Conference Reflections: Regional Consultation on Gender Equality and Political Empowerment of Women

Conference Reflections: Regional Consultation on Gender Equality and Political Empowerment of Women

From 9 to 10 December, a delegation of 5 EUAP III participants joined a discussion forum on gender equality in the Asia-Pacific region organized jointly by International IDEA, the Community of Democracies and the UN Development Programme. The conference was held in Nusa Dua, Bali. In the following report, Hui Ying Lee shares her impressions of the meeting.

The solutions discussed during the Regional Consultation on Gender Equality and Political Empowerment of Women were consistent to our proposed policy recommendations, mainly in three areas: education (including getting men on board), enhancing political participation in the area of implementing gender mainstreaming policies and gender quotas—although not necessary everyone agrees on enforcing quota. Ms Maria Leissner, the Secretary-General of the Community of Democracies, for instance, felt that implementing gender quota undermines democracy.

A very vital point which was addressed during the forum was the lack of data on the total number of women present in political parties. A majority called for education to be the sustainable solution towards gender equality.

I was very impressed by two powerful presenters, Ms Dewi Fortuna Anwar and Ms Koh Miyaoi. Ms Anwar, Deputy Secretary for Political Affairs to the Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, shared with us her stance towards the importance of gender quota in ASEAN countries and also her concerns about the effectiveness of reserved seats in parliament. According to her, women politicians should be selected based on quality – what these women can bring into the parliament – and not quantity.

Ms Koh, Gender Team Leader for Asia of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) addressed the obstacles and challenges women faced in politics. The challenges she mentioned were in line with the challenges mentioned in our policy paper. In addition to that, she presented UNDP’s approach and some of its programmes which are in place to support political empowerment of women. One particular initiative was the “Electoral Financing to Advance Women’s Political Participation”, which helps to assist potential female candidates to build their capacities. I had an enriching time during her presentation.

We also exchanged with Mr. Luis José Consuegra and Ms Erna Surjadi, whom we worked with during the process of drawing up our policy paper. It was good to finally meet them in person. All in all, the consultations had a good balance of representatives from various civil society organisations. I was fortunate enough to share a ride to the airport with one of the participants from Azerbaijan, a place which I had come across many times in books although I had never before met people who were willing to share with me their personal insights of the region, such as how much opportunities Russian women have today. I left Bali with new friends, knowledge and perspectives.

Hui Ying Lee is a research assistant with the Asia Research Institute (ARI) at the National University of Singapore, and a participant of EUAP III.

IFAIR