Platform for Action 1
Promoting Women's Equal Access to Power

to First A-P Congress

This Platform for Action is a summary of the ideas and reflections drawn from the First Congress of Asia-Pacific Women in Politics held in Manila, Philippines on June 21-23, 1994. Organized by the Center for Asia-Pacific Women in Politics (CAPWIP), in coordination with its Philippine affiliate, PILIPINA, the Congress gathered 237 participants from 23 countries representing 155 organizations from the Asia-Pacific region.

Bound by a common goal to promote women's equal access to power, particularly in public office, Congress delegates leveled-off on:

  1. Their understanding and analysis of the situation of women in the Asia-Pacific region;

  2. Their vision of transformed and transformational politics;

  3. Strategies to achieve such vision; and

  4. A plan to guide their actions.

This document contains the consensus points reached by the delegates.

This Platform for Action serves several purposes:

First and foremost, it is a guide formulated by and for Asia-Pacific women as they enter into and struggle within the world of male-dominated politics.

Secondly, it is part of various efforts to ensure meaningful participation of Asia-Pacific women in various international and national policy-making bodies, including the Ministerial Conference in the Fourth World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing in September 1995.

Most importantly, this Platform for Action is a "declaration of commitment" of women from the Asia-Pacific region to work for politics that recognizes and promotes women's equal access to power, an essential step towards the full emancipation of women, especially those from the poorest sectors of Asia-Pacific societies.

A. Situation of Women in the Asia-Pacific Region

The following are the challenges confronting women in the Asia-Pacific region in their struggle for greater participation in politics:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 play 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.

4. 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 advance of Asia-Pacific women in politics.

B. The Vision of Transformed and Transformational Politics

Equipped with such understanding of the possibilities and limitations presented by the current situation of women in the Asia-Pacific, delegates to the First Congress of Asia-Pacific Women in Politics offer their vision of a new political paradigm:

Women of the Asia-Pacific region want politics that is both transformed and transformational.

Transformed because…

and Transformational because…

Women of the Asia-Pacific region want politics that is holistic, integrated and life enhancing in its perspective.

C. Strategies to Achieve the Vision

The following strategies have been identified by Asia-Pacific women as appropriate and necessary for the achievement for their avowed vision of transformed and transformational politics:

1. Developing and advocating the women's agenda

2. Building the women's constituency

3. Building the machinery to support women in politics

4. Advocating electoral reforms

5. Advocating for the following key concerns of Asia-Pacific Women

D. Plan of Action

Consistent with the foregoing vision and strategies, the following is a plan of action which can and should be implemented by Asia-Pacific women, in the immediate and medium term:

1. Awareness raising/education and training

Design and implement training programs that will cater to the needs of women as they go through the different phases of involvement in politics:
* Phase 1: How to get more women to enter electoral politics * Phase 2: Once convinced and decided on running, train women on "How to win" * Phase 3: Post elections - what to do if they win and if they lose

2. Media

Develop long-term and sustainable strategies to maximize media coverage as a means of raising public awareness for women's issues.

3. Research, Documentation and Publications

Provide empirical data which will serve as basis for women's effective participation in decision-making at all levels of governance.

Research and publications should be done in the following areas:

Activities to be carried out include:

4. Creating a political pipeline

Set up a conduit to get more women interested in running for public office.

The following are 4 separate levels on how, what and where to look for the political pipeline or "political pool" of women:

5. Raising 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.
The following should be done:

6. Lobbying 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.

The following are critical issues to be advocated:

Strategies to operationalize the foregoing can be done at 3 levels:

7. Strengthen networking of Asia-Pacific Women in Politics

Strengthen relations among Asia-Pacific women involved in politics by establishing the Center of Asia-Pacific Women in Politics (CAPWIP) as focal center for regional activities.

Regional activities to be conducted are the following:

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Dated: 25Oct2000