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The First Asia-Pacific Congress of Women in Politics was held in Manila, Philippines from 21-23 June 1994. The Conference drew 250 participants from 23 countries across the region who came to listen, share experiences, deliberate on their vision, strategies and plan on action on transforming politics.
Presentations and discussions revolved around the theme: Why Women, What Politics? It reflected the twin concerns of the conference, i.e. to claim women's rightful place in decision-making, especially in the public sphere; and to redefine the concept and practice of politics and power.
The Congress was divided into three major parts i.e., panel discussions, three main workshops and program ceremonies. The three panel discussions provided inputs and perspectives which served as starting points for discussions in the workshops. Setting the stage for discussions was the opening panel on Why Women, What Politics? Both experienced politicians and organizers and trainers then shared their experiences in transforming politics. While a discussion on preparations for global events on women sought to connect the participants to the entire process leading up to the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women.
The three workshops moved from vision setting to formulating a plan of action. In these workshops, the participants struggled to form a consensus guided by the following questions:
Workshop 1: What is the present situation of women in politics? As women, what kind of politics do we want to create and practice? What are its elements?
Workshop 2: To be able to achieve our vision of politics, what priority activities should be undertaken? What activities should we plan to put our agenda into the platform for action in the Fourth World Conference on Women? What activities should be undertaken for the 1995 NGO Forum on Women?
Workshop 3: What priority activities should we undertake in the following areas of concern - research and documentation; lobbying with the Commission on the Status of Women; NGO Forum activities; public awareness (media) campaign; creation of a political pipeline, training, funding for women candidates; education and mentoring; and support for national affiliates of CAPWIP.
The outputs of the workshops were then reported in plenary sessions and formally presented to Dr. Patricia Licuanan, Chairperson of the UN Commission on the Status of Women during the closing ceremony.
The congress also organized simultaneous training workshops relevant to women involved in politics whether as aspiring candidates or holders of elective/appointive public office as well as lobbyists and organizers. These workshops included:
How to Improve your Political Image by Hon. Kanwaljit Soin, Member of Parliament, Singapore
What Politicians Should Know About Budgets by Professor Solita Monsod, former head of the Philippine National Economic and Development Authority
Mainstreaming Gender in National Development Planning by Remedios Rikken, former Executive Director of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women
Prominent women-leaders and political personalities also took part in the Congress and addressed the participants. Aside from attending the closing ceremony, Dr. Licuanan spoke about the key issues to be taken up during the Fourth World Conference on Women as well as their preparatory activities. Senator Leticia Shahani, convener of the Third World Conference on Women held in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985, was the keynote speaker on the first day. In her speech, Senator Shahani stressed the imperative for more women to enter the electoral process as a means to get into key decision-making positions where they can help create a better and more sustainable world. Guest of honor at the closing ceremony was President Fidel V. Ramos of the Philippines, who shared his administration's commitment to put more qualified women into leadership positions. He challenged the Philippine delegation in the Congress to come up with names of women whom he could include in his short list of nominees to key positions in his administration.
Several papers from the First Congress are available on the site:
Platform for Action 1: Promoting Women's Equal Access to Power in the Asia-Pacific Region
Why Women, What Politics by Kanwaljit Soin
Creating A Women's Vote - A Campaign for Putting Women on the Political Agenda of Pakistan during the Election of 1993 by Shahnaz Ahmad
Taking On Local Politics by Emma Sta. Ana, and
The Cambodian Women's Experience by Ung Yok Khoan
Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos delivered the Closing Speech at the Fist Asia-Pacific Congress of Women in Politics held in Manila. Seated with him at the presidential table are (from left to right) CAPWIP Board Member Irene Natividad, Patricia Licuanan - Chairperson of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, CAPWIP Board Members Irene Santiago, Senator Tamako Nakanishi and Senator Jung Sook Kim, and Rina David, columnist from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
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