United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

UNIFEM South Asia Regional Office

Press Release

Two-Day National Meet To Initiate NGOs in CR for Local Participation

5,000 Community Radio Stations in Two Years Possible, says Government

New Delhi, 6 March, 2007: 

The Government of India expects over 5,000 community radio stations to start functioning in the next two years as a result of the new policy that allows the voluntary sector to set up radio stations, said S K Arora, Secretary, Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, here today. 

“This is just the beginning,”  he said in his inaugural address at the two-day National Consultation for Practising and Potential Community Radio ointly organized by the I&B Ministry and the United Nations in India. 

The new community radio policy approved by the Government of India in 2006 provides NGOs with the platform to use this media tool to widen the scope of their work at the grassroots level in the areas of human development, poverty reduction, social justice and social action.   

“For years the NGOs have seen limited impact of their work in the absence of a medium that could enhance the effectiveness of their work”, he said. The secretary said that unlike most parts of the world, India provided a unique example where the non-governmental sector was working in tandem with the Government on common social objectives rather than occupy an adversarial space. “Such efforts will be further enhanced as community radio stations are set up across the country”, the secretary observed.   

Speaking on the occasion, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Dr. Maxine Olson, said the, “Radio as a medium of community communications reflects the responsiveness of the government to the voices of those who believe passionately in the power of community radio, she said. 

The UN system is finalizing its 5-year plan of support, the UN Development Assistance Framework. The central objective of UNDAF is  social, economic and political empowerment, and for this community radio is a powerful medium to reach the unreached. “Mass media is a powerful agent of public service and social change. The demand by communities currently using the radio as an autonomous medium is to be understood as a claim to manage and control their own communication medium,” Dr. Olson said. 

Community radio will be an important part of the UN strategy in the years to come, just as it has supported initiatives in India in the past. It has also supported the Government in drawing on the experience of those working at the grassroots to shape the new policy and make it more inclusive, Dr. Olson said. 

In his keynote address, Mr. W. Jayaweera, Director Development Communication, UNESCO emphasized the importance of community ownership and control if community radio has to truly emerge as an agent of social change at the grassroots level. Drawing attention to the various models of community radio functioning in other countries, Mr. Jayaweera said community radio is about harnessing the tremendous potential media can offer to engage people and change their lives. It is about ordinary people having a stake in the vast broadcasting landscape and becoming and accountable citizens. “Community broadcasters are like barefoot doctors. They have not taken the oath of Hippocrates but they won’t change any of the rules.” 

In her message, Ms. Jocelyne Josiah, Officer-in-Charge, UNESCO, Delhi, said the effectiveness of community radio stations and quality of interaction with listeners are improving continuously. Community radio and ICTs have exposed people to cyberspace through the Community Multimedia Centres that promote community empowerment and address issues related to the digital divide. 

UNESCO, Ms. Josiah said, has supported the establishment of community radio stations as a tool of development for more than 30 years. “This has resulted in the creation of community radio stations across the developing world.” 

Over 150 NGOs partners from various parts of the country are participating in the national consultation. Community Radio operators and experts from different parts of India, Philippines, Nepal and South Africa will share experiences on models of ownership and participation, community radio programming, social and financial sustainability, low cost solutions and informing sharing and capacity development for community radio. Senior representatives from UNESCO, UNDP, UNIFEM, UNICEF have played an important role in this two-day consultation.



13-15 November 2006, Kathmandu, Nepal

Building Positive Partnerships: Regional Interfaith Leaders’ Meeting and Partners’ Learning/Planning Workshop on Anti-Trafficking, Safe Migration, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and HIV

A South  Asia Level Consultation on Building Positive partnerships: Regional Interfaith Leaders Meeting and Partners' Learning/ Planning Workshop on Anti trafficking, Safe Migration, Gender based Violence (GBV) and HIV was inaugurated by the Honourable Minister Urmila Aryal, Ministry of Women and Children Social Welfare.

This meeting brought together 90 participants representing Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Nepal from various NGOs, networks, research organizations, media, and representatives of different faith based organizations. Participants shared their journey towards ending gender based violence with particular reference to trafficking, safe migration and HIV/AIDS.

Honourable Urmila Aryal, Minister, Ministry for Women and Children and Social Welfare in her Inaugural address said that “The religious lessons are always for the welfare of humans. She said that “Nepal is in a transitional phase, we are on the path to making a new Nepal. The issue of gender equality is very important and these things should be included in the new constitution”. She said that Nepal is in the process of drafting the New Constitution and said that the new constitution should address religious issues, and gender issues with much importance and should not leave anything out. The issue of trafficking – we are in the process of drafting the bill of trafficking of women and children which is in the Ministry of law for approval. We should have our bill passed from the parliament in the near future.

Ms Sangeeta Thapa, UNIFEM Programme Coordinator, UNIFEM Nepal welcomed the gathering by saying that the meeting was organized to share our six years of work on eliminating gender based violence focusing on trafficking, and  HIV/AIDS, and unsafe migration that has brought in new partnerships, innovative practices, amazing and unique networks, renewed enthusiasm and much more that we are proud of.

The Chairperson of the National Inter Religious Priest Forum Maulana Nawazish Ali, addressed the gathering by saying that people were born to help and serve each other and make a positive change. We are all making efforts to make a positive change. He said that the IRPF was established in Bihar and then Nepal adopted it and then in UP, Hastinapur. We are all people and we should have love within ourselves. Allah sent us for the welfare of human being.

Shri Manbendra Mandal, National Coordinator, ATSEC said that “IRPF is one of those activities/movements; where it has done a lot of applaud able work all over India, Nepal, Bangladesh and partly in Pakistan which is growing as a regional forum and in a few years it should be in all the countries of south Asia

Ms. Chandini Joshi, Regional Director, UNIFEM South Asia Sub Regional Office said “This is a unique moment in our history, where we have the leaders from various faiths and religions, media, Civil Society Organizations and stakeholders from across the spectrum gathered together on a common platform for the cause of women’s Human Rights and Human Security.”

She said that “UNIFEM has long realized the importance of working with several stakeholders, facilitating networks and alliances as issues concerning human rights and human security have multiple layers, multiple facets, multiple dimensions and multiple accountabilities. With this realization, we have felt the significance of faith in the lives of women and men.  The realm of faith reaches the very essence of existence.  It has the power to positively shape cultures, identities, mindsets and attitudes.  We believe that the reach of the faith fraternity amidst people, especially women, is something that will progressively create the sense of positive personhood thus contributing towards social learning, positive human relations, empathy and mutual awareness.” 

Ms Archana Tamang, Chief, Women’s Human Rights and Human Security Unit, UNIFEM South Asia Sub -Regional Office thanked all the participants for coming to Nepal and wished that in the coming three days the Consultation will discuss issues like Trafficking, gender based violence, HIV, safe migration, existing laws and policies, the inter-linkages between issues and come up with recommendations to take our Journey a Step ahead.

The three day consultation ended with the recommendation to Sensitize/influence policy reflecting gender based concerns of trafficking , safe migration, VAW , HIV; Orientation and capacity enhancement of media as opinion makers; Regional cross sharing of experience and skill development; Formation/ Strengthening of Regional, National and State/ District level inter-Religious Priests’ Forum (IRPFs); Networking and creation of linkages to different Stakeholders; Building and strengthening institutions for providing effective care and services for prevention of trafficking and reintegration of survivors; developing alternative options with proper market linkages.



New Delhi, August 29 - We, the voices of women united through the process of ‘Engendering the 11th Five-Year Plan’, are pleased to share our collective concerns, recommendations and deliberations with the Planning Commission members who we met with this morning of 29th August 2006. 

The Five-year planning process is the most critical policymaking instrument. It is the Five-Year Plan, which sets the development agenda, gives broad directions and defines priority areas. Therefore, it is essential that the policy documents and plans reflect the voices, concerns and perspectives of both women and men. Hence, engendering plans is critical. 

Women are major contributors to India’s economy. Their empowerment is essential for distributive justice as well as for the nation’s growth. Women are a major constituent of development. 

Engendering the nation’s development plan and processes means recognising that women and men are socialised differently. And, as gender is a macroeconomic variable, it needs to be incorporated into the growth model.  

Engendering the growth model means that women be perceived first, as producers of economic goods and second, of non-economic goods that contribute to development. The first implies recognition of women as producers of market goods and services and requires integrating male-female differences in their constraints and potential to development policies.  The second implies incorporating unpaid work as a macro economic variable, as it contributes to the well being of the population and in the formation of human capital. 

An engendered Plan would include a gender dimension in all macro policies – fiscal, trade, agriculture, industry, infrastructure, labour and employment. This can be achieved by incorporating the specific needs of women and men in policy design, implementation, and impact of these policies on them. 

Gender equality and gender justice must be articulated as a central goal of the 11th Five-Year Plan. The ultimate goal in gender equality is to ensure that women and men have equitable access to, and benefit from society’s resources, opportunities and rewards. And, as part of this, women need to have equal participation in defining what is valued and how this can be achieved.



Education Fund Association Baha’i Office for Advancement of Women United Nations Development Fund for Women

For immediate release
Date: 10th March 2006

 Local Women Honoured for Making Outstanding Contributions at an International Women’s Day Function organized by UNIFEM, AIWEFA and BOAW

New Delhi, 10 March 2006 — The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), All India Women’s Education Fund Association (AIWEFA) and the Baha’i Office for the Advancement of Women (BOAW) joined hands on 10th March to observe International Women’s Day. The Honourable Minister of State for the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ms. Renuka Chowdhury, was the Chief Guest.


The function included a Panel Discussion on the theme of the day, ‘women in decision-making: meeting challenges, creating change’, chaired by Dr. Sarala Gopalan, former Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development and Vice President, AIWEFA. Eminent panelists included, Ms. Zena Sorabjee, Chairman, BOAW, Dr. Rita Sarin, Country Director, The Hunger Project, Ms. Neena Khatri, CDPO Farrukhnagar, and Ms. Lata Yadav Grassroots Representative from the tribal area of Chhatisgarh.  

The highlight of the function was the presentation of the AIWEFA STREE RATNA AWARDs by the Honourable Minister, Ms. Renuka Chowdhury. Introducing the awards, Ms. Ranjini Sen, President of AIWEFA informed that AIWEFA instituted this award in recognition of the commitment of visionaries who have devoted their lives for the cause of freedom and justice. The award honours outstanding achievers for their advocacy in empowerment through education, health, nutrition and economic independence. 

The recipients of this award for 2005 are Smt Satya Rani Chadha and Mrs. Shahjahan Begum, known affectionately as Appa, both mothers of dowry victims, who came together in 1987 to set up Shakti Shalini. This is an organization, which supports women in crisis situations. They have set up a shelter home, mobilized public opinions against violence through morchas and rallies and have been instrumental, in not only in bringing about changes in the laws against dowry deaths, but also in setting up the "Crimes Against Women Cell".


Smt. Shahjahan Appa also raised the issue of atrocities against women at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in1995.            

In 2001 Smt. Satya Rani Chaddha, received the "Kannagi Stree Shakti Puraskar" for raising public consciousness against dowry torture and death. 

AIWEFA recognizes the effort of these two strong women who have led this march against atrocities despite their own lack of education, background of a conservative society and inadequate economic means. 

Smt. Suvidha Yadav, Sarpanch in Aklimpur Panchayat, Nimrana Panchayat Samiti District Alwar in the state of Rajasthan received the award for 2006. In her role as Sarpanch, Smt. Suvidha has been able to streamline the functions of the Panchayat and introduce accountability and time management in its day to day activities. Every facet of village life has received her attention. She has crusaded against child marriage, dowry system, sati pratha, mrityu – bhoj and alcoholism. She has encouraged schemes for drinking water availability, formation of self help groups and general promotion of health and housing. Her dedication to the community has won her the trust and confidence of the entire village and reaffirmed the people’s faith in the Panchayati Raj. 

The recipients of the award for previous years are:

2004: Ms.P. Kousalaya, President, Positive Women Network

2003: Dr.Seema Sakhare, Nagpur University

2002: Smt. Prema Narendra Purao, Annapurna Mahila Mandal 

All India Women’s Education Fund Association (AIWEFA) was established in 1929 by a group of visionary women, who realized that the only route to Indian women’s emancipation was through education. These visionaries were Lady Dorothy Irwin, Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur, Sarojini Naidu, Aruna Asaf Ali and others. They comprehended the vast distance and disparity in their lives and those of millions of average Indian women who led a subjugated life. Education and employment were recognized as the catalytic tools for empowerment. In 1932 with the establishment of the Home Science College, Lady Irwin College, AIWEFA sought to inculcate a ‘scientific outlook’ in the women, develop their inherent capacities and enable them to apply the science of living to the individual, the home and the community. 

The Baha’I Office for the Advancement of Women in India, is an Agency of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India. Equality between men and women, entailing full and equal participation of women in “all fields of human endeavour” is a cardinal principle of Bahá’í belief. Consequently, the Bahá’í community throughout the world is constantly striving to improve the status of women at all levels of society. The Bahá'í office for the Advancement of Women was established in 1995.  

The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) is the women's fund at the United Nations. Established in 1976, it provides financial and technical assistance to innovative approaches aimed at fostering women's empowerment and gender equality. UNIFEM also helps make the voices of women heard at the United Nations — to highlight critical issues and advocate for the implementation of existing commitments made to women. 

Media Contacts

UNIFEM: Gita Gupta                  24604351/24698297; Fax: 24622136

Email : gita.gupta@unifem.org

AIWEFA: Asha Chandra             23318376, Telefax: 23736922     

Email: aiwefa@nda.vsnl.net.in 

BOAW: Nalina Jiwnani               23389326, Telefax: 23070513

Email: opi@bahaindia.org



12th May 2005

                          Press Release

The three-day regional conference, ‘Development Effectiveness through Gender Mainstreaming: Lessons Learnt in South Asia’, concluded today in the capital. Jointly organized by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the conference sought to advocate for a more effective implementation of development policies and programmes designed to reduce gender inequality and rural poverty in South Asian countries. The conference was inaugurated by Shri Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairperson, Planning Commission, Government of India and was closed by Dr Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission.

One hundred and twenty policy makers, practitioners, researchers, community leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Fiji, India, Kyrgystan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka emphasized the need to build lives free from want, fear and discrimination. The conference focused on a gamut of issues, which included: effectiveness of financial services, micro-finance and beyond and women’s role as leaders and agents of transformation; human security and social cost of gender-specific violence; the existing marginal representation of women in community management, in local and national governance;  women’s right to land, assets, and other productive resources and its impact on gender relations and increased productivity; role of women in conflict prevention and their agency in building peace; and gender indicators of equality, inclusion and poverty reduction.

Key recommendations from the Conference called for:

·       Addressing women’s land, property and inheritance rights in the context of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

·       Providing conditions of ‘decent work’ for women in the formal and informal sectors by reducing women’s vulnerabilities especially structural violence against women and enhancing women’s individual and collective empowerment, political voice and representation

·       Expanding the existing indicators of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to capture the different dimensions of gender equality, such as poverty reduction.  For example, the indicators for gender are limited to maternal health and education

·      Using a rights-based framework, transforming the ways in which adequate resources are provided, capacities built and women inclusive institutions promoted

·      Encouraging men to redefine masculinity and power relations and influencing cultural norms in order to ensure women’s rights.

·      Providing health, education and other public facilities, particularly, in remote and marginal areas

·       Ensuring access of women to empowering tools, including all technologies and ICT

·       Enhancing livelihoods and strengthening assets beyond income and savings to areas such as insurance, capabilities, security and social inclusion

·      Promoting women’s human security through diverse partnerships, including with men to address masculinity and its links to violence

·       Increasing investment in capacity building, referral services and support structures for women affected by violence and reducing risks to forced migration, trafficking and HIV/AIDS

·      Promoting affirmative action on the basis of substantive equality for gender responsive governance

·      Strengthening political voice and citizenship rights of all women

·      Strengthening access and benefit sharing rights of indigenous peoples, especially women of bio-diverse resources

·       Allocating resources to improve labour conditions and social security for formal and informal workers

·      Developing gender sensitive indicators for appropriate monitoring and evaluation frameworks

·       Recognizing and implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325

·      Ensuring women remain integral to peace negotiations, building, and reconstruction processes

·      Using and monitoring early warning systems.


10th May 2005 

                          PRESS RELEASE  

“Gender needs to be embedded in policies and programmes”, said Shri Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairperson Planning Commission, Government of India, in his special address today, at the inaugural of the three-day Regional Conference on Development Effectiveness through Gender Mainstreaming’. A conference jointly hosted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), it is being held at the Le Meridien Hotel, in New Delhi.

Shri Ahluwalia emphasized that gender balancing is not sufficiently mainstreamed and that the issue of gender goes beyond poverty. “It is generally recognized that there is a serious problem with regard to gender equality,” he said. He put a great deal of weight on the institutionalization of the Panchayati Raj Institutions and said that statistical evidence showed that Panchayats headed by women are more effective. Lauding innovations like self help groups, he said they are like a movement, which are creating social change and leading to transformation in terms of empowerment and taking life into their own hands. Attitudinal transformation, he commented, was more important than economic returns.

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, UNIFEM, delivering the keynote address at the Conference, said that 2005 is a year for reflection and moving forward….and that there is a need to accelerate change. Highlighting the importance of gender equality, Dr. Heyzer stated, “The costs of gender inequality are far too high to ignore. By not addressing gender inequality, we are re-generating poverty”.  Advocating the need for going beyond the micro-credit framework, she emphasized the need to focus on how the macro-economic frameworks address the issue of the poorest women.

Touching on the area of responsibilities in development, Dr. Heyzer felt that gender equality is the responsibility of all partners, including the private sector. “The development effectiveness framework needs to address inclusion and marginalization and link human security and rights”. Focusing on the agency of women and girls, she said that there is a need to build a community of gender advocates, as well as a need to build partnerships and leadership at the highest level, focusing on action and the implementation of policies and programmes. “Development effectiveness is an act of transformation to end violence, poverty and discrimination”, she said.

Dr. Lennart Bage, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in his inaugural address said that when there is gender inequality, women do not reach their full potential. This, he commented, led to persistent poverty. Speaking

about the Conference, he said it was both timely and topical, and that there was a need to work together with different mandates and experiences. “The Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) is a milestone in recent history. This was reconfirmed at the 10 year review of the BPFA at the meeting of the Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are also re-enforcing this vision.” For poverty reduction, promoting the empowerment of women is critical, he stressed.

In his address at the inauguration, Dr. Rohinton Medhora, Vice President, IDRC, pointed out that growth in itself did not guarantee gender equality. In fact, according to him, changes in technology and structures of society impact women, with negative impacts some times, as in the case of technological advances, which have contributed to ‘missing women’.

Commenting on the theme of the Conference, Dr Medhora stated that there were traditionally two reasons: the utilitarian and the ethical humanist reason. The strength of the capabilities approach, he said, is that it does not separate these two. In the region, which has practically invented it, it is important to further flesh it out, in order to take the development effectiveness a step further. As a development research organization, IDRC is especially interested in these issues and is in the process of strengthening its gender programming. 

Commenting on the joint initiative, Ms. Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM, said that the Conference “reflects not only an excellent partnership between the agencies but also a common and shared concern, as well as commitment towards reducing gender inequality and poverty.” She highlighted the fact that there was a need to learn lessons from practices, which have worked and which have not, and upscaling successful modules. The Conference, she said, was in response to the concerns of rural women, who face poverty and inequality on a daily basis.

Dr. Ganesh Thapa, Regional Economist, Asia and Pacific Division of IFAD gave the vote of thanks.

Over the next three days, the Conference will focus on diverse issues. These include: effectiveness of financial services, micro-finance, women’s agency and beyond micro-finance; human security and social cost of gender-specific violence; the existing marginal representation of women in community management, in local and national governance;  women’s right to land, assets, and other productive resources and its impact on gender relations and increased productivity; role of women in conflict prevention and their agency in building peace; and gender indicators of equality, inclusion and poverty reduction.


9th May 2005

                                               PRESS RELEASE

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) are jointly organizing a three-day conference in New Delhi, beginning tomorrow at the Le Meridien Hotel.

The regional conference, entitled ‘Development Effectiveness through Gender Mainstreaming’, will take place on 10th -12th May. The major goal of the conference is to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were adopted by 189 nations at the Millennium Summit in New York in 2000. It seeks to advocate for a more effective implementation of development policies and programmes designed to reduce gender inequality and rural poverty in South Asian countries.

The majority of states in South Asia have not been effective in giving operational value to their policy initiatives/ changes and sectoral strategies. South Asian countries have an HDI value of 0.584 and GDI value of 0.535, which is 99 points lower than the average for developing countries (UN/HDR 2002). This is exacerbated in most cases by unequal allocation of food, lower wage rates, and lack of property/ inheritance rights of women and token or at best marginal representation in national parliaments and administrative bodies of governance. Despite numerous cases of success in managing the village level governance and micro-finance or self-help groups (SHGs), rural women of South Asia have significantly less access than men to livelihood resources, assets, health care, education, technology and community management. The most extreme form of gender inequality is the fact that over 79 million women are “missing” in South Asia, largely due to familial neglect of girls, sex-selective abortions, social practices like dowry, property related murders, ‘honour killings’, acid throwing and trafficking in women and girls.

The main objectives of the Conference are:


  • To assess progress towards gender equality and rural poverty reduction, based on case studies and analysis of experiences of rural women (and men) in the projects/ programmes of IFAD, UNIFEM, IDRC, other multilateral or bilateral agencies, women's organizations, NGOs, community-based organizations in South Asian countries;
  • To strengthen advocacy networks, local and regional partnerships of policy makers, practitioners, and scholars for promotion and implementation of gender equality and poverty reduction in rural areas; and
  • To identify policy options which governments can consider in mainstreaming gender in development programmes for the achievement of MDGs.


Participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka will be attending the Conference. Observers from China, Kyrgyztan and Fiji Islands will also be present. Delegates to the Conference include political leaders, parliamentarians, senior policy makers, representatives of civil society and academic institutions, heads of international and donor agencies, outstanding indigenous women and women peace activists from the eight South Asian countries.




PRESS NOTE – 2 May 2005


The Fifth South Asia Regional Ministerial Conference

3-5 May 2005, Islamabad, Pakistan


v In 1995 the Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing where world leaders from 189 countries promised equality and gender justice to the world’s women, making a commitment to undertake concrete actions towards it. Over 40,000 women and men from around the world worked together to develop a global action plan - the Beijing Platform for Action, which has become the base document for measuring progress on gender justice and women’s empowerment.

v The South Asia region has been witness to a unique accountability mechanism. Governments and civil society have very successfully deployed regional review mechanisms, as a strategy to address the BPFA and CEDAW. These participatory and transparent review meetings between Governments and women’s groups have entailed a process of cross regional peer learning and sharing of best practices, introspection, gap identification, addressing challenges and developing a common South Asia agenda of priorities for action.

v In an effort to keep the spirit and momentum of Beijing alive as also to review progress in the region, UNIFEM-South Asia Regional Office in collaboration with the host governments has been organizing South Asia Regional Ministerial conferences to commemorate Beijing. So far 4 such conferences have been held in Delhi in September 1996, in Kathmandu in 1998, in Bandos Island, Madives in 2000 and in Paro Bhutan in 2003.

v “Celebrating Beijing Plus Ten”- the Fifth South Asia Regional Ministerial Conference, is being co-hosted by the Ministry of Women’s Development, Government of Pakistan and UNIFEM South Asia Regional Office, from the 3-5 May 2005, at the Marriott Hotel, in Islamabad.

v This Conference acquires special significance since 2005 marks the tenth anniversary of the historic Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing.

v This conference will review progress and strategize on some critical concerns related to gender equality namely: Gender, livelihoods and resources; The varied contours of violence against women in South Asia; and Women’s representation, leadership and effectiveness. The conference will also share best practices on Engendering MDGs, PRSPs and linking BPFA, MDG & CEDAW.

v At the end of the Conference, delegates will draft and adopt recommendations / forward moving plan and strategies on crucial gender issues affecting women across countries in the region for the next two years. This declaration will be shared in the ECOSOC process and through it into the five-year review of the MDGs in September 2005.

v The delegates will be from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Ministers in charge of Women’s Development from each of these countries will be leading their delegations. The SAARC Secretary General will also be attending the Conference. Other delegates include Secretaries of the Ministries of Women’s Affairs, senior officers, civil society through women’s organizations from the region, elected women’s representatives and gender experts.

v On the 2nd May 2005, the Ministry of Women Development, Government of Pakistan and The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding, in keeping with the spirit of cooperation between the Government of Pakistan and UNIFEM South Asia Regional Office over the years and recognizing the Ministry of Women Development as the national machinery for the advancement of women within the Government of Pakistan and the role of UNIFEM as a catalytic agent for promoting gender equality within the United Nations.

To achieve the goals set out in the MOU, UNIFEM will set up an office in Islamabad, Pakistan and provide technical assistance and support through innovative initiatives to mainstream gender across sectors, plans, policies and programmes, with a view to reducing feminized poverty and exclusion through the realization of women’s human rights and human security.




‘16 days of Activism Against Gender Based  Violence’ –

Campaign to be launched 25 November


New Delhi 21 November 2003 : The ‘16 days of Activism Against Gender  Based Violence’, is a global campaign that UNIFEM, South Asia , has been spearheading since 1998. Five years later, in 2003, UNIFEM has globally and regionally taken stock of the response of governments and other institutions to this mounting concern.

A South Asian Report called ‘Say No to Gender-Based Violence’ has revealed that no country in South Asia has successfully legislated on the concern of domestic violence. “It has been perceived by lawmakers to be a private matter that must be left alone,” says the report.

In the South Asian region the picture is stark, with the prevalence of domestic violence ranging from 50 per cent in India to 80 per cent in Pakistan. Even more disturbing are the culture-specific forms of violence peculiar to this region such as honour killings, acid attacks, stove burning and sati.

Ms. Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM, South Asia, stated that “In today’s context, when the world is witnessing unprecedented violence and strife, we see the Campaign as an opportunity to collectively reflect, take stock, extend our solidarity to the many women and men who have been caught in the crossfire of violence, conflict and marginalisation and renew our commitment to building a civil society where women and men are equal.”

The Campaign is aimed at mobilising and drawing attention to the disturbing fall-out and linkage with issues such as trafficking of women, mental health, HIV/AIDS, the socialisation of men and its day-to-day impact on the increasing and unacceptable levels of violence experienced by women across communities and strata. According to Sunita from Shaktishalini, “My association with the Campaign goes back to the days when I was recovering from the trauma of violence. It has a deep personal meaning for me. Today, I have become a survivor with a cause. I support many women in the community who are going through a similar ordeal.”

The fortnight-long Campaign, from 25 November to 10 December, is marked by a series of events including launch of publications and posters, photo-exhibitions and film screenings.  The highlight of the Campaign is ‘Project Touch’ a day-long workshop where children from about 20 Delhi schools will play with different mediums and art forms to depict violence. To be held on 6 December at the Crafts Museum, the workshop is aimed at sensitising adolescents towards elimination of gender-based violence.

Four publications including a study on human rights violations against women living with HIV/AIDS will be launched on 25 November. A panel discussion that follows will be chaired by Dr Poornima Advani, Chairperson, National Commission for Women. On 28 November, films exploring different forms of violence against women and changing gender identities in the family against the backdrop of globalisation are being screened. The panel discussion that follows the screenings will be chaired by Ms Kasturi Gupta Menon, Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development. A photo-exhibition on masculinity norms is also being organised.

For more information please contact Gita Gupta, Information Officer, UNIFEM, at 24698297, 24604351; Sandhya Mohan, CFAR, at 26229631, 26430133, 9891317777.


Contact:         Sandhya Menon, Deepa, Rizwan Parwez at nos. 011-26292787, 26430133, 26229631, Mobile 9891317777, 9810415066


Combating Violence Against Women

Voices from the Ground

New Delhi , 25 November 2003 : Speaking on the event Information is Power, Ms. Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM, spoke about the “invisible human cost of gender-based violence”. The key challenge, she stated, is to “move the issue from awareness that it is a human rights violation and a crime, to making it socially unacceptable and counter to community norms”.  

As part of the 16 Days’ of Activism Campaign, UNIFEM today released five publications and posters, part of the Information is Power, on Violence Against Women (VAW) and related issues. The books and posters explore various facets of violence, the mechanisms at the regional, national and personal level to deal with violence and help women to overcome it.

1.   Say NO to gender based violence: Responses from South Asia, Anuradha Rajan

2.   The Sounds of Silence, A Manual For Forming Therapeutic Relationships, Dr. Achal Bhagat, Saarthak

3.   My Voice Shall Be Heard: Muslim Women in India 2003, Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, Muslim Women’s Forum

4.   Positive Speaking: Voices of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, Positive Women’s Network and Centre for Advocacy and Research

5.   From Violence to Supportive Practices: Family, Gender and Masculinities in India , Department of Sociology, Delhi University


Violence Against Women in South Asia

      In the report Say NO to gender based violence: Responses from South Asia , Anuradha Rajan, highlights that the Constitutions of Pakistan, India , Nepal and Bangladesh recognise women as equal citizens and uphold equal protection before the law. However, these are yet to translate into gender-just laws and policies.

 ·    Legislation on VAW reflects the strong patriarchal bias in the region. For instance, the issue of domestic violence is not addressed, as it is perceived by lawmakers to be a “private matter”.

 ·    Issues like dowry, cruelty to married women, trafficking, polygamy, rape of minors have been addressed through legislations. Statutory women’s commissions in India and Pakistan have reviewed discriminatory laws and suggested changes to make them gender-just. All the countries, except Nepal , have ratified CEDAW, with reservations.

·    “The legal systems are plagued by inaccessibility and strong gender biases.” A study on judicial attitudes to women in India found that 48 percent of judges agreed that it was justifiable for a man to slap his wife on certain occasions; 74 percent endorsed that preservation of family should be the primary concern for women, even within a violent marriage.

·    Women’s networks on VAW have been formed to combat cross-border trafficking. UNIFEM has initiated two regional networks, South Asia Forum Against Human Trafficking (SAFAHT) and South Asia Professionals Against Trafficking (SAPAT).

Trauma Care: Coping with Adolescent Concerns

A disturbing trend in trafficking in recent years has been the fact that the young, vulnerable adolescent girls are falling prey to traffickers. Saarthak, in its manual for forming therapeutic relationships The Sounds of Silence, outlines skills for people interacting with survivors of trafficking.

This tool outlines the framework and skills for establishing a rapport with the survivor and enabling her to make choices on her own. The manual deals with “the four different and parallel responses of anger, anxiety, understanding and detachment”.

The manual points out the main components as:

  • Create safe boundaries, as it is difficult for a survivor to trust a stranger.

  • Enable the victim to understand that what happened was not her fault.

  • Listen to the survivor.

  • Enable them to regain control over their lives and learn strategies to deal with anxiety-provoking thoughts.

Public Hearing: Voices of Muslim Women

 At a public hearing in Kozhikode , Kerala, Noorjahan-Nilambur speaks out:

“I was married nine years ago and have two children. When I was pregnant with my second child my husband left me. I filed a case but he did not appear in court. The police arrested him but released him the second day. He was fined Rs. 4,500 and he agreed to look after the family. But he did not return. To date none of my dowry has been returned.”

Noorjahan is one of the 65 million Muslim women in the country who face the “double disadvantage”. Like women from other communities, they face problems of livelihood, education, health care, housing and poverty. Due to the biased interpretation of the Muslim Personal Law by sections of their own community, they face problems of polygamy, triple Talaq among other practices

under the Shariat law, which discriminate against gender.

Based on public hearings at Chennai, Kozhikode, Kolkata, Tezpur, Bijnore and Delhi, the Muslim Women’s Forum has brought out the report My Voice Shall Be Heard: Muslim Women in India 2003. The Report also compares women’s rights under Shariat to those under CEDAW.

 Positive Speaking: Voices of Women Living with HIV/AIDS

I have decided to take my life in my own hands and earn to feed myself. I have also decided not to let my brothers and sisters take away what is my share. I have been doing self disclosure counselling at the hospital ... because I want to help others like me,” 28 year old Sindhu, a woman living with HIV.

The study on Positive Speaking: Voices of women living with HIV/AIDS documents powerful voices of women like Sindhu fighting against the burden of stigma and discrimination, caring for their families and contending with life after widowhood.

I also suffered a lot of discrimination in the government hospital. The sweepers and ward boys wore extra gloves when they had to do anything for me and kept staring at me. Even the doctors and nurses from other departments came and looked at me. They talked in English and I knew it was because of my status. My case file also had HIV written on it and I was kept in a separate room. “”My parents also mentioned my status to his family and told them their son was responsible. They said - we know exactly what is wrong with out son and we have got the right medicines for him. He is going to be okay.”

Shobha 28

The Positive Women’s Network in collaboration with the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) documented  21 testimonies of women living with HIV/AIDS in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It also obtains key inputs from 55 stakeholders who are managing the response at the ground level.

The individual testimonies reflect four dominant concerns:

1.         Unacceptable levels of gender disparity and acute deprivation and discrimination as a girl child.

2.         Denial of the basic right to live a life of dignity, subjected to domestic violence and abuse.

3.         No guaranteed access to services in the area of information, counselling and health care.

4.         Denial of legal rights such as right to property, lack of right to entitlements and benefits.

“When my son tested positive, they asked us to leave the hospital.” Sarswati, a 35 year old woman living with HIV.

Partnering with Men to End Violence

In this vicious cycle of violence, it would be wrong to premise that men are always perpetrators. In fact, it is increasingly becoming evident that to break this cycle of violence against women, men have to be made equal partners in the process and as part of the solution.

As part of this debate, UNIFEM led an Inter-agency Campaign to eliminate gender-based violence in the South Asia region in 1998 focussed on the behaviour and attitudes that enhances violence.

A research initiative, From Violence to Supportive Practices: Family, Gender and Masculinities in India in partnership with the Department of Sociology, University of Delhi, explored supportive practices of men directed towards other men, their families and the larger community. The exhibition on Men and Masculinities was organised using the written text of the research project and its visual documentation.

The Research indicates that

1.   Within the family, the process of fathering is not limited to the biological father, but is also transferred to other male kin like uncles, brothers.

Idrees Ahmad who runs a business in Old Delhi acted like a father to his younger brothers, helping them establish their shops and setting up business (karobaar jamaana). Farhan, Idrees Ahmed’s nephew replicates neither the father nor the father’s elder brother’s work but rather takes after his mother’s brother and established a saadekaari workshop.

 2.   Men employed as male domestic workers are willing to take up even ‘woman’s work’ for the sake of the family.

“Yeh to aurat ka kaam hai. Ladki ka kaam. Aadmi ka nahin. Kya karna ... majboori mein karna padta hai.” (This is a woman’s work. A girl’s, not a man’s … But what to do, under compulsion one has to do it.)

3.   Some men who are employed as male beauty parlour workers express their desire to perform work that extends care through the skill of their hands.

“I am a good shoemaker (like my father) and I still do some shoemaking. But my real “shauk” or desire is to be able to look in the mirror,” says Mustaqque, male beautician.

The focus of the research is made visible in the photographs. It conveys through the dialogue of the text, the quote and the photograph the different social, cultural and economic process through which masculinities and maleness are constructed.


                                               Press Release

Project Touch

Date: December 6, 2003 

Time:  9.30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.    

Venue: Crafts Museum, Bhairon Road, New Delhi

Project Touch is an effort to sensitise and create awareness and consciousness among school going children on different forms of violence against women. Students from eighteen schools in Delhi will be involved in executing art work based on a series of interactions and experiences. The project will focus on the following forms of violence against women:

  •    Trafficking in women and children,

  •    Domestic violence

  •    Violence against women in public spaces


Why sensitise adolescents?

Because they are confident, articulate and are individuals who are sensitive to the socio-political context and are capable of bringing social changes. We need to hear their voices. They have all the potential of influencing government polices towards such crime and injustice.

Project Touch is part of the global campaign - Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence – that is observed from November 25 to December 10 (Human Rights Day).

UNIFEM through a series of events in collaboration with partners, allies and supporters has tried to focus attention to the urgent need to continue the struggle to free women from violence.

UNIFEM is organising the workshop TOUCH with children in collaboration with Mr. Probir Gupta, an eminent artist from Delhi. Mr. Gupta whose works have focused mainly on human rights violations, has conducted five consecutive workshops on visual arts. These have mainly dealt with designing, drawing, painting, sculpture and collage.

Participating schools:

The following schools are participating in the workshop:

Apeejay School 

Birla Vidya Niketan

Blue Bells School

Cambridge School

Delhi Public School

Fr. Agnel School

G.D. Goenka Public School

Kendriya Vidyalaya, JNU

KendriyaVidyalaya, Tuglakabad


Mother’s International school


Rai School

Ryan International School

Sanskriti School

Sardar Patel Vidyalaya

Shri Ram School

St. Mary School

Vasant Valley


Prominent groups like Alarippu and Anhad will be performing street plays during the course of the day.


For Immediate Release

10th December 2003 – UNIFEM wins AGFUND’s international prize

- Women migrant workers’ issues get recognized

United Nations Development Fund for Women, Delhi – The UNIFEM Regional Programme on Empowering Women Migrant Workers in Asia is the recipient of the International prize (first category) for Pioneering Development Projects of the Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations (AGFUND). 

His Royal Highness Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, President of AGFUND presented the international prize to Ms. Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM South Asia Regional Office, at a formal ceremony today in New Delhi.  Ms. Joshi was receiving the prize on behalf of Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UNIFEM.

While accepting the honour, Ms. Joshi complimented AGFUND and the patronage of His Royal Highness, in promoting people centred development. In her acceptance speech, Ms. Joshi traced UNIFEM’s journey on its work on Migrant Women Workers in the Asia Pacific region, highlighting the factors that catalyzed the project and the features that have contributed to its strengths. She dedicated the prize to Migrant Women Workers of the region, attributing the success of the programme to the committed team of partners in various government departments, research institutions, media groups, non-governmental and civil society organizations.  These, she said, have been instrumental, in not only visibilizing critical human rights issues of migrant women workers, but also in facilitating policy and programmatic changes. Delineating other factors, which have contributed to its success, Ms. Joshi noted that the programme was formulated through a consultative and participatory process involving all stakeholders, using an integrated and holistic approach.  The program, she said, sought to view the whole issue, not from a vulnerability perspective, but from a rights-based one, using an empowerment approach.

In Asia, women’s economic migration has exceeded the numbers of male migrants. Yet, despite their economic and social contribution to their home and host countries, women face discrimination at every stage of the migration cycle and are vulnerable to multiple human rights violations.

UNIFEM’s intra-regional programme, Empowering Women Migrant Workers, is active in the Philippines, Indonesia, Jordan and Nepal. It has focused on policy advocacy to develop new and strengthen existing legal protections for women migrant workers.  

In Nepal, a major breakthrough was achieved through His Majesty’s Government of Nepal incorporating the concerns of women migrant workers into the country’s Tenth National Plan. Most significantly, the Government lifted the ban on female migration to the Gulf countries, in the organized sector. Early this year, the Minister of Labour and the Cabinet made a public commitment to promote safe migration through various measures. These include, making pre-departure orientation mandatory, creating a migrant worker welfare fund, establishing embassies in countries which have large numbers of Nepali migrant workers, classifying foreign employment as a service industry, establishing a labour desk at the Kathmandu Airport, and making efforts to arrive at bi-lateral agreements with receiving countries in the Gulf region.  The Government has recently initiated efforts to review their Foreign Employment Act and develop a sex disaggregated national migration database.

In Jordan, focusing on women’s rights, UNIFEM has facilitated efforts by the Ministry of Labour and NGOs to develop a Minimum Standard Contract for Migrant Domestic Workers. The contract, which is the first of its kind in Jordan, and a model for other countries in the region, was endorsed by the Ministry of Labour in January this year. The contract covers migrant worker’s rights to life insurance, medical care, rest days, timely payment of wages, employers bearing the travel and work permit costs, end of service agreements, and the right to be treated in a humane way in compliance with international human rights standards. In addition, Jordan has amended the labour law to reformulate regulations for recruitment agencies with an emphasis on their obligations to the government, the employer and worker.  

In Indonesia, where most migrant workers are women, UNIFEM is facilitating the incorporation of gender and rights-based inputs into the country’s draft Migrant Workers Bill.

In the Philippines, UNIFEM is supporting a pilot project that highlights the importance of secure and productive investment by migrant workers, and facilitates the channelling of their savings into more lucrative and safe investments.

At the global level, UNIFEM is lobbying for a more effective application of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to address the concerns of women migrant workers. To promote regional learning and cooperation on safe migration, UNIFEM, in collaboration with the Government of Indonesia has organized a high level meeting in Jakarta. Representatives of government and non-government organizations from Bahrain, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Jordan, Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka are attending this meeting.

UNIFEM will continue its work to promote safe migration for women migrant workers. It appeals to all sending and receiving countries to strengthen their efforts to promote and protect the rights of women migrant workers and to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

For further information on the conference and story/interview opportunities relating to the conference please contact: Chandni Joshi, Regional Program Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM),  E-mail:mailto:E-mail:chandni.joshi@undp.org