Dhaka, 18 October 2011: A regional conference on South Asia Women's Political Leadership ended in Dhaka today following three days of intensive discussion on issues related to women's empowerment in the socio-political arena. The closing ceremony was marked by a common declaration on Women's Political Leadership in South Asia which underlined the importance of the principles of diversity, non-discrimination and gender equality as basic human rights and recognised the need for continuing advocacy for change and networking in the region regarding role of women's participation in politics. The common declaration stressed on the need for sharing experience within the South Asian region and on strengthening the ability of women to contest and when elected take up public office positions.
Members of parliament from eight South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri- Lanka and Bangladesh), representatives from political parties, civil society and some of the world's leading gender experts from the region attended the conference to highlight continuing gender inequality in parliaments and potential solutions to these continuing trends.
Speaking at the closing ceremony the honourable deputy Leader of the House in Bangladesh Parliament, Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury said, "Awareness raising and education are critical to realize women's political empowerment at all levels from grassroots, civil society organizations to state institutions. There is no justice without equity and equality. This conference has gathered Members of Parliament, representatives of political parties, civil society organizations, the youth, all of whom I encourage to work together and use our strengths to promote inclusive and participatory processes where men and women shape political institutions on the basis of equality, democracy and justice."
"Through our support in promoting political voice, in economic empowerment of women, in social action and advocacy, the United Nations is always focused on building national capacities, on achieving results and reinforcing the availability of quality, gender- disaggregated data. In moving forward, UNDP will continue to work on strengthening women's political leadership both at the regional level, in the respective countries represented here, and in Bangladesh,' says Mr. Neal Walker, UN Resident Coordinator.
Three central issues highlighted by the participants were how to ensure that women have access to public life and decision-making positions, better guarantees that political systems provided open access to women and parliaments should be obliged to become more gender sensitive in their working environments. Participants at the conference stressed on the need for encouraging and engaging women in the decision making process within political and in democratic process. Delegates from the region agreed that more needs to be done to enforce the rights of women in equal representation in parliaments and encouraging female youth participation in the political process and ensuring politics is open to all. The Dhaka meet is a precursor to another major conference on deepening democracy to be held in the Maldives in 2012.
Honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Dipu Moni; Honourable State Minister for Women & Children Affairs, Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury; Honourable Chief Whip of the Opposition Mr. Zainul Abdin Farroque and Ms. Farah Kabir, Country Director, Action Aid Bangladesh were also present at the closing ceremony. The conference was organized by the Bangladesh Parliament with support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and in cooperation with the UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Centre.