United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

UNIFEM South Asia Office

Events in 2008

14th November, 2008, New Delhi: UNIFEM South Asia Sub-regional Office supported The Lawyers Collective (Women’s Rights Initiative) (“LCWRI”), to organize the second national conference to share the findings, and launch, “Staying Alive: Second Monitoring and Evaluation Report, 2008, on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005”. This was organized in collaboration with the National Commission for Women (NCW), with the Chairperson of the Commission releasing the Report. UNIFEM’s ongoing support was recognized and appreciated – in 2007, it had supported the first report in the series, Staying Alive” – the first review of an EVAW legislation within one year of implementation in India. The process focuses on compiling annual monitoring and evaluation reports on the manner in which this law is being implemented in the country.

The Conference brought together representatives of state agencies (such as Departments of Women and Child Development, State Commissions for Women, Protection Officers, Police Officers, Legal Services Authorities, lawyers etc.) as well as women’s groups and eminent gender advocates, to share their experiences of working with the law and provide their suggestions for its effective implementation. Participants were drawn from all states and union territories in the country. The valedictory session was addressed by Justice A.P. Shah, Chief Justice in the High Court of Delhi. 

It was noted that inadequate budgetary allocations for the implementation of the PWDVA, was a major source of concern, with only 13 states having allocated specific budgets for implementation. Of these, the state of Andhra Pradesh had allocated the highest amount of Rs. 10 crores.

It was reported that Protection Officers had been appointed at the district level in all states, with 10 states having appointed Protection Officers at the sub-district level. It was shared that Maharashtra had the highest number of appointments, at 3,687. It was, however, pointed out that most appointments made vested additional charge on existing government officials. Registration of Service Providers had taken place in only 18 States; existing shelter homes and medical facilities had been notified in most states, though there has been no additional provision for these facilities. It was recognized that because of inadequate budgetary allocations and available infrastructure, there was a need for coordination between government departments to ensure the optimum delivery of services. Efforts to ensure coordination between government departments had only been initiated in the states of Kerala and Uttarakhand.  

Here are some of the key recommendations that were made:  

  1. Need for the Central and State Governments to launch mass media campaigns to spread awareness on the rights of women recognized under the PWDVA.
  2. No move should be made towards making Section 498A of the IPC compoundable. The rationale for this move is no longer valid as those who wish to settle their cases may do so under the PWDVA.
  3. Call for the Central Government to review the Supreme Court’s decision in Batra v Batra.
  4. Call upon the judiciary to ensure that cases are decided within statutory timelines.
  5. The judiciary was urged to be transparent in the way in which cases under the PWDVA were dealt with.
  6. States were urged to locate the office of the Protection Officer within court premises.
  7. To decrease women’s vulnerability to violence, the Central Government was urged to protect women’s rights in the workplace by enacting legislation on preventing sexual harassment at the workplace.

 

23rd October, 2008, New Delhi: Consultation to share the Report of the Independent Group on Home-based Workers:
 UNIFEM organized this Consultation at the India International Centre, to share the Report of the Independent Group on Home-based Workers (HBWs). The Independent Group had been set up by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India in 2007, in response to the Hon. Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, referring to their statistical invisibility, while inaugurating the South Asian Regional Conference on Home-based Workers, which was jointly organized by SEWA and UNIFEM in January of that year. Other stakeholders have also been working jointly with the Ministry to examine the existing data sources and suggest means to capture the data related to HBWs.

The Consultation brought together key statistical institutions and other organizations working on HBWs. These included the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, representatives from the Office of the Registrar General of India, the National Sample Survey Organization, the Central Statistical Organization, the ministries of Labour & Employment and Women and Child Development, the National Commission on Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector, the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST), the ILO and UNFPA.  

The Independent Group had set itself the tasks of: (i) firming up the concepts and definitions of HBWs, and identifying their categories for the purpose of data collection; (ii) providing a framework for key tabulations and analysis of available data on HBWs for surveys of employment and unemployment, and economic censuses; and (iii) identifying data needs and making recommendations for filling data gaps in respect of HBWs.

This half-day Consultation focused on sharing the deliberations and findings of the Report of the Independent Group. It sought to highlight the definition of HBWs as arrived at by the Independent Group, to use this definition in the registration of workers, and to facilitate the inclusion of more questions and refinement of the existing questions pertaining to HBWs in the Labour Force Survey and the forthcoming Census of 2011. 

Ms. Sushma Kapoor, Deputy Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM South Asia Sub-regional Office, welcomed the participants, giving an overview of UNIFEM’s work on HBWs, which she informed, has been a part of UNIFEM’s response to address feminized poverty. “Our efforts have been to improve their working and living conditions by empowering them through organization and by giving visibility to their work, issues and rights in the five countries of South Asia.” Focusing on partnerships, she said, SEWA has been a key partner and that the journey has been a collective one, involving governments of the region, home-based women workers and organizations working with them, research and statistical organizations, NGOs and gender advocates”.

Ms. Kapoor’s introduction was followed by a presentation by Ms. Renana Jhabvala, National Coordinator of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). She focused on the importance of statistics in relation to HBWs, for making their work visible and for ensuring various benefits such as minimum wages and social security. Ms. Jhabvala spoke of the importance of increasing the value of the work of HBWs in the chain of production, and increasing productivity by moving technology up the chain. Though there is economic growth, the benefits of growth are not available to HBWs, she said, and they are not able to lift themselves out of poverty. She emphasized that it was imperative to remember that the issues concerned ‘real’ work undertaken by ‘real’ people and that statistics were more than numbers on paper, as they impacted the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people in the country. 

Ms. Jhabvala’s presentation was followed by a Technical Presentation of the Report of the Independent Group on Home-based Workers by Prof. Jeemol Unni of the Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad, who was a member of the Group. Prof. Unni highlighted the definitions of ‘home-based worker’ and the ‘home’, as arrived at by the Group, and the various parameters used by the Group for deriving this information. Some of the other issues that were raised in Prof. Unni’s presentation concerned the changes brought about in Economic Activity Codes and Worker Census Codes for identification of HBWs. She concluded by emphasizing the need for assessing qualitative indicators like incomes, productivity, technology, access to markets, and skills and experience, apart from the statistical data in identifying the issues concerning HBWs. 

This was followed by a Round the Table discussion, which saw considerable engagement from all participants. There was debate over the findings of the Report, suggestions were made for further additions and inclusions, and various measures for optimizing data collection on HBWs in the forthcoming national Census of 2011 and the Labour Force Survey, were examined.

The Way Forward

The Consultation was wrapped up by Ms. Renana Jhabvala, who identified the following three issues as crucial, in relation to HBWs: a) need for measurement of income/earnings b) need for measurement of skills c) and the need for financial inclusion, including credit.  

She summed up the recommendations that emerged from the discussions, for taking the next step forward and for implementing the suggestions, made both by the Independent Group and the participants at the Consultation:

  • New questions need to be formulated for inclusion in the Census and the Labour Force Survey, but these questions need to be very precise, in order to elicit the relevant information on HBWs
  • UNIFEM should facilitate the setting up of two groups, which can formulate the above questions for the Census and the Labour Force Survey, respectively
  • The NCEUS can take this exercise forward by initiating a Living Standards Survey in which various qualitative issues pertaining to HBWs can also be identified and raised, apart from statistical data.
  • After the above tasks have been completed, another meeting should be held to assess the questions formulated and the interventions that need to be made
  • The CSO and NSSO could consider inviting representatives of SEWA and UNIFEM to their internal meetings, in order to facilitate the formulation of appropriate questions, for inclusion in the respective Surveys, which could elicit the responses needed  
  • Prepare a Note on the questions to be included in the Skills Survey, which can be fed into the Skill Development Mission, which is being put in place

 

21-22 October, 2008, New Delhi: Third Regional Orientation Workshop on CEDAW & Gender Responsive Budgeting for the Eastern and North Eastern States by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India

On 21st – 22nd October, 2008, the Ministry for Women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India organized the third regional orientation workshop on “CEDAW: Reporting and Implementation and Gender Responsive Budgeting”, with technical support from UNIFEM.

Nine state governments from the eastern and north eastern region – Assam, Manipur, Sikkim, Meghalya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar participated at the workshop held at the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD) in New Delhi. Aware that the Concluding Comments of the CEDAW Committee, embrace departments and ministries other than the MWCD, senior officials representing various government departments, had been invited and were present. These included Social Welfare, Family Welfare and Health, Home Dept., Education, Law, Labour, Planning, State Commission for Women and Finance. 

Some of the key recommendations that were made to facilitate implementation of the CEDAW Concluding Comments (CC) were as follows:

  • Set up an inter department coordination committee, headed by the Chief Secretary and coordinated by the Social Welfare department, to prepare inputs from the states for the MWCD (following up on the Concluding Observations to the Government of India)

  • User friendly format for the report to be circulated by MWCD

  • Allocation of budget for translation of CEDAW Concluding Comments into local languages

  • MWCD should organize a national workshop focusing on the implementation of the CEDAW Concluding comments

  • MWCD should consider developing a plan of action for implementation of CEDAW Concluding Comments

  • The inter department committee set up at the national level for CEDAW, should consider inviting NCERT, Mission Director NHRM, Railways, Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Urban Development, to its meetings

  • Support from UNIFEM for work on CEDAW at the state level.

With regard to promoting gender responsive budgeting as a tool for gender equality in the session, ‘The Way Forward’, the participants suggested/agreed on the following: 

  • It was agreed that the State Representatives will select a scheme /programme from their respective Department for Gender Budgeting/Gender Analysis. The participants also felt that it was important to conduct periodical appraisals/monitoring and evaluation of programme/policies and schemes through a gender lens in order to assess the impact

  • All participants agreed that it was important to conduct training programmes for capacity building on ‘Gender’ and ‘Gender Budgeting’ for all stakeholders. For the purpose of training and sensitization, it was agreed that it was important to develop a pool of master trainers and to be equipped with a Training Manual on gender budgeting. This would ensure a uniform understanding of concepts and tools. It was important to develop and share a Compendium of best practices on gender budgeting initiatives

  • In order to sensitize the stakeholders, to the importance of gender mainstreaming through gender budgeting, it was felt necessary to launch a Public Education Campaign and also to develop the IEC material on ‘Gender’ and ‘Gender Budgeting’ for dissemination

  • Everyone agreed to list the policies/programmes designed exclusively for the welfare of women and children, of all the departments in their respective State and to make necessary amendments where ever, in order to make them more effective. Emphasis was laid on Social Security for ageing women especially destitute women. Some participants also felt the need for a thorough analysis of the Health Sector Budget from a gender perspective; some felt that women’s health concerns and needs are associated only with their reproductive roles

It was felt necessary to constitute a Gender Budgeting Cell, in the Departments of the State Government. This would act as the focal point for gender budgeting initiatives in that respective department. Some felt that the State could have only one Gender Budgeting Cell in the Finance Department, which could work in collaboration with the Department of Women and Child Development. It was also suggested that a technical person/Gender Expert could be part of the GB Cell to provide technical assistance.

 

20th October, 2008, New Delhi: A Study Tour from Afghanistan, comprising five members, active in promoting women’s rights and combating violence, visited UNIFEM, to share and exchange information on these issues. They included: Ms Shinkai Karokhail Parliamentarian and founding member of the Women’s Parliamentary Network, which is a parliament and civil society network that works for women empowerment; Ms. Wazhma Frogh, Afghanistan Country Director for Global Rights and women’s rights activist; Ms. Hasina Safi, Managing Director for Afghan Women Educational Center (AWEC); Ms. Sheila Samimi, Advocacy Programme Officer for Afghan Women’s Network (AWN); and Ms. Stur Ayubi, Women’s Rights Program Associate, Global Rights Afghanistan.

Facilitated by Ms. Anita Anand of Comfirst, members of the tour were keen to learn about UNIFEM’s work in South Asia, the strategies and successes, as well as the challenges encountered. The discussion and exchange that ensued was mutually enriching.

The Study Tour is part of the process, which is being undertaken by Global Rights, Afghanistan to develop a three year Strategic Plan for women-led civil society organizations to carry out campaigns and advocate against domestic violence. The Afghan Women’s Network and the Advocacy Group organized by Global Rights Afghanistan, (most of whom are members of the Afghan Women’s Network) are working together to develop advocacy strategies to combat domestic violence at different levels. Women’s rights activists and women parliamentarians form an intrinsic part of these.

As a result of this exchange, the Study Group is interested in making linkages with UNIFEM Afghanistan and in using gender budgeting as a strategy to achieve gender equality.

 

 

20th August, 2008: The Ministry of Women and Child Development launched its National Media Campaign on the Girl Child, Nutrition and Domestic Violence  

The nationwide media campaign on the Girl Child, Nutrition and Domestic Violence was launched by the Honourable Minister, Ms. Renuka Chowdhury, Ministry of Women and Child Development (Independent Charge) Government of India, at a press conference at Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi on 20 August 2008. Mr. Anil Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Dr. Mrs. Kiran Chadha, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Director General of the Press Information Bureau, partners in the campaign, such as the Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity (DAVP), National Institute for Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCID), MMTC, Tuner International India Pvt. Ltd, UFO Moviez India Ltd, the Breakthrough Trust, UNICEF, UNFPA and UNIFEM, and members from the media, were present at the launch.  

UNIFEM provided the Ministry with two TV ads, one poster and pamphlets in four languages (English, Hindi, Kannada and Marathi). These materials form part of the “Bell Bajao” campaign seeking to end domestic violence and call upon society - including men – to ensure women live a violence-free life. “Bell Bajao” (Hindi, for the ring the bell) is an awareness and intervention campaign developed by our partner, the Breakthrough Trust, an international human rights organization that uses media, education and popular culture to promote values of equality and justice. The 360 degree media campaign - created pro bono by Ogilvy& Mather - uses TV, radio, print, mobile video vans and the Internet to get its powerful message across: to stop domestic violence and urge men and women to speak out against domestic violence. 

This Campaign has been developed as part of the UN Trust Fund grant - the Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women being a multilateral grant-making mechanism established by the UN General Assembly in 1996 to support local, national and regional efforts to end violence against women.

The Trust Fund, administered by UNIFEM, approved a grant to Breakthrough to use media and education as tools to reduce violence against women and build knowledge of women about their right to safe sex and residence in three states of India (UP, Maharashtra and Karnataka). This program aims to address the lack of awareness among women about the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.  

For more information on the “Bell Bajao” campaign and to see the TV spots, visit http://www.bellbajao.org/index.php

 

9th July, 2008, Kathmandu, Nepal:

Kathmandu — Hon’ble Pampha Bhusal, Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare, signed onto UNIFEM's Say NO to Violence against Women campaign at a ceremony on 9 July 2008 in Kathmandu, Nepal, during an interactive panel co-organized by UNIFEM and Saathi to share and disseminate the findings of the UN Secretary-General's Report on Violence against Women.

Minister Bhusal said in her remarks that she would provide her full support to legislation that promotes women's rights, including the Bill on Domestic Violence.

Special guest Ms. Nain Kala Thapa, Chairperson, National Women's Commission (NWC), said that it is important to redefine the status of the NWC as an autonomous body to ensure that women's rights issues are regarded as human rights issues. 

Dr. Arzu Deuba Rana, Member of the Constituent Assembly, chaired the session and expressed her satisfaction that violence against women is being recognized in Nepal as a violation of human rights. 

Present at the interactive panel were participants from the Government of Nepal, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, women's and human rights networks, and the media. 

For more information, please contact Ms. Sangeeta Thapa, sangeeta.thapa[at]unifem.org, +977 1 425-5110.

Ms. Bandana Rana, President,  Saathi; Hon’ble Arzu Rana Deuba, Member, Constituent Assembly; Ms. Nain Kala Thapa, Chairperson, National Women’s Commission; Hon’ble Pampha Bhusal, Minister, Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare; and Ms Sangeeta Thapa, UNIFEM Programme Coordinator, UNIFEM Programme Office Nepal,  signing on   “Say No to Violence”.

Ms. Bandana Rana, Presidnet,  Saathi; Hon’ble Arzu Rana Deuba, Member, Constituent Assembly; Ms, Nain Kala Thapa, Chairperson, National Women’s Commission; Hon’ble Pampha Bhusal, Minister, Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare; and Ms Sangeeta Thapa, UNIFEM Programme Coordinator, UNIFEM Programme Office Nepal hold the cards with signature for the UNIFEM’s Global Campaign on “Say No to Violence”

 

25th June, 2008, New Delhi: Round Table on Building Partnership with Men to Promote Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment:

The Round Table was jointly organized by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the National Institute of Public Policy and Child Development (NIPPCD) and UNIFEM with technical support by Aakar. The meeting was attended by a cross section of civil society including representatives from the women’s movement, representatives from NGOs and academia, lawyers, activists, medical professionals and groups working with men on gender issues.  

The introductory panel comprised of Ms. Renuka Chowdhury, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Women and Child Development, Dr. (Mrs.) Kiran Chadha, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ms. Sushma Kapoor, Deputy Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM South Asia and Mr. Rahul Roy from Aakar.

The conference was introduced as a platform, which could enable an exchange of experiences of different professionals, working towards partnering with men on gender issues.

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14 legislators of the Bihar Legislative Assembly, including the Speaker and the Chairperson of the Legislative Committee for the Welfare of Women and Children, endorsed UNIFEM’s Say NO to Violence against Women Campaign, at an interaction led by the UN in India.

 

15th – 16th May, 2008, Hyderabad: Second Regional Orientation Workshop on CEDAW & Gender Responsive Budgeting for the Southern States by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India

On 15th – 16th May, 2008, the Ministry for Women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India organized the second regional orientation workshop on “CEDAW: Reporting and Implementation and Gender Responsive Budgeting”, with technical support from UNIFEM.

 
 

Four state governments/Union territories from the southern region – Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry participated at the workshop held in Hyderabad. Aware that the Concluding Comments embrace departments and ministries other than the MWCD, officials representing various government departments had been invited and were present. These included Labour, Law, Women Development and Child Welfare, Social Welfare, Finance and Home. 

Recommendations to facilitate implementation of the CEDAW Concluding Comments (CC) included:

  • Organization of orientation/sensitization workshops for line ministries on CEDAW

  • Setting up an inter departmental review committee at the state level, led by the Chief Secretary

  • Development of a simple reporting format for state governments to report back on the implementation of the CEDAW Concluding Comments

 

Other suggestions included a call to:

  • Share key modules on gender equality on MWCD website
  • Undertake a review of the “women desks” in police stations – need for space (to address privacy and dignity of women victims/survivors of violence); toilet facilities
  • Address lack of budgetary allocations for implementation of EVAW legislations; lack of funds for free compulsory education for women especially for technical courses (gender sensitive rights based curriculum/family counselling)
  • Plan sensitization programmes for legislators/parliamentarians; judiciary at all levels
  • Set up separate/mobile courts to hear cases of VAW for speedy disposal of cases; stringent punishments for VAW cases to deter others
  • Increase the number of short stay homes – support services (counselling)
  • Support efforts to encourage women to join the police force
  • Enhance fee for free legal aid for women and ensure prompt payment for cases

With regard to promoting gender responsive budgeting as a tool for gender equality, in the session – ‘The Way Forward’, participants suggested:  

  • Organization of more workshops of this nature 
  • Development of a trainer’s programmes for officers from various key departments of the State Government and other key stakeholders
  • Making available a manual on gender budgeting and resource material for uniform understanding of concepts and tools.

 

6th – 9th April, 2008, Siliguri: Meeting on Trafficking, HIV, Labour and Migration: “Bringing the Centre to the People” and Building Positive Partnerships

The Meeting on Trafficking, HIV, Labour and Migration: “Bringing the Centre to the People” and Building Positive Partnerships was organized by ERTHNET and the Media Coalition, with UNIFEM support, in Siliguri, North Bengal. The meeting sought to initiate the process of bringing about social transformation, by bringing the centre to the people and making linkages between the issues of trafficking, HIV, labour and migration in relation to the socio-economic realities of the region. 

EHRTHNET (EASTERN HIMALAYA REGIONAL NETWORK AGAINST GENDER BASED VIOLENCE, TRAFFICKING & HIV/AIDS) is a Network of Networks, the formation of which was facilitated by UNIFEM. It comprises the National Media Coalition, Networks of national Civil Society Organizations, Legal Professionals' Network, the Corporate Sector and the Positive People's Network. It emerged through a common vision shared by development, media, legal and corporate professionals to work with the most marginalized communities and rights holders living in the far- flung hills and villages of those parts of India that have remained in the fringes of development.   

Delegates from diverse walks of life, working on a range of issues attended the meeting. These included representatives from tea management, trade unions and NGOs.  EHRTHNET was represented by members from ATSEC (India), ATSEC (Bihar), ATSEC (Jharkhand Chapter), ATSEC (Uttranchal), CBATN (Cross Border Ant-trafficking Network), Churches of North India (CNI), DJPN+, GOLD Eastern Himalayan Region, Impulse NGO Network, NCAT, NEDAN Foundation, NNLRJ (National Network of Lawyers for Rights and Justice), Rahi Foundation, Vikalpdhara, and Shakti Vahini. Government officials, advocates, representatives of trade unions and management of tea gardens, positive peoples’ representatives, activists, professionals and representatives of several NGOs participated.   

Members of Parliament, Dr. Arun Sharma from Assam, Mr. Nakul Das Rai from Sikkim and Mr. Dawa Narbula from Darjeeling and Ms. Manju Hembrun, Member National Commission for Women, were present.  

Dr. Ambumani Ramadoss, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare was the guest of honour. The Honourable Minister congratulated the National Media Coalition for bringing the centre to the people and for forming a bridge through the state government. All issues are linked, he said, and the Ministries of Home, Defence, Panchayati Raj, Labour and Commerce are all involved. He said that he would share his concerns and take the concerns voiced at the meeting back to the Centre. The Honourable Minister also visited the District Hospital in Darjeeling.

The meeting enabled diverse stakeholders to look at the cross-cutting issues of marginalization & vulnerabilities across labour/migration/trafficking/health & HIV/AIDS, tracing their inter-linkages, particularly in relation to the tea gardens. It provided a platform for local people and policy makers to inform each other and interact, as well as facilitated linkages and networking. Issues of poverty, unemployment, migration, use of drugs, hunger, health, particularly HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, gender based violence, trafficking for commercial sex work, domestic work and labour and child trafficking, were brought up and discussed. Lack of reliable data, weak implementation of existing laws, formulation of, or changing of current relevant laws, a lack of alternate livelihood options/ lack of training in other trades and lack of education, were some of the issues that were spotlighted for attention. Successful practices were shared.  

The Meeting was viewed as the beginning of a process of building up and not as one off event.  There was consensus that all stakeholders needed to work together and that these efforts needed to be coordinated. All the participants adopted the Accountability Charter, which calls for:

  • Engaging with the Government and local governance structures to advance gender equality, human rights and social protection
  • Combating human trafficking and forced migration – both across borders as well as internally
  • Reducing gender-based violence
  • Creating awareness towards reduction of HIV incidences
  • Ensuring care and support to survivors of violence
  • Ensuring care and support to Persons living with HIV and AIDS
  • Creating livelihood options at local levels and exploring market linkages
  • Facilitating safety nets against hunger, starvation and malnutrition, and displacements
  • Facilitating ground level voices at policy levels by supporting parparliamentary discussions and decisions around issues of gender, human rights and equality

The Charter complements and supplements existing laws. It is a voluntary charter and draws on a range of existing codes, norms, standards and guidelines. 

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17th – 19th January, 2008, New Delhi: The Sixth South Asia Regional Ministerial Conference: Commemorating Beijing was co-hosted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India and UNIFEM South Asia Office. The meeting was inaugurated by the Hon’ble President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil. Ms. Renuka Choudhury, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Women and Child Development (Independent Charge), Government of India, delivered the Welcome Address followed by remarks by H.E. Mr. Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji, SAARC Secretary General, and Ms. Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM South Asia. Hon Dr. Arfa Sayeda Zehra, Chairperson, National Commission on the Status of Women, Government of Pakistan, gave the vote of thanks. (Remarks listed below). The SAARC Secretary General launched the SAARC Gender Database at the inaugural session of the Conference.  

Ministers, Secretaries and Senior Officials of the Governments and SAARC Secretariat, women’s groups, NGOs, and researchers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, participated in the three-day discussions. This Ministerial level meeting is an effort to keep the spirit and momentum of 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) alive. These meetings are organized jointly every two years- a process facilitated by UNIFEM in collaboration with regional governments. 

The meeting focused on appraising the progress made by SAARC countries on the Beijing Platform for Action and the five areas - violence against women, economic and political empowerment of women, disaster preparedness and management, and health and education - which had been identified as areas of priority at the last Regional Ministerial Conference at Islamabad in 2005.  

Achievements were noted, gaps, challenges and opportunities were identified, and an action plan for a more effective implementation of the Beijing PFA, was formulated by governments and civil society to address key priorities of the region. These are laid out in the declaration, entitled, the India Forward Moving Strategies for Gender Equality 2008.  

  • This declaration has identified the following areas as priority for the next two years. 

  • To introduce mechanisms to ensure follow-up on the CEDAW Concluding Comments

  • To prevent violence against women and pursue gender sensitive enactments/amendments and implementation of existing end violence against women legislations (EVAW)

  • To strengthen women’s participation and leadership capacity in decision making at all levels

  • To promote  women’s economic security and rights

  • To ensure that women have the right to pass their nationality to their children

  • To protect the human rights of women in conflict and disaster situations and ensure the participation of women in peace and conflict resolution processes 

As is the practice of these conferences, regional sharing and learning was facilitated on CEDAW, gender responsive budgeting, the SAARC Gender Database, and the engendering of planning processes. Prof. Savitri Goonesekere presented a Paper on Gender Equality and Gender Justice with Ms. Indira Jaising as the discussant. A session was devoted to networks, which have emerged out of UNIFEM’s initiatives, to share their experiences. Thus, the Positive Women’s Network, Home Net South Asia/Pakistan,  Interfaith Leaders Network, MenEngage, Migrant Women Workers Network and the National Coalition of Media Persons, were there to present a first hand account of their respective networks.

The Government of Afghanistan has proposed to host the seventh Biennial Ministerial Conference in 2010.  

 

 

Welcome Remarks by Ms. Renuka Chowdhury, Honurable Minister, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India

 

Remarks

 

Remarks by Ms. Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM, South Asia Sub Regional Office

 

Remarks

 

Remarks by Mr. Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji,

Honourable SAARC Secretary General

 

Remarks

 

Inaugural address by Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, 

Hon’ble President of India

 

Inaugural address

 

INDIA FORWARD MOVING STRATEGIES FOR GENDER EQUALITY 2008

adopted at  “COMMEMORATING BEIJING” Sixth South Asia Regional Ministerial Conference 17-19 January 2008, New Delhi, India

 

Declaration