United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

UNIFEM South Asia Office

Events in 2004

November 25 - December 10

16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Facts and Figures from the Global Violence Scan:

Statistics VAW1- Oct'04,Statistics Violence2-Oct '04


New Delhi, 7th – 9th December: National Consultation on Women living with HIV/AIDS

A three-day consultation is being organized by PWN + Chennai in collaboration with NACO, UNAIDS, UNIFEM, UNICEF, the national and regional office of UNDP, SIDA, INP+ and PWN+. It seeks to facilitate deeper understanding of key needs and issues of women living with HIV and advocate with government departments and other stakeholders on strategies to address these issues with an emphasis on building a multi sectoral response.

PWN+, with the support of UNIFEM, is presently organizing regional workshops with an aim to bring out a concrete visioning strategy for the network. Before December 2004, three regional visioning workshops will have been organized to bring about a better understanding of the needs of women living with HIV region-wise, the kinds of enabling interventions that have taken place, as well as take stock of strategies that need to be adopted. The National Consultation will provide a platform to harness the learnings of these regional workshops towards developing a nation wide strategy.

The Consultation will provide a platform for women living with HIV/AIDS (WLWHAs) to show their strengths and showcase the future vision of the positive women’s network and its allies. To realize the vision, the consultation platform would focus on the commitment required at the national policy and programmatic level to address the issues of women living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, it would provide an opportunity to consolidate the work done by the PWN+ and INP+ in the past and build on it for the next level of political and social mobilization and advocacy.

The National Consultation has further significance, as the theme for this year’s World AIDS Campaign is ‘Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS’.

November – December, All India: International Campaign to Stop Violence against Women and Girls: UNIFEM is supporting SWAYAM to continue the 16 days of activism campaign against violence against women and girls at the national level in collaboration with 70 women’s organizations. The campaign seeks to:

  • Break the silence around violence against women and girls, catalyzing people, especially the youth, to discuss it openly, including in the media

  • Mobilize public opinion against all forms of violence against women and girls and create awareness on the linkages between different forms of gender based violence and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS

  • Draw young men into the struggle for women and girls’ rights, encouraging them to take action to stop violence against women and girls. 

A television and a radio spot will be produced, highlighting the discriminations and vulnerabilities linked to the pandemic of violence against women, in particular sexual harassment in public places. They will focus on the need to change prevailing and deep-seated stereotypical attitudes and gender norms and highlight the role of men as supportive partners in the campaign against gender based violence.

New Delhi, 9th – 10th November: High Level Stakeholders Meeting on Gender and HIV/AIDS Sharing of Experiences

This is being organized by the Centre for Advocacy and Research, New Delhi with UNIFEM support. It will be a two-day consultation, which will bring together  representatives of state and central government – NACO, SACS, DWCD, Ministries of Education, Health, Rural Development and Railways, civil society organizations, positive networks and bilateral and  multilateral organizations   

CFAR will generate a multi-media presentation, which will draw attention to the findings and recommendations that have emerged from their documentation. It will also look at the efforts made on the ground and how they respond to these concerns. The objectives of the consultation are:

  • To provide a platform that will enable each stakeholder to share their experience of mainstreaming women into HIV/AIDS programs

  • To develop a consensus on the opportunities and common challenges that stakeholders will have to overcome

  • To develop broad learning from the outcomes that have emerged from the field

  • To work towards a common understanding on making programme indicators more gender inclusive

New Delhi, 1st – 4th November 2004: International Expert Group Meeting on ‘Local Level Gender Responsive Budgets’, is being organized by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) and UNIFEM, in collaboration with the European Commission and International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

The meeting seeks to share and critically evaluate cross – country experiences of existing approaches and methodologies on local level gender responsive budgeting across developed and developing countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Arab regions as well as some OECD countries. It is expected that the expert group meeting deliberations will to lead to the development of an appropriate methodology for local level gender budgeting by refining existing tools and making these tools accessible to key actors in the decentralized levels of economic governance for better budgeting and monitoring. IDRC and NIPFP will be compiling the knowledge generated at this meeting for the production of technical packages on local level gender responsive approaches and experiences for dissemination and sharing.

New Delhi, 30th October 2004: A project addressing Masculinity was conducted by Delhi-based artist, Mr. Probir Gupta, in collaboration with UNIFEM on 30th October 2004, as part of 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women. The project, ‘Eye Reveal’ was a collaborative effort, involving approximately 120 University students from 15 colleges of Delhi. As a precursor to the initiative, this was a day-long orientation workshop on the issue of violence against women. 

11th – 16th July 2004: XV International AIDS Conference, Bangkok, Thailand

UNIFEM is organizing a Learning Session on 13th July 2004 at the Conference at 1600 to 1800 hours, at the UN AIDS Meeting Room No.1

Entitled “Engendering Response to HIV/AIDS: Learning from the Field", the session seeks to:

  • Share innovative initiatives, practices and insights in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic

  • Discuss and analyze challenges and critical issues from the perspective of gender and human rights

  • Formulate processes to deepen knowledge, networking and strengthen partnerships with key stakeholders

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director UNIFEM will deliver the key remarks.

The Panelists are:

  • Ms. Marlise Richter, an advocate and activist from South Africa

  • Ms. Kousalya Periasamy, founder of the Positive Women’s Network in India

  • Ms. Buarean Pimthong, who is a committee member of the North East Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand

  • Dr. Aruna Kumari,Chief Medical Superintendent of the India Railways in India

  • Ms. Mary Rusimbi, Executive Director of Tanzania Gender Networking Programme

19th – 20th June, South Asia B+10 NGO Consultation

UNIFEM supported the Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC) in Nepal to organize a South Asia B+10 NGO Consultation to evaluate and monitor the implementation of Beijing Platform for Action in preparation for the Asia Pacific NGO Forum and the UN 48th Special Session for Beijing +10 in March 2005. The conference provided a valuable opportunity for South Asian women to internationalize and prioritize the contemporary issues and agendas on women's human rights. Each country brought five priority concerns/issues after completing their National Consultation, three of which will have been incorporated in the South Asia Report. All national reports were collated at this sub regional consultation and will be shared at the NGO Asia Pacific Forum and lobbied for at UN ESCAP and the CSW Session for integration in the final Outcome Document.  

Colombo, 25th – 26th May: Sri Lanka: Regional Workshop on National Laws to Combat Trafficking in South Asia: Sharing of Research Studies

UNIFEM initiated legal researches in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka to review the existing legal provisions and systems to address trafficking. Identifying gaps and limitations which inhibit the implementation of a rights-based approach, the studies make specific recommendations to address the bottlenecks. UNIFEM in collaboration with USAID and ACILS (an NGO working on the issue of trafficking in Sri Lanka) hosted this workshop to take the process of regional learning and sharing further.

Inaugural remarks were delivered by the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, the Field Representative of ACILS and Dr Radhika Coomarswamy. Participants included distinguished members of the police, representatives from the Attorney Generals’ offices and the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), as well as representatives of key NGOs/Civil Society and USAID Sri Lanka. 

The research partners from the four countries, BNWLA from Bangladesh, Lawyers Collective from India, Forum for Women Law and Development (FWLD) from Nepal, and ACILS and Centre for Policy Alternatives from Sri Lanka, shared their findings on their respective Research Studies on National Laws to Combat Trafficking in Women and Children. In addition, the role of different stakeholders in combating trafficking was examined with a particular focus on perspectives on the criminal justice system. Good practices were shared as were initiatives from Sri Lanka, which included the Trafficking Study by MARGA. Strategies were collectively identified, to take forward the recommendations made in them, adding inputs where necessary.

There was agreement that the national studies needed to be shared within the country with a wide range of stakeholders, including governments, criminal justice systems and civil society, and revised accordingly; the continued involvement of multi-lateral and bi-lateral agencies was encouraged; and members of the national steering committee of the network, South Asia Professionals against Trafficking (SAPAT) were called upon to play a key role in taking forward the recommendations of these legal studies by developing a well-defined advocacy and implementation strategy.

At a regional level, recommendations called for:

  • The expansion of the scope of existing laws (beyond prostitution) to incorporate a wider definition and treatment of trafficking

  • The promotion of a human rights based framework to address the issue in a holistic way, in line with international human rights treaties and instruments

  • Sensitization of law enforcement agencies/institutions

  • Adoption of the concept of substantive equality in jurisprudence

  • Promotion of victim protection through ‘in camera’ trial, video conferencing and the use of special designated courts

  • A speedy ratification of the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking by all countries to pave the way for its subsequent amendment

  • Setting up of a network of National Prosecutors/Attorney Generals in the SAARC countries

  • Addressing the issue of victim compensation

  • Exploring the utilization of computer software for information/intelligence sharing amongst network members in different countries and strengthening existing networks for sharing information

  • Expansion of anti-trafficking initiatives to other South Asian countries which face the problem and are currently not in the network

  • Advocating for the appointment of a National Rapporteur on trafficking in countries where they do not exist and

  • Bringing in the survivors networks into deliberations on the issue of trafficking in order to get their perspectives and voices included.

Mysore, 25th May 2004: This meeting was attended by 8 women corporators, including the Mayor, the Deputy Commissioner, the Assistant Commissioner, the Chief Accounts Officer and other members of the accounts department, elected women representatives from Panchayats and self help groups. The Chief Accounts Officer presented the Mayor with the revised budget estimates for women related programs for the year 2004 – 2005. These revised estimates reduced the allocations by almost Rs. 20 lakhs. This issue was discussed at the meeting and all the Corporators agreed to take it up at the forthcoming Council Meeting at the end of May, when the budget was deliberated upon. Their agreement to raise and discuss this issue at the Council meeting and to work in unison to achieve a change in allocations for women for the year 2004 – 2005, was an achievement. The meeting, which took place two weeks later, subsequently saw the elected women representatives make a mark by ensuring that the allocations for women’s programmes for 2004-2005 were not reduced as proposed by the Mysore City Corporation.

With UNIFEM and SSF working on four sites, which include two municipalities and two Panchayats, the budgets for a Municipal Council and for two Gram Panchayats have already been passed. However, SSF plans to conduct similar meetings with elected women representatives at these sites to achieve a reprioritization of already allocated budget amounts.

Sri Lanka, 22nd and 23rd May: Regional Focal Point Meeting of HomeNet South Asia: The work plan for the next year was finalized. In addition to the work planned, they decided to highlight their concerns in the forthcoming Beijing + 10 meeting.  They also plan to fund raise for a Craft Mela in Pakistan.

Sri Lanka20th -21st May: National Meeting of HomeNet Sri Lanka.  HomeNet shared their work on the issue and resolved to formalize the network and work towards formalization of the network. Considerable emphasis was placed on sensitizing and working with the media.

Paro , Bhutan, 19th – 21st May 2003: The Fourth South Asia Regional Meeting, ‘Commemorating Beijing’

Towards Beijing + 10

Sri Lanka, 19th May: As part of the preparatory process towards Beijing + 10, the NGO Consultation in Sri Lanka highlighted issues of peace, violence and economic empowerment as top priorities.  

17th – 18th May 2004: The South Asia Regional Consultation on Gender and HIV/AIDS in New Delhi, was jointly organized by UNIFEM and UNAIDS South Asia Inter-country Team (SAICT), covering seven countries in South Asia, namely, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Consultation brought together senior government officials from these countries, the SAARC Secretariat, Heads of National Aids Control Programmes, women’s groups, Positive Women’s Network, a member of the UN CEDAW Committee, representatives from civil society organizations, including health professionals, lawyers, gender experts, research organizations, and representatives from bilateral and international agencies and UN agencies.     

In preparation, a rapid regional scan was undertaken to enable a summarization of key issues and challenges for Gender and HIV/AIDS inter-related issues. Both the regional scan and the consultation provided a platform for cross regional sharing as well as the identification of gaps and opportunities. The recommendations of this consultation are being presented at a satellite session in Bangkok, which in turn will enable the development of a concerted plan for regional level action at the XV International Conference on HIV/AIDS.

The Consultation recognized that effective strategies that address the relationships between gender and HIV/AIDS require a focus on gender within health care in general. It emphasized the urgent need for the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic to be de-verticalised and made multi-sectoral and integrated into comprehensive, decentralized, participatory community based health services. Partnerships with women’s movements and groups were called for. It was underlined that for an effective response, the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic needed to form a part of the larger movements for the rights of women, recognizing women as agents rather than solely as victims. Acknowledging that the main issues relating to HIV/AIDS were the same as those identified by women’s groups as priorities, it was observed that the challenge was to bring this expertize on board and mainstream gender concerns into the response to the epidemic. Gender needed to be factored into policy initiatives, methodological tools and technical expertize and the use of instruments such as CEDAW activated. The need to create comprehensive systems that provided services and support to people living with HIV/AIDS was stressed.

As an immediate step, it was recommended that a regional team be formed, consolidating the considerable expertize in the region, including those with live experience based expertize. This would act as a hub to co-ordinate between various groups, planning for advocacy initiatives, raising resources and concrete planning. A clear articulation of political will and commitment towards Gender and HIV/AIDS was called for, both through high level advocacy and through partnership with civil society processes.

Gender Budgeting

8th - 10th May, Building Budgets from Below, Bangalore: UNIFEM supported a meeting organized by Singamma Sreenivasan Foundation (SSF), a UNIFEM partner in its work on gender responsive budgeting, in collaboration with the NGO Jaanagraha. Providing a new approach for budgeting, the meeting included elected women representatives at the grassroots level as active participants in the whole process. Participants to the workshop included ten elected women representatives (EWR) from Panchayats, three women municipal councillors from Mysore, the Assistant Commissioner of the Municipality of Mysore, self help groups and NGOs from rural areas.

Jaanagraha shared their campaigns in 10 wards within the Bangalore Mahanagar Palika. This included an overview of the Wardworks Campaign, which focuses on local infrastructure development such as roads, footpaths and drains, seeking a reprioritization of allocations to ensure that the people’s most critical needs are met with existing funds, rather than on a new budget allocation; the Ward Vision Campaign, which enables citizens through citizen meetings to identify the problems in their particular areas, prioritize issues, identify solutions and appoint citizen anchors in each community. They take charge of specific issues, creating a Ward Vision Document for each ward, detailing the citizen’s vision for their particular ward.

The elected women representatives identified their problems at the village level and the counselors at the Mysore municipality. It was felt that though Jaanagraha was very successful in achieving their goal they needed to be more gender sensitive, whereas the elected women representatives (EWR) knew what was wrong, but lacked the capacity to lobby more effectively. It was decided that both the rural and urban women would be trained in their respective problem areas; that Jaanagraha would actively train them in advocacy and build their capacity to solve their problems, and SSF would engender Jaanagraha.

The Mysore Corporators and the Assistant Commissioner of the Mysore City Corporation agreed to have a meeting with SSF, before the budget deliberations for 2004-2005. This meeting was held on 25th May.  

Mussoorie, 4th May 2004: UNIFEM provided expertize on gender issues and gender budgeting in April 2004 to the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Government of India, Mussoorie, at their request. LBSNAA is the premier institute for training senior members of the Civil Services in India, as well as Officer Trainees of the All India Services and the Central Services. Defining gender and sex and sex and identifying gender issues in governance, UNIFEM made a presentation on gender budgets as a tool for accountability and for achieving gender equality. This was followed by the Academy assigning the officer probates with the task of analyzing the municipality of Dehradun through a gender lens. On 4th May 2004, an expert panel comprising representatives of the Singamma Sreenivasan Foundation and UNIFEM were asked to comment on their analysis. As a result of the UNIFEM intervention the LBSNAA has indicated interest on continued collaboration with UNIFEM.

Agra, 17th – 18th April, 2004: Consultation for Women’s Groups on Draft Legislation on HIV/AIDS

The Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, with support from UNIFEM organized a ‘Consultation for Women’s Groups on a Draft Legislation on HIV/AIDS’. The consultation provided both the opportunity and space for women’s groups to discuss the draft legislation, undertaken by Lawyers Collective in 2002, for presentation to Parliament. It affirmed the importance of women’s groups as being critical stakeholders for this draft law, recognizing their inputs as crucial, for making it a meaningful and effective document.

The draft legislation on HIV/AIDS proposes provisions that will enhance women’s access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, making contributions that may assist in minimizing gender inequities. The draft also seeks to suggest amendments to existing laws in an effort to create an enabling legal environment vis-à-vis women and HIV/AIDS.

35 organizations participated in the consultation, with representatives from the women’s movement from all over the country, including groups working on human rights, sex workers’ rights, health, sexuality, research, women’s legal issues, HIV/AIDS groups,  networks of women living with HIV/AIDS, as well as representatives from UNIFEM, UNAIDS and the Joint UN Programme CHARCA.

The meeting successfully enabled women’s rights activists to collectively analyze the draft law, raise concerns and provide valuable inputs and feedback.

The key issues discussed were: 

  • Women’s vulnerabilities to HIV within the legal and human rights perspective

  • Issues of consent, disclosure of information, discrimination which impinge upon women’s dignity, freedom and equality in the realm of her body and psycho-social self

  • Special provisions under personal and customary laws covering registration of marriage, residence, and maintenance; protocols on sexual violence; prevention of mother to child transmission and women in care and custody 

  • Risk reduction strategies, IEC and implementation of the legislation with a gender perspective

  • Emerging issues vis-à-vis ART roll out plan and vaccines

UNIFEM provided technical inputs for the consultation in terms of providing reference sources on key women’s groups in gender and HIV. The Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) disseminated the human rights violation study on positive women, carried out in partnership with the Positive Women’s Network and UNIFEM, to all participants. This study has been used as reference tool in some sections in the draft legislation. The consultation provided a valuable opportunity to look at the social, legal and ethical aspects of engendering the HIV legislation, linking them with the experiences from the ground.

16th April 2004, Launch of the Punjab Directory on Support Services to Counter Violence against Women, Chandigarh: Justice N.C Jain, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission and Mr. Kundal, Principal Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Security, Government of Punjab, launched the English resource directory on Support Services to Counter Violence against Women in Punjab. The function was organized by UNIFEM in association with the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab (VHAP), who prepared the directory for Punjab. 

Participants and guests included, the Executive Director of the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab (VHAP), Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Principal Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Security, Government of Punjab, President Zonta International, Chairperson of the Status of Women/Service Committee of Zonta International, Coordinator Human Rights Law Network, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, Superintendent of the Punjab Police, Punjab Stree Sabha, Punjab State Social Welfare Advisory Board, Punjab Social Welfare Dept./Secretary National Organization of the Disabled, and Deputy Regional Programme Director and Human Rights Programme Officer, UNIFEM.

In Punjab, this was the first attempt made to compile activities of NGOs and support services in the state to counter violence against women. The English directory is available with VHAI and UNIFEM and will be put on the VHAI website to incorporate NGO inputs and for updating purposes.

Combating violence against women in (VAW) in diverse ways and through different partnerships, UNIFEM is working with Zonta International and NGOS, to eliminate violence against women. One of the ways it is doing so is by enabling women’s access to critical information, particularly for women in situations of violence. It has already compiled and published resource directories on available services to counter violence against women in the states of Orissa, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Bihar,

Jharkhand, Haryana, Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam, and Chattisgarh. The directories for Uttranchal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are in the process of being completed.

14th April, 2004, Book Release of “Gender Relations in Forest Societies in Asia:  Patriarchy at Odds” in New Delhi: The book, "Gender Relations in Forest Societies in Asia: Patriarchy at Odds'', was released in New Delhi on 14th April by Mr. Phrang Roy, Assistant President of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Supported by IFAD, Rome, and published by SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd, the publication has been edited by Dr. Govind Kelkar, Programme Coordinator IFAD-UNIFEM Gender Mainstreaming Programme in Asia, Dr. Dev Nathan, economist and Honorary Professor, Institute of Ethnology, Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, Kunming, China and Mr. Pierre Walter, Assistant Professor, Department of Education Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The contributors are Yang Fuquan, Govind Kelkar, Samar Bosu Mullick, Indra Munshi, Dev Nathan, Tiplut Nongbri, Paul Porodong, Cholthira Satyawadhana, Madhu Sarin, K S Singh, Pierre Walter, Xi Yuhua and He Zhonghua.

The book is based on 12 studies on forest-dwelling indigenous peoples of Asia carried out by the Gender and Development Studies unit of the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok. Covering a broad range of societies in China, India, Thailand and Malaysia, it addresses issues of history and myth related to women in these societies. The voices of indigenous people are used to describe and explain the changes sweeping through their economy and society. The contributors to the volume seek more informed policies to improve livelihoods, together with better community management of forests, as well as ways of enhancing the social, economic and political inclusion of women in the communities in which they live.

The release was followed by a discussion on the book in which social scientist Dr. Maitreyi Krishnaraj, Mr. Phrang Roy and the Regional Programme Director of UNIFEM, Chandni Joshi, participated. Also present on the occasion were representatives of the Government of India, Department of Statistics, the University of Delhi, NGOs, SAGE Publications, the media and members from the UN system and bilateral agencies.

6th – 8th April 2004, South Asia Regional Meeting on Emerging Gender Issues and CEDAW Reporting at Chauki Dhani in Jaipur: The workshop was a part of UNIFEM’s overall effort to facilitate the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at the regional level to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. It aimed towards creating a learning opportunity for governments regarding the reporting process and on using the women’s convention for implementing strategies as indicated in the Concluding Comments of the CEDAW Committee; the Optional Protocol; and engagement with NGOs with regard to the shadow report. It was also an attempt to continue the process of regional sharing and peer learning.

Participants included senior officials from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan. Resource persons included, Ms. Salma Khan, Member of the UN CEDAW Committee from Bangladesh, Ms. Sapana Malla Pradhan of the Forum for Women, Law and Development in Nepal, Mr. Pratap Pathak, Joint Secretary of the Royal Government of Nepal and Dr. Govind Kelkar Programme Coordinator IFAD-UNIFEM Gender Mainstreaming Programme in Asia.

Participants looked to the meeting to facilitate a better understanding of CEDAW in terms of its implementation and reporting to the CEDAW Committee; on addressing discrimination in laws, socio-cultural practices and religious norms; clarification of concepts enshrined in CEDAW vis-à-vis gender concerns, equality and non discrimination; and collaborations and partnership building with civil society in CEDAW implementation.

Ms. Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director of UNIFEM South Asia highlighted features which make the South Asia region unique. It has been the first region to declare a decade dedicated to the welfare of the girl child; the first to work on violence against women; the first to draft a convention against trafficking in women and children; and finally, it is a region where all the SAARC countries have ratified CEDAW. UNIFEM South Asia shared its journey on CEDAW, which has been demand-driven.

The film “Sita’s Daughters” by Mallika Sarabhai was used as a tool to stimulate thoughts on gender discrimination and violence as experienced by women in the region. Key reflections noted that diverse discriminations against women continued to prevail for reasons as varied as, a patriarchal ego, inherent superstitions in society, social norms, and negative notions of men about women. Participants articulated the need for instruments to address prejudice, values and institutional mechanisms, the promotion of economic and social empowerment, the need for societies to be gender friendly and changing mindsets so that crimes against women, such as rape and domestic violence are treated as crimes (and penalized) and not shrugged off as “normal” or a “social norm” or “culture”. They observed that women needed to be empowered to deal with discriminatory behaviour, and that the inner strength of women is an important vehicle for change. Many felt that several forms of discrimination depicted in the film/play continue to be present in most South Asian countries even today, albeit with some changes. 

On the first day of the meeting, Ms. Salma Khan, CEDAW Committee Member made presentations on ‘Key Concepts and Principles of CEDAW’ and on the ‘Reporting Process – its purpose and expectations of the CEDAW Committee’. Ensuing discussions brought about clarity on diverse issues such as, the distinction between temporary special measures and affirmative action; the features of a gender dimension, which are shaped by socio-cultural constructs; general recommendations and the articles of the convention (which have an equal force of law) the growing dominance of religion and culture in most debates; the distinction between gender equality and gender equity, among many others. Summarizing, Dr. Govind Kelkar observed that the interactions highlighted the purpose of the meeting, which was not to represent countries or cultures but to address the problem of fifty percent of the population, as discrimination of women is a major concern, which needs to be addressed more holistically.

Presentations the next day included: ‘Case Studies’ by Ms. Sapna Pradhan Malla of the Forum for Women Law and Development (FWLD), which included the Cambodian experience and the process of preparing the Shadow Report in Nepal. This was followed by a presentation on “New Thinking on Gender and Poverty” by Dr. Govind Kelkar, Gender Expert, who highlighted some key concepts, such as the gender and poverty framework, income poverty, gender analysis and gender mainstreaming. His Majesty’s Government of Nepal and the Royal Government of Bhutan made presentations, sharing their experiences on reporting to the CEDAW Committee in January 2004. The final presentation was made by Ms. Salma Khan on ‘Concluding Comments of the CEDAW Committee, Optional Protocol and its Ratification.’

Several issues were clarified and highlighted in the ensuing discussions. For example it was made clear that shadow reports usually highlight the problems and constraints and Government reports usually highlight the achievements and action plans. It was noted that the major challenge in most countries was overcoming the mindset that CEDAW implementation is the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and not the concern of other line ministries. The example of Cambodia was shared, where the responsibility of writing the report was distributed to eight line ministries. The RPD UNIFEM observed that in Nepal, the process that followed the initial reporting was crucial, wherein the CEDAW implementation process was collectively endorsed by the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Chief Justice.

Ms. Salma Khan’s presentation on ‘Concluding Comments of the CEDAW Committee, Optional Protocol and its Ratification,’ clarified many aspects relating to them. For instance that the Optional Protocol (OP) is a confirmation of State’s commitment to complement national remedies with international avenues of redress for alleged violation of the rights protected by the Convention; that it is basically a separate treaty that is open to ratification by States that have already ratified the CEDAW; and that through ratification of OP, the governments commit to the further implementation of CEDAW. She informed that currently 59 States are Parties to the Optional Protocol. The meeting was a success as it was marked by frank and generous sharing, with all participants making time for a process of peer learning, as also for unlearning. 

January-March 2004

16th – 17th March 2004, Workshop on Gender Budgeting, Kolkata: UNIFEM and Sachetana organized a workshop to disseminate the findings of the UNIFEM supported studies, “Gender in Fiscal Policy in West Bengal” and a gender analysis of the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yogana in West Bengal, the largest anti-poverty programme in the world. It also provided a platform for sharing another West Bengal study conducted by Sramajibi Mahila Samity and a study on Orissa by the School of Women’s Studies Utkal University. The workshop sought to present the findings of these studies to concerned scholars and activists for their comments and informed critique, and to assist in developing the themes further in the necessary direction. Participants to the meeting included all stakeholders, including government officials responsible for the formulation and implementation of the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yogana Scheme, women’s groups, bankers, and NGOs working on advocacy.

8th March 2004, International Women’s Day, New Delhi: UNIFEM, UNAIDS and UNIC in New Delhi came together to observe International Women’s Day through a joint function organized at the UN Conference Hall. Contoured around the theme, ‘Women and HIV/AIDS’, the event provided a forum for select UN system partners to share their work and strategies with regard to women’s issues and in reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Present on the occasion were representatives from the Government of India, NGOs, the media, women’s groups, UN and bilateral agencies. 

Speakers included, Dr. Maxine Olson, UN Resident Coordinator and RR UNDP, Mr. Feodor Starcevic, Director of UNIC, Ms. Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director UNIFEM, Ms. Kasturi Gupta Menon, Secretary Department of Women and Child Development, Government of India, Dr. Meenakshi Dutta Ghosh, Additional Secretary and Project Director, National Aids Control Organization (NACO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India and Mr. Kenneth Wind-Andersen, Country Coordinator, UNAIDS. Highlighting the devastating toll that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is taking on women, the Secretary General’s message focused on the critical role of women in fighting AIDS and of the need to transform relations between women and men and promote women’s empowerment and their rights.

Reinforcing this, the speakers highlighted various ways in which the HIV/AIDS epidemic is fuelled by gender inequality, making linkages with the gendered dimensions of broader vulnerability-enabling issues, such as poverty, discrimination, forced and unsafe migration, trafficking and violence against women. Gender equality was recognized as the central pillar in efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, as was the need for multi-dimensional approaches. It was noted that an effective response to the pandemic called for stronger partnerships with men and youth, as well as the promotion of the leadership of women survivors of violence and women living with HIV/AIDS.   



The film “The Quiet Storm” made by the UNDP Regional HIV/AIDS Project, highlighted issues of stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDs, as also their courage and the transformatory role that they play as agents of change. The UNIFEM supported music-video, “Babul” by Breakthrough, spotlighted issues of violence against women, demonstrating the power of mainstream entertainment media as an advocacy tool for moving the human rights discourse into public dialogue. The collaboration between Breakthrough and McCann-Ericcson highlighted the importance of social messaging aligned to cultural codes. Mr. R. Ramanathan, Divisional Railway Manager, South Central Railways, Vijayawada presented an overview of the unique collaboration between the Ministry of Railways and UNIFEM in the pilot on institutionalizing gender focused strategies to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic in Andhra Pradesh. He highlighted the fact that the Indian Railways is the third largest employer in the world with 1.6 million employees (and their families) with considerable self-sufficient infrastructure. These include railway schools, railway hospitals, railway staff training colleges, railway women’s organizations and railway workers’ unions, which served as critical entry points to work with the railway community, through multi-sectoral gender sensitive HIV prevention and care efforts. Being implemented through the Railway Women’s Empowerment and AIDS Prevention Society in the Vijayawada division of South Central Railways, its gender friendly method of communication and counseling through a trained cadre of peer counselors from within the railways was spotlighted.

The media web centre on Gender and HIV/AIDS created by Women’s Feature Service with UNIFEM support was launched by Ms. Kasturi Gupta Menon, Secretary Department of Women and Child Development, Government of India. Speaking on the Women’s Feature Service (WFS) Media Centre (http://www.wfsnews.org/), the Director, Ms. Angana Parekh informed that it aimed to be a one-stop resource centre for new findings on hiv/aids and gender-related issues. It also sought to generate greater and more informed interest on the subject, as well as enhanced coverage in the media. The event was complemented by an exhibition on Women and AIDS, with contributions of posters and paintings and publications by UNIFEM and other UN agencies.

23rd - 26th February 2004, Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) Consultation Meeting New York: The Consultation included representation from Africa, Latin America and South Asia and was attended by a group of UNIFEM staff, partners, and experts, being joined later by representatives from UN agencies, IDRC the Commonwealth, the World Bank and donors.

UNIFEM South Asia and some of its key partners, viz., Dr Rao, Director, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy and Prof Nirmala Bannerjee, Director Sachetana and one of the leading feminist economists of the country, participated. Designed around the mid term review carried out by Ms. Simel Esim and Ms. Gina Vargas, the consultation sought to assess the progress made with regard to past and ongoing work on gender budgeting initiatives, and to provide insights for future directions of the programme.  It took into consideration issues such as the efficacy of gender budgeting as a tool of addressing gender inequality, the strategic use of research undertaken for advocacy, the development of skills/tools, the extent of institutionalization and its sustainability, as well as knowledge development vis-à-vis gender and economic policies and budget analysis and the mechanisms instituted. Recommendations made by the reviewers were discussed extensively, with a near consensus on the need to link gender responsive budgeting with pro poor initiatives. 

Pune, Maharashtra, 25th–26th February 2004: UNIFEM supported and provided technical assistance to the Positive Women’s Network for their visioning exercise with some new partners in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Pune. This was both in terms of a network and in terms of a common vision for positive women.

23rd - 25 February 2004, Pune, India: The Second Regional Meeting of South Asia Professionals against Trafficking Network (SAPAT) was jointly hosted by the Centre for Police Research, Maharashtra State, UNIFEM  and Stree Aadhar Kendra a Pune based NGO. Facilitating cross-border collaboration and important learning on rescue and repatriation of trafficked persons, the network also acts as an interface between other NGOs and informal networks. 

Some of the key recommendations and suggestions that emerged at this meeting were as follows:

With regard to Prevention, it was recommended that good practices on community-based vigilance should be replicated; that newer sites and modes of trafficking be tracked through the Internet; and that the issue be mainstreamed in the academic curriculum of the Judiciary and Police. Looking at Rescue, it was suggested that the collaboration between Police and Civil Society be strengthened; that rescue operations be rights-based in their approach; that law enforcement officers be sensitized on victim protection; and that community intelligence and surveillance be enabled for rescue. With regard to Prosecution, recommendations included exploring possibilities of replicating the Goa Child Rights Act model; pushing for prosecution of the client; increased use of Penal Code provisions for prosecuting traffickers; encouraging the State to notify NGOs to take legal action against traffickers; being mindful of the mental health impact of trafficking during the process of prosecution; making prosecution procedures victim-friendly; disseminating positive judgments as best practices and promoting the application of international/regional treaties and conventions in judgments.

In the areas of Repatriation and Rehabilitation, it was suggested that all rehabilitation process be guided by the choice of the victim; that procedures for inter-State collaboration for cross-border repatriation be institutionalized; that rehabilitation be an inter-agency initiative; and that guidelines and standards for care providers be developed. With regard to Networking, it was recommended that trafficking be pitched as a social and political issue, and not just a women’s issue; that best practices be documented and shared; that the SAPAT network be strengthened and expanded, with it being a resource base for training and capacity development for professionals in South Asia; that trafficking be “made a priority in the news room” for enhanced media advocacy; that an inter-country task force be set up to address trafficking; that an electronic information/database be developed and disseminated; and an office set up for the Regional Rapporteur on Trafficking

New Delhi, 21st February 2004: Ms. Shiela Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi, opened the exhibition, “TOUCH” at the Habitat Visual Arts Gallery and launched the catalogue on the exhibition. The intervention, “TOUCH” was initiated by UNIFEM in association with Probir Gupta, an eminent artist based in Delhi , as a part of the global campaign “Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Based Violence”. With adolescents as active partners, the language of Art in its different forms was used to raise levels of awareness and consciousness and sensitize school going children from 16 schools on different forms of violence against women. Through an interactive orientation workshop, participants were introduced to various dimensions of violence through slides, films and sculptures as well as interventions by a well-known activist working on ending violence. Through the open-air workshop at the Crafts Museum , working through school teams, the youth used the inputs of the orientation, to express and communicate their thoughts on violence, offering new ideas and possible solutions. The art work in the exhibition was the culmination of the perceptions of the children on gender-based violence, post sensitization and orientation journey. The catalogue captures a number of these, as well as making available some facts on violence against women and a listing of some NGOs working to eliminate it.       

Enhancing Human Security through Gender Equality in the Context of HIV/AIDS: In keeping with the Declaration of Commitment agreed upon by all member states of the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) held in New York in June 2001, UNIFEM launched a regional project entitled “Enhancing Human Security through Gender Equality in the Context of HIV/AIDS”.  This seeks to enhance human security by ensuring that gender equality and human rights are integrated into the key policies, programmes and activities that address HIV/AIDS at the local, national and regional levels.

In India , UNIFEM has held Round Table discussions in collaboration with three key sectoral ministries, viz., the Ministry of Elementary Education and Literacy, the Ministry of Empowerment and Social Justice and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, to draw linkages between Gender, HIV/AIDS and the respective ministries. This is in continuation of the process to enhance human security through ensuring that the gender dimensions of HIV/AIDS are integrated into key, policies, programmes and activities of these ministries. The initial meeting of this UNIFEM initiative was chaired and hosted by NACO in 2003. At each Round Table, each ministry invited some of its key partners to look at ways in which Gender and HIV/AIDS concerns could be mainstreamed into some of its existing schemes/programmes/processes. A discussion paper was prepared for each Round Table highlighting the gendered dimensions of HIV/AIDS, offering for consideration the possible role that each ministry could play with regard to making an effective response to this pandemic. 

New Delhi, 29th January 2004: A Round Table was organized by the Ministry of Elementary Education and Literacy in collaboration with UNIFEM 

New Delhi, 20th February 2004: A Round Table was organized by the Ministry of Empowerment and Social Justice in collaboration with UNIFEM

New Delhi, 18th March 2004: A Round Table was organized by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in collaboration with UNIFEM

Mizoram, 20th – 21st January 2004: UNIFEM built the gender and HIV perspective of stakeholders at the first stakeholders meeting held in Mizoram on 20th and 21st January. Mizoram is the first district to launch the Coordinated HIV/AIDS response through Capacity Building and Awareness (CHARCA) programme with UNODC as the implementing agency.

Dhaka , Bangladesh, 13th - 14th January 2004: South Asia Regional Workshop for Sharing IEC tools and Media Advocacy Initiatives to Combat Trafficking

The key objective of UNIFEM’s Regional Anti-trafficking programme is to facilitate the work of Governments, NGOs and civil society to combat trafficking in women and children. Addressing the issue at multiple levels, and focusing on prevention, protection and prosecution, the intervention has sought to address the gap of accurate and accessible data and information on the issue; establish systems for timely information collection and dissemination; bring together different groups working on the issue; strengthen national and regional coalitions on trafficking; facilitate processes to strengthen advocacy, and identify and document and disseminate best practices.

UNIFEM in collaboration with USAID and ATSEC Bangladesh Chapter held this Workshop to further the process of regional sharing, focusing on the following aspects:


  • IEC and advocacy through the print medium, which included posters, brochures, billboards, and other innovative methods
  • IEC and advocacy through the audio visual medium, which included films, TV Spots, documentaries and music cassettes
  • IEC and advocacy through folk and other traditional cultural mediums, such as folk theatre, street theater, and folk songs/ dances  

The participants show cased the products and materials that they had created for each of the above mentioned and the way they had used it. Highlighting the processes that went into its creation and the dissemination strategies used, they also shared information with regard to the impact made by the product/material and its potential for replication. Some of the key recommendations that emerged included the designing of a unified regional logo to identify the anti-trafficking network/action in the region and the formation of a regional network for a collective regional anti-trafficking IEC campaign. There was also agreement to adopt, document and promote IEC initiatives in the region for replication, wherever possible.