayside because of lack of funding, lack of the political will of the government”, she said. The interim government says the membership of the federation will be nade up of women’s non government organizations, which meet a set criteria. But no detail of what that criteria is has been made public. Ms. Ali says the federation’s creation won’t mean groups like the Crisis Centre, vocal critics of the interim government, will be sidelined.

Iran: Women Leading the Charge for Change

Iranian women’s visible presence in protests over their country’s political turmoil is likely to strengthen the cause of opposition leader Mr. Hussein Mousavi. That became clear this weekend after 26-yeald Neda Agha-Soltan was shot in the chest while attending a protest rally. The video of her  bloody death on Saturday has circulated in Iran and around the world and prompted an outpouring of sympathy. President Obama in a White House press conference said, “We have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the street. While this lost is raw and extraordinary painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.” Ms. Agha-Soltan apparently wasn’t a political activist but has become a stirring symbol of anti-government movement. And her gender seems to be heightening worldwide sympathy for the protesters.

Indonesia: Head Scarf Emerges As Political Symbol

The three (3) parties competing in Indonesia’s presidential election next week have plastered the city with campaign billboards and posters depicting, predictably, their presidential and vice presidential choices looking self-confident. But one party, Golkar, has also put up posters of the candidates’ wives next to their husbands, posing demurely and wearing a Muslim head scarves known here as jilbabs. The wives recently went on a jilbab shopping spree in one of Jakarta’s largest  markets and published a book together titled, “Devout Wives of Future Leaders”. Most polls suggest that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Democratic Party will be reelected  next Wednesday’s vote, after running a smooth campaign based on his economic policies and a popular anticorruption drive. Despite television debates, the personality-driven campaigns have focused little on differences over policies or ideas, except regarding the wearing of the jilbab.

Nepal:UK’s Permanent Secretary For International Development Interacts With Constituent Assembly (CA) Members

The Permanent Secretary at the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Minouche Shafik, who concluded a two-day visit to Nepal on July 1, met women constituent assembly (CA) members at the Center for Constitutional Dialogue (CCD). During the meeting, Shafik heard about women’s role in the constitution-writing process and the challenges they faced in a traditionally-male dominated society. The CA members hoped to make the most of their numbers in the CA (33% of the total seats) by ensuring greater equality for women, including in access to state resources such as education and health care, teh DFID in Kathmandu said. Shafik reiterated DFID’s willingness to continue to contribute to making the voice of women and other marginalized groups heard, such as by sharing international experience of women’s role in parliament.

Mongolia: Draf Law on Gender Equality Presented

Government Cabinet Secretary Chief B. Dolgor submitted Friday a bill to ensure gender equality to Parliamentary Speaker D. Demberel. Mongolia has joined a number of international treaties and pacts, including international pacts on civic and political rights, on economic societal and cultural rights, a convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, a convention on women in politics, as well as the 1993 Vienna Convention. These make Mongolia responsible for creating a favorable legal environment to refute any acts and customs allowing gender discrimination, satisfying and guaranteeing equal gender rights equality and equal attitudes, taking required measures and approving relevant legislation. Mongolia’s government action plan for 2009-2012 includes drawing up a bill to ensure gender equality.

GENDER IN CLIMATE CHANGE AND DISASTER RISK REDUCTION

UN Habitat’s Executive Director Wins Prestigious Environmental Award

UN Habitat’s Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka has been named one of the three (3) winners of the 2009 Goteborg Award, the prestigious “Nobel Prize in Environment”. The Goteborg Award now celebrating its tenth year conferred its jubilee prize of one million Swedish Kroner (USD 126,775) to be shared equally between Mrs. Tibaijuka, Mr. Enrique Penalosa, the former  mayor of Bogota, Colombia, and Mr. Soren Hermansen of Samso, Denmark, who was named by Time Magazine as 2008 Hero of the Environment. Last year’s winner included Mr. Al Gore the former US Vice President and global environment champion.

West African Sub-Region Vulnerable To Climate Change

Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, Deputy Minister of Environment, Science and Technology said that the Western African Sub-Region would be the most affected region by climate change, as long as it remained one of the poorest in the world. He said over the last three or four decades, impact of climate change has revealed the region’s vulnerability and stressed the need for consensus actions to reduce the looming danger. Droughts, floods and storms are likely to increase, not only in frequency but also in intensity. Rainfall patterns are still changing and in coastal areas, sea level rise and rising temparatures will threaten coastal areas and ecosystems”, he said. He emphasized the prospective impacts on society and economies across the sub-region were likely to be huge, thereby negatively affecting all sectors and groups of people with women, the poor and marginalized being the most affected.

Ordinary Men and Women Will Pay Price of Addressing Climate Change

The leader of Caritas Internationalis, the international consortium of Catholic relief agencies, warned in a recent address that attempts to address climate change will reduce the standard of living of the “ordinary men and women of the developed world”. Secretary-General Lesley Anne Knight said that “even if it is too early to say for certain that man-made climate change is causing an increase in humanitarian emergencies, one thing is certain: If it continues, it most certainly will”. She grants that there is disagreement over whether the increasing scale and frequency of climate-related humanitarian emergencies can be scientifically attributed to man-made cliamte change. But a number of points are clear: We are witnessing an increase in climate-related emergencies. Increasing climate vulnerability is making some parts of the world more susceptible to climate-related disasters. Factors such as poverty and conflict are making populations more vulnerable to the effects of climate-related disasters.

Irish Women Act on Climate Change in Africa

The Women of the ICA are helping to raise funds for the stoves and are also off-setting the carbon footprint–all through this green, women-focused initiative. With the help of a part-EU funded Irish NGO, “Vita”, these stoves are now being installed in homes in rural Eritrea. And as part of its drive to encourage innovation and green programmes, the European Commission Representation in Ireland hosted a meeting in Dublin this week, between the designer of this innovative stove, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, and “Vita”. The ICA was presented with a letter of thanks from the Eritrean Women’s Union for agreeing to help women in Eritrea achieve today what the ICA did in Ireland in the 1950’s. The letter was presented by Dr. Debesai Ghebrehiwet, who is the designer of the award-winning stove.

OTHER NEWS

Afghanistan: Women Battle Heavy Odds in Struggle for Freedom and Dignity

Rona Tareen sits among the many couches lining her Persian carpeted office and, with the press of ink-stained thumbs, allows what some Afghans consider sacrilege: letting a young woman move away from her husband with her family in Kabul. Tareen, a mother of six and women’s affairs director for the province of Kandahar, where Canadian forces are based, oversees many family judgments in a country steeped in patriarchy. Afghan women—particularly in the volatile south, where the Taliban was born—rarely appear in public without burkas and often show deference to the opposite sex, lowering gazes to the floor, almost shrinking when a man approaches. Given that some hard-line Islamists believe the Koran decrees women to be subservient to men, improving conditions for women in a war-torn country with one of the world’s lowest literacy levels requires more than education. It requires social engineering.

India: The Cases of Human Trafficking

As per the women and child development estimates, 3 million women in India fall prey to trafficking annually in the country and 40% of these are minors. The country needs to face its moment of truth. India has been placed on the US human trafficking tier 2 watch list for not doing enough to curb human smuggling. “Whatever makes a man a slave takes half his worht away”, Pope said. Indeed,  a human trafficking is a modern day slavery where human beings are exploited by treating them like commodities for profit. It is contrary to the fundamental belief of all societies that people everywhere deserve to live in safety and dignity. Victims of human trafficking who comprise of young children, teenagers, men and women are subjected to involuntary servitude and sexual slavery by force, fraud or coercion. Human smuggling, especially of women and children has become a matter of serious national and international concern.

Pakistan: Women in Fata Find A Voice

In a small recording studio in Peshawar, Asma rushes around with a minidisc recorder. She has to finish editing a news bulletin and make it back to her home in Nowshera before it gets dark. “If I do not get the bulletin done in time for this evening show, the station will not let me continue as a radio journalist”, she says. “But if i do not get home on time, then my parents will not let me continue working either”. Asma is one of the 15 reporters for Radio Khyber, a Jamrud-based FM radio station, and one of the few legal media outlets in Pakistan tribal belt. The station, which is supported by the Fata Secretariat, aims to counter the extremist, pro-jihad and anti-West programming that is typical of dozens of illegal radio stations run by hard-line clerics throughout the tribal agencies.

Bangladesh: Prime Minister Seeks UN Help for Improving Health and Women Empowerment

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sought enhanced assistance from the United Nations for improving child and maternal health and empowering the women folk in the country, as she listed some setbacks in the population sector in recent times. She made the call when Representatives of UNFPA in Bangladesh Arthur Erken on the eve of the World Population Day , paid a courtesy call on her. The Prime Minister reiterated her government commitment to establish social-safety net through creating huge employment opportunities and empowering women, providing quality health services to people of all walks of life, particularly to mothers and children. She said in line with the dream of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of building a healthy nation, the last Awami League government had taken a project of setting up 18,000 community health clinic across the country and some 4,000 of the clinics were made functional in full swing.

EGYPT: Women Get Help on Road to Parliament

Egypt elected the first Arab woman to parliament in 1957, but in the half century since, the most populous country in the Arab world has gone from being a leader in women’s political participation to a lagger.

“Many Arab countries went ahead, but Egypt stayed behind,” says Hoda Badran, head of the Cairo-based Alliance for Arab Women (AAW).

Female parliamentary representation has declined since 1984, when women occupied 36 of the 458 seats in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of Egypt’s parliament. Women secured just nine of 454 seats in the last legislative election in 2005. Only four women were elected, the rest were appointed by the president.

Experts attribute the decline in political participation to social and cultural barriers imposed by a patriarchal society, reinforced by a wave of Islamic fundamentalism that swept across the Arab world in the 1980s. Conservative groups held that women should stay at home and manage the family, and sought to impose many limitations on women.

“Political parties, which are supposed to school women, do not give women training, do not put them on their lists and have not backed their campaigns,” Badran told IPS. “At most they just put them on a women’s committee, segregating them from other committees and the mainstream work of the party.”

The few women who do run face obstacles in raising campaign funds, and are vulnerable to the violence and thuggery that typically accompany elections in Egypt. Female candidates have reported being physically intimidated by their opponents, or subject to smear campaigns against their reputation.

New legislation and civil society programmes aim at increasing female representation in Egypt’s parliament, but it could take decades to dismantle the social and cultural obstacles. Unfortunately, says Badran, progress usually requires direct intervention.

Since 2003 Egypt has seen its first female judge, a female university president, and several female cabinet ministers. All were appointed by President Hosni Mubarak in an effort to kickstart women’s political participation.

Earlier this month, Egyptian legislators passed a bill that allocates 64 parliamentary seats for women, increasing the number of seats in the People’s Assembly to 518. The “positive discrimination,” to be applied in general elections due in 2010, ensures women will hold a minimum of 12 percent of seats in the next legislature, up from 1 percent in the current one.

Quota systems have been applied in over 70 countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America to develop the capacity and competency of women in decision-making fields.

Egypt applied a 30-seat quota for female MPs in 1979, but repealed it in1988 after its constitutionality was challenged. Women’s organisations have applauded the reintroduction of the measure, though some have voiced concern about its form and implementation.

Nehad Abu El-Komsan, chairwoman of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR), has lobbied for a quota for 15 years, but worries that the current system, where women will campaign individually in specially designated constituencies, only reinforces the notion that women should compete separately from men. She favours a proportional list system, where each party would field a minimum number of female candidates as part of its electoral slate.

“A proportional system would guarantee that women are not isolated; they would be part of the group,” she says. “And this would force the parties to look for active women candidates, and to train women and support them at all levels.”

The new quota system is to be applied for two legislative terms, or 10 years, which some argue is not long enough to change deep-rooted conservative views on women’s roles. “It needs at least a generation to change attitudes,” says Abu El-Komsan. “You cannot expect it to happen overnight.”

On the positive side, Badran points out, the quota will guarantee women more representation in the lower house – hopefully enough to have an impact. “The issue here is what kind of women are going to be elected to these 64 seats,” she says. “Our role as NGOs will be to work very strongly and eagerly between now and the election …”

An AAW programme launched last year is preparing to send a group of women to Britain to receive training as campaign managers for female political candidates. The “nucleus of campaign managers” will work with 20 women selected from various Egyptian political parties, who will be trained and supported in their candidacy in the upcoming election.

“We are creating a group of professional campaign managers who will manage the campaigns of the 20 women as a start,” says Badran. “(They will) be working afterwards for any kind of election, not necessarily for parliament, but also for labour unions and the various syndicates.”

The National Council for Women (NCW), headed by first lady Suzanne Mubarak, established its own project to enhance women’s political participation in 2003 through its Center for the Political Empowerment of Women (CPEW).

The UNDP-backed programme aims at developing the skill set of potential female candidates, improving the legislative and oversight knowledge of women MPs, and raising awareness of the importance of women’s participation in political life. A separate programme to enhance the performance of women in parliament and local councils was added in 2006.

“(Local) councils are the preliminary institutions for nurturing cadres, who will be capable of handling the responsibilities of leadership, because of their presence among people at the grassroots level,” Mubarak said during a conference in March.

Why is it important to support female parliamentary candidates? Badran sees women’s political participation as critical to addressing key developmental issues. “There is a correlation between the number and quality of women in parliament and the type of legislation which comes out of the parliament,” she says.

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47391

Women’s Rights in Pakistan: Descending into Darkness

mukhtar_mai Mukhtar Mai, a leading Pakistani women’s rights advocate, gained fame for the way she courageously stood up to traditions that violated her human rights. Online, one can find plenty of information about her – her gang rape, her recent marriage, her strides for women’s rights and education, and the harassment that she has faced from Pakistani government officials. While her past is now known around the globe, her future, in light of the Multan Electric Power Company’s June 11 raid on the Mukhtar Women’s Welfare Organization, remains uncertain. With the exception of coverage by Nicholas Kristof’s blog (“A Hero’s Ordeal in Pakistan“), Ms. Mai’s current dire situation in Pakistan is not well-known. The latest harassment towards Ms. Mai, which within the context of previous incidents was obviously not an isolated event, must mobilize the public to demand action from the Pakistani government.

On June 11, 2009, the Multan Electric Power Company raided the MMWWO in Meerwala, Pakistan, and disconnected all electricity to the grounds, falsely accusing the organization of stealing electricity despite records proving they have paid all bills in full. MMWWO and hundreds of families in the surrounding area were without power for several days. Today, while the power to the surrounding area has been restored, the MMWWO grounds, which house the Mukhtar Mai Girls Model School, Women’s Resource Centre, and Shelter Home for battered women (whose premises was raided despite the fact that men are strictly prohibited), are still enduring blistering temperatures. According to MMWWWO employees who were witnesses, the power company officials claimed that the raid was ordered by Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, the Federal Minister for Defense Production. This raid has significantly hindered the ability of Ms. Mai’s organization to carry out its important human rights work, providing services for vulnerable women, girls and boys.

In 2002, Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped on orders of a traditional village council as punishment for acts allegedly committed by her younger brother. Instead of suffering in silence, Ms. Mai fought back and testified in a rape case against her attackers and is now a leading Pakistani women’s rights activist. The case is now before the Supreme Court after a lower court granted the convicted men’s appeal. Hearings for the supreme Court case have repeatedly been delayed, but her attackers remain imprisoned and her case is pending.

The June 11 incident is only the latest in a series of harassing incidents carried out by government officials to dissuade Ms. Mai from seeking accountability for past crimes and carrying out her work. Throughout the court proceedings, Ms. Mai has faced harassment by government officials, most notably by Minister Jatoi. In 2006, he visited Ms. Mai to ask her to reach a compromise with her attackers. In 2008, he again pressured Ms. Mai to drop the charges against her attackers, allegedly insisting that if she proceeded with the case, he would ensure a verdict in favor of her attackers. Most recently, in February 2009, Minister Jatoi’s associates engaged in a media campaign against Ms. Mai, stating that her attackers are innocent and that the entire case is a “fraud” and a “western agenda.”

Since 2002, Ms. Mai’s record of promoting human rights has put her in danger. To date, no government action has been taken to ensure Ms. Mai’s safety and ability to continue her advocacy. She and her colleagues bravely continue their work, in the darkness and sweltering heat, but the government of Pakistan must step up its commitment to her organization and to the Pakistani women for whom they demand rights. Today, Human Rights First joins other non-governmental organizations in demanding an end to the Pakistani Government’s harassment of Mukhtar Mai. You can find out more and take action here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/human-rights-first/mukhtar-mai-pakistani-wom_b_219553.html

‘Violence against women in politics exists in many forms’

Women rights campaigners and political activists have said women politicians in Nepal suffer from violence of one form or the other.

Speaking at an interaction programme on ‘Spectrum of Violence against Women’ organised in the capital on Thursday, the activists deplored the prevalence of violence against women in Nepali society, underlining the need to increase the participation of women to fight discriminations. According to them, domestic violence accounts for 80 percent of violence against women.

Former minister and CPN-UML leader Sahana Pradhan said Nepali women should actively participate in politics to break the “monopoly of male politicians”. She maintained that the ordinance passed by the last session of the parliament is not compatible with international standards.

Similarly, former deputy speaker of the parliament Chitra Lekha Yadav stressed the need for fair politics that would allow equal space to men and women. She added that Nepal lost a historic opportunity of electing the first woman speaker in South Asia.

Likewise, president of All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU) Ram Kumari Jhakri said low participation of women in politics is directly related to lack of economic opportunities for women. She also expressed dissatisfaction over the absence of women in decision making level in the political parties.

source: http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/2009/jun/jun18/news08.php

Who was really cheated in Iran’s vote? Women.

iranian-women-protest~s600x600What is striking about the Iranians protesting fraud in the June 10 “election” is the number of women on the front lines. Among all those cheated at the polls, they may feel the most denied.

For the first time in one of the Islamic Republic’s controlled presidential campaigns, the women’s movement was able to raise its demands clearly and independently – even though the unelected, 12-member, all-male Guardian Council did not allow any female candidates to run.

The movement’s courage to confront the patriarchal theocracy (in which “morality police” still roam the streets looking for women with make-up) may have been a big reason why the regime rigged the vote count – and why supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was forced to make a show of ordering a probe of the fraud.

Iranian women do enjoy privileges that women in many Arab countries do not. But Iran’s powerful clerics know that democracy’s advance and the liberation of women go hand in hand. They’ve seen women recently elected in Kuwait and in Iraq’s new democracy, while their proxy group in Lebanon, Hezbollah, lost an election. So they are trying to stop both the women’s movement and open democracy in Iran in order to maintain their Shiite “revolution” and their own rule.

Yet the ballot fraud was done with such audacity and clumsiness that the “landslide winner,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will likely find it difficult to rule. And the West should hesitate before cozying up to a regime with fading legitimacy and which so openly suppresses half its population and sees women as a security threat. What country would have faith in signing a deal with a regime that cheats its own people, especially women, at the ballot box?

During the campaign, Iran’s feminists found a voice in the popular opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister. He promised to disband the morality police, reform the many laws that treat women unequally, and appoint women to high posts. He campaigned with his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a prominent academic and author of 15 books. The two appear to be a loving couple, displaying a modern equality to Iranian women. But he “lost” the vote – even in his hometown, which was yet another sign that the fix was in.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, has a strong record against women. He changed the name of the government’s “Center for Women’s Participation” to the “Center for Women and Family Affairs.” He limited women’s access to higher education and proposed laws that would allow men to divorce their wives without informing them and not to pay alimony.

Most of all, the regime has jailed dozens of women involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grass-roots movement that began in 2006 to reform the legal system and to end gender discrimination. The group has been harassed in their homes and branded as illegal.

It is of little surprise, then, to see images of women, only slightly veiled, confronting the regime in postelection protests. While Ahmadinejad’s false victory may have toughened the clerics’ foreign posture with the West, they’ve only exposed their weakness at home.

Eventually, Iran’s women will not be denied.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0615/p08s01-comv.html

India’s Parliament Elects First Woman Speaker

art_india_kumar_afp_giIndia’s lower house of parliament elected a woman as its speaker Wednesday, a first in the male-dominated chamber’s history.

Meira Kumar is also a member of the “untouchable” Dalit class, the lowest rung in the centuries-old caste system in the country.

The speaker conducts the proceedings of the house. She will preside over 543 elected members, of which 58 are women.

Kumar, 64, was elected to the position unopposed. She was nominated by the ruling Congress party but also had the backing of the alliance led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Women play a prominent role in the politics of India, the world’s largest democracy. The South Asian country of 1.1 billion people has a female president, Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

And four of the country’s political parties, including the Congress Party, are led by women.

Hindus believe there are five main groups of people. The last group is the Dalits. They’re considered impure and are often forced to work in menial jobs. They drink from separate wells and use different entry ways to come and go from buildings.

Dalits number about 250 million in India, about 25 percent of the population, according to the Colorado, U.S.-based Dalit Freedom Network.

India’s constitution outlaws caste-based discrimination, and barriers have broken down in large cities. Prejudice, however, persists in some rural areas of the country.

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/06/03/india.female.speaker/