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Women in Politics is not just about getting women into elective and appointive positions in government. It is also about getting half of the world's population to assert their rights and exercise their responsibilities for their own welfare and future, and that of their children and the generations that will follow.
It is these rights and responsibilities of the women electorate that was the focus of the Third Asia-Pacific Congress of Women in Politics held on 21 - 24 November 1996 in Fiji. As its theme "The Power of the Women Electorate" suggests, the Congress sought to highlight the critical role of the women citizenry in realizing their vision of transformed and transformational politics.
Coming after Beijing, the Third Asia-Pacific Congress sought to elaborate on the often-overlooked role of the women electorate. The women electorate are primarily the source of support of the women in elective and appointive positions in government. They have the power to vote into office those they think are deserving of the positions. They also have the power to help those in office realize their respective agendas. Thus, developing a responsible women electorate is crucial in order to realize the vision of Transformative Politics.
Our Vision of the Women Electorate
We envision the women electorate as participating continuously on a daily basis in decision-making and implementation at all levels.
We envision the women electorate as:
- Fearless, free from male-domination and manipulation, with a sense of justice and confidence in their ability to assess their situation, make judgment and assert their opinions;
- A collective strength of the community with a sense of history that acknowledges the differences among women and working together towards women-oriented political agenda;
- Having access to information, with continuing training and education in the political processes and its interactions, for the purpose of political and economic empowerment; and,
- Having continuous interaction and dialogue between themselves and the politicians.
Our Vision of Responsible Women Citizenship in
Expounding on Our Vision of Transformed and Transformational Politics:
- A world of "Aroha" for both women and men where there is happiness, compassion, dignity and mutual respect;
- A world which facilitates an environment nurturing gender-sensitive laws, policies and programs;
- A world of opportunity whereby resources are equitably shared by all;
- A world where women and men recognize and acknowledge each other's needs and responsibilities;
- A world with an environment which is free and fearless and provides access to education, literacy and equal opportunity for all;
- A world of transparency and accountability in the socio-economic and political system;
- A world of gender equality that provides equal representation for women, with the continuing support of just, gender-balanced socio-political order;
- A world of participatory democracy for all based on equitable distribution of resources;
- A world where political culture is based on economic independence and free choice;
- A world of men and women motivated and committed to work for social transformation;
- A world free from any kind of structural violence against women, such as physical and mental abuses, discrimination, conflict and poverty, etc.
A. This Platform for Action reaffirms a number of strategies and actions already adopted under the First Platform for Action (1994). To wit,
A.1. Developing and advocating the women's agenda
a. Existing concepts and frameworks for power and politics should be carefully reviewed from a gender-conscious perspective, and viable alternatives should be presented by women in politics.
b. Research studies should be carried out on women and politics in the Asia-Pacific region which will serve as a basis for the development of the women's agenda.
c. Women should mobilize world public opinion to protest against the misuse of religion to suppress the fundamental rights of women in the Asia-Pacific region.
d. Existing laws should be reviewed and amended; and new ones should be formulated which will positively impact on women and the girl child.
e. In view of the emerging economic world order, there is a need to study how women will be affected and make necessary policy recommendations to governments and help prepare women for the coming changes.
A.2. Advocating for electoral reforms.
a. Women should work for clean politics as characterized by increased transparency and accountability of public officials.
b. The concept of electoral reform which will ensure the genuine participation of different women sectors, including indigenous women, should be developed.
A.3. Undertake research studies 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. Areas to be covered include:
a. Data on women in decision-making and on transformational women politicians;
b. Documentation of the attitudes of women and men towards politics;
c. Documentation of the impact of the electoral system on women in politics;
d. Root causes of conflicts and the potential power of women in peace-building and conflict resolution.
A.4. Networking and solidarity building.
a. Women should organize and establish networks among themselves, achieve unity and consensus on common causes, and exercise influence on decision-making processes as pressure groups.
b. Organizing and networking should be done at all levels from the grassroots/local to the national and inter-regional levels.
c. International solidarity of women's groups should be strengthened, particularly those with programmes for women in politics, to establish mutual support and venues for the exchange of experiences.
d. Relations among Asia-Pacific women involved in politics should be strengthened by:
- Encouraging the establishment of a national "Women in Politics" program in each country;
- By strengthening CAPWIP and its sub-regional focal points as the centers for regional/sub-regional activities with the following work programmes to be conducted:
- Training and capacity-building of CAPWIP affiliates: trainer's training, agenda-building, identifying pool of resource persons/consultants with the capacity and time to assist affiliates;
- Research and publications: survey of needs of affiliates, regional directory of women elected and/or appointed into office;
- Funds sourcing: identify available sources of funding for activities of affiliates; establish a region-wide fund for women in politics;
- Solidarity and Networking: newsletter to feature programmes and activities of national affiliates and other related groups;
- Broadening of membership: expansions of in-country and in-region membership;
B. In addition to those listed above, new actions were articulated which specifically focused on the women electorate. These are:
B.1. Achieving legal and political literacy. Women should achieve 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.
a. Awareness raising and education for equality.
- Efforts should be made to raise women's political awareness through education and training, publications and the use of all forms of media. This should include voter's education and training for women in politics.
- There should be equal political socialization for both girls and boys from early childhood through formal and informal education, including leadership development.
- Opportunities, including training, should be provided to young people to prepare themselves for their future leadership roles in this region.
- Through innovative media campaigns, school and community education programmes, emphasize gender equality and non-stereotyped gender roles of women and men within the family.
b. Improving access to information.
- Through workshops, informal leaders and key persons in the community
- Through information networking
- Through use of existing structures or the creation of new ones
- Through the existing media facilities and educational programmes, or by word of mouth
c. Collaborating with Media.
- Women and men journalists should be lobbied to support women in decision-making.
- Media should be informed about objectives and outcomes of any political work programme and plans.
- Print and broadcast media should be employed to empower grassroots-women.
- ...to assist in personalizing issues so these are brought "closer to the heart."
B.2. Transforming the household and reconciling family and public life.
a. A redistribution of roles and parenting responsibilities within the family should be promoted so that women may participate in public spheres and activities. Measures must be taken to reconcile family and professional life.
b. Family law should be reformed towards a common civil code upholding the dignity of women as equal partners with men in the family, including removing gender inequities in matters of divorce, custody and property rights, preferably where the initiative comes from the women in the concerned community.
c. Review national laws, including customary laws and legal practices in the areas of amity, civil, penal, labour and commercial law in order to ensure the implementation of the principles and procedures of all relevant international human rights instruments by means of national legislation; revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex and remove gender bias in the administration of justice.
d. Family counseling centers may be promoted with non-governmental organization and community involvement and operated by trained personnel and with adequate financial support.
B.3. Promoting women's human rights and equality before the law because women's rights are integral to the concept of human rights, non-discriminatory laws in all areas of public and private life need to be established.
a. A wide range of means should be used to promote awareness of women's human rights and the importance of their full and equal participation in government, administration, the law, trade unions and employer groups and community groups.
b. In matters of citizenship and nationality of spouses and children, discrimination against women should be eliminated.
c. Immigrant women and children should be protected from abuse or denial of their human rights by resident spouses; within the limits of national legislation, consider extending their stay should the family relationship dissolve.
d. In the context of armed conflict, women should be protected from violations of their human rights and all forms of structural violence.
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