CAPWIP's Plan of Action
Achieving The Vision of Transformative Politics

Promoting the political empowerment of women is crucial in order to realize CAPWIP's vision of Transformative Politics. Women's political empowerment require two major actions: a) getting women into elective and appointive positions in government and b) developing an effective and responsible women electorate.

This plan of action which was formulated by and for Asia-Pacific women in the world of male-dominated politics provides a framework for the countries of the Asia-Pacific region to promote the political advancement of women.

How do we achieve CAPWIP's vision of Transformative Politics? Let us look first at where the women are in the field of politics.

The Situation of Asia Pacific Women in the Field of Politics

Inequitable Power Structures: The Over-Arching Problem

Very few women in the Asia-Pacific region are able to participate in making and implementing decisions, which affect them and their societies. For example, in the Philippines, only 4 out of 24 senators are women; in Bangladesh, although the head of state is a woman, her government's policies have done little to alleviate the lives of ordinary women; and in Singapore, men govern while women provide support. Public policies are formulated and executed largely by men. Consequently, women's issues are hardly articulated, much less addressed.

Women's lack of participation in decision-making extends beyond the public to the private sphere. Asia-Pacific women have been socialized in ways that promote the stereotype of women as followers and supporters, not leaders or equal partners, in their homes and outside them. They were brought up to believe that they have no control and power over their lives, their bodies and their environment.

Such continuing bias against women, embedded in societal structures, causes poverty and powerlessness of women in the Asia-Pacific region.

Existing Male-Dominated Politics

In many countries of the Asia-Pacific, one cannot enter politics without "guns, goons and gold." Perpetuated mostly by men who believe that wielding power means rising above the rest through any and all means, this kind of "traditional politics" results in policies that foster inequities and conflicts: improper allocation of resources, debt repayments that are unjustifiable, militarism and war.

In such a situation, entry into politics becomes difficult for women. One cannot gain votes without having to contend with personality-oriented and "dirty" election campaigns. And, once in office, women find themselves sorely lacking in resources and support needed to advance their concerns - particularly women's interests - which are not accorded importance by their male colleagues in government.

Other Hindrances to Women's Participation

Traditional and cultural impediments work against women's equal access to power. Social institutions such as the family, schools, churches, governments, and media, promote stereotyping of the roles of men and women in society. Such impositions leave women thinking and believing that their role is to play second fiddle to men. Low in self-knowledge and self-esteem, these women fail to gain control and power over their lives, and to participate meaningfully in their societies.

Women from the Asia-Pacific region also suffer from multiple burdens which bar them from political involvement. Work for the family, ranging from household chores to income-generating activities; deprive them of the time to reflect and study, essential to development and sustaining careers in politics. Very few are even aware of their rights as women and as citizens.

Possibilities for Greater Participation

With women's issues now gaining more public attention in the international community, various opportunities have opened up for women in the Asia-Pacific region. There is an irreversible trend towards increased women's participation in politics, catalyzed by efforts of women's movements and development-oriented/ gender-responsive non-governmental organizations. There may be no women's vote just yet, but the women's constituency is clearly growing. Success stories of women gaining headway in the arena of politics have served as inspiration for other women to run for public office and/or support women candidates.

More and more development-oriented groups have also geared their efforts towards organizing, educating and mobilizing women. These endeavors have helped arouse the interest of women to pursue political involvement. Women are now entering male dominated political parties. Efforts at advocating policies concerning women have also been initiated.

These efforts, though still tentative, are affirmative actions, which signal the advancement of Asia-Pacific women in politics.

The Vision of Transformative Politics

Women participants of past CAPWIP congresses have consistently affirmed their vision of a transformative politics:

Strategies to Achieve Women's Political Empowerment

Develop and advocate a women's agenda

Review existing concepts and frameworks for power and politics from a gender-conscious perspective, and arrange for presentation of viable alternatives by women in politics.

Carry out research studies on women and politics in the Asia-Pacific region, to serve as a basis for the development of a women's agenda.

Mobilize world public opinion to protest against the misuse of religion to suppress the fundamental rights of women in the Asia-Pacific region.

Arrange studies on how the emerging economic world order will affect women, make policy recommendations to governments and help prepare women for the coming changes.

Advocate for electoral reforms

Work for clean politics, characterized by increased transparency and accountability of public officials.

Develop a concept of electoral reform which will ensure the genuine participation of different women sectors, including indigenous women.

Review and seek amendment of existing laws, and formulate new ones, which will positively impact on women and the girl child.

Lobby for legal and institutional changes, including constitutional amendments, to promote women's political participation

Work for quotas in political bodies, both in appointive and elected positions and use political parties as a short-term measure to increase the number of women in such bodies.

Research, documentation and publication

Undertake research on women and politics in the Asia-Pacific region to provide empirical data which will serve as basis for women's effective participation in decision-making at all levels. Include areas such as:

Network and build solidarity

Organize and establish networks with other women, at all levels from the grassroots/local to the national and inter-regional levels. Achieve unity and consensus on common causes, and form pressure groups to influence decision-making processes.

Strengthen international solidarity of women's groups, particularly those with programs for women in politics, to establish mutual support and venues for the exchange of experiences. In particular, strengthen relations among Asia-Pacific women involved in politics by:

Promote legal and political literacy

Promote women's legal and political literacy to enable them to influence political, economic and social decisions, processes and systems, and work towards seeking accountability from elected representatives on their commitment to gender concerns.

Design and implement training programs that will cater to the needs of women as they go through the different phases of involvement in politics:

Raise Awareness and Educate for Equality

Seek equal political socialization for both girls and boys from early childhood through formal and informal education, including leadership development.

Provide opportunities, including training, to young people to prepare themselves for their future leadership roles in these regions.

Emphasize gender equality and non-stereotyped gender roles of women and men within the family through innovative media campaigns, school and community education programs.

Improve Access to Information

Provide accurate and timely information to women through:

Collaborate with the Media

Transform the household and reconcile family and public life

Promote women's human rights and equality before the law

Promote the establishment of non-discriminatory laws in all areas of public and private life to protect women's rights, which are integral to the concept of human rights:

Build the machinery to support women in politics

Raise funds for women candidates

Establish and sustain a support base through fund-raising activities that are cost-effective, easiest to conduct and effective in building up a voters' base:

Lobby for the Platform of Action of Asia-Pacific Women

Lobby for the inclusion of this Platform of Action of Asia-Pacific Women in platforms of significant national and international bodies, including the official platform of the Commission on the Status of Women during the Ministerial Conference of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

Advocate for the following critical issues:

Operate at the following levels: back to top


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Dated: 20Oct1999