The South Asian Network of Women Parliamentarians and Secretariat at the Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST)/BRAC Development Institute
First Meeting of the South Asian Regional Network of Women Parliamentarians
25-27 February, 2013, Hilton Colombo, Sri Lanka
The first regional meeting of the South Asian Regional Network of Women Parliamentarians was held from 25-27 February 2013 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The meeting discussed regional priorities of the Network concerning women's political participation, violence against women, and implementation of all UNSC Conventions related to VAW. The aim of the Network is to increase national and regional cooperation between women parliamentarians for strengthening women's role in national governance. The South Asian Regional Network of Women Parliamentarians was set up in July 2012 at the Regional Conference of Women Parliamentarians in Bangladesh to promote a stronger role for women in national governance in South Asian nations.
At the three-day long meeting, the MP focal points of the Network from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; Sri Lankan women members of parliamentarians and officials from various ministries of the Government of Sri Lanka, were present. The Honourable Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sumedha Jayasena graced the meeting. The Secretary General of the Parliament of Sri Lanka Mr. Dhammika Dassanayake gave a special address at the opening session. The honourable MP focal points from the South Asian region adopted the Colombo Declaration on Women's Political Participation. They also elected Honourable Rosy Senanayeke, MP from Sri Lanka and Honourable Rasheda Begum Hira, MP from Bangladesh, as spokespersons of the Network on violence against women. Over the next year, the Network will work on implementing the country action plans formulated last year. They will also endeavor to implement the regional action plan, which focuses on increasing women's political participation and advocating steps for preventing violence against women across the region.
The meeting was organized by the South Asian Regional Secretariat of Women Parliamentarians (SARSWP) housed at the Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST) at the BRAC Development Institute (BDI), BRAC University, Bangladesh. SARSWP is supported under the USAID & UKaid funded Promoting Democratic Institutions and Practices (PRODIP) program implemented by The Asia Foundation (TAF) and the State University of New York, Centre for International Development (SUNY/CID).
First Meeting of the South Asian Regional Network of Women Parliamentarians
The First Meeting of the South Asian Regional Network of Women Parliamentarians, being held 25-27 February 2013 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This is taking place under the under the USAID and UK-Aid funded Promoting Democratic Institutions and Practices (PRODIP) program implemented by The Asia Foundation and the State University of New York, Centre for International Development (SUNY/CID) facilitated by the Centre for Gender and Social Transformation/BRAC Development Institute.
Under the same initiative the first conference "Women Leading for Gender Responsive Governance" was held in Dhaka on 8-11, 2012 which brought together 73 women parliamentarians and development partners from South Asia. During this conference woman members of Parliament (MPs) launched a new regional network among women parliamentarians to strengthen their role to lead representational democracies. The Secretariat is functioning as a regional hub to coordinate activities to support South Asian women MPs in establishing a more effective and informative network, and to strengthen their role in policy making. The South Asian Regional Secretariat for Women Parliamentarians (SARSWP) has already developed a regional action plan based on the inputs received from the participating countries.
During the Colombo meeting the South Asian women MPs will exchange experiences in priority areas including ensuring greater political participation of women; implementation of UNSCR 1325; formulation and implementation of legislation on violence against women and discuss strengthening regional cooperation and coordination through possible regional mechanisms for ensuring women rights.
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In preparation for the conference South Asian Regional Secretariat for Women Parliamentarians (SARSWP) has prepared four working papers and four technical briefs on the following subjects:
1. Women's parliamentary caucus
Caucuses are an arrangement which brings parliamentarians together across party lines to discuss and work for common concerns and policy issues. In most countries, women caucuses play a strategic role to change legislation, boost general welfare and serve to amplify women's voices. The issues that women caucuses deal with and the approach they employ varies according to country context. This paper looks types, membership and successes of women caucuses in different countries including the South Asian countries.
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2. UNSCR 1325
United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 is an international legal framework for promoting gender equality. Since the adaption of UNSCR 1325 in 2000, it has been implemented through various projects and programmes at international, regional and national levels. Based on desk review this paper looks at UN Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 and its implementation at the national as well as regional level with special focus on the South Asia region and what has been done of the implantation of UNSCR 1325. It also presents some strategies that would promote development of NAP in South Asian countries.
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3. Regional Mechanisms for Increasing Women's Political Participation
Political participation among South Asian women is relatively low. At the regional level, networks support women's equal participation in politics. The regional women's parliamentary caucus is can act as an institutional mechanism to follow up on the regional women's political participation and representation. The present brief discusses different aspects of the experiences with existing regional mechanisms and endeavours to identify steps to establish a regional parliamentary mechanism for the South Asia region.
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4. Women's Political Participation in South Asia
Increasing women's participation in politics and securing their access to political life is necessary for sustainable development. In recent years, women's participation in politics and decision-making in South Asia has received significant attention. This paper looks at the current state of women's participation in South Asian parliaments and analyses the key enablers and obstacles to women's equal participation in formal politics. The paper reviews the barriers South Asian women face in entering parliament and discusses ways forward on how to cope with these obstacles.
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5. Consultation Between Women Parliamentarians and Civil Society on Implementation of the Sri Lankan Women Parliamentarians National Action Plan
On February 28, 2013 the South Asian Regional Secretariat for Women Parliamentarians (SARSWP), CGST/BDI in collaboration with Women and Media Collective, Sri Lanka is organizing the above consultation between civil society organisation and Sri Lankan women MPs on the implementation of the women parliamentarians national action plan which emphasizes implementation of UNSCR 1325 and strengthening women's political participation.
This event which will be held in Colombo at the Hotel Hilton, will also be supported by Promoting Democratic Institutions and Practices (PRODIP) program implemented by The Asia Foundation and its partner SUNY/CID and sponsored by USAID and UKaid.
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Consultation meeting on
"Priorities for Health and Education in a Gender Responsive National Budget 2013/14"
Press release: Download (.pdf)
Detail: Download (.pdf)
Background and Objectives
The Asia Foundation (TAF) organized a regional conference of women parliamentarians in Bangladesh to promote a stronger role for women in national governance in eight South Asian nations which took place from 8-11 July 2012 and brought together - women parliamentarians from six countries. The Regional Women Parliamentarians Conference launched a new regional network among women parliamentarians from the eight participating countries to empower them to lead representational democracies. This will seek to promote the participation of women in politics, including shortening the learning curve for newly elected women, sharing lessons learned with peers, boosting confidence through a sense of solidarity, and fostering collaboration to increase impact to achieve common goals. Networking will enable women leaders to leverage their voice and influence in ways that are unachievable when working alone.
The network will be supported by a secretariat that will serve as a regional coordinator for future activities to support women MPs from South Asia. This secretariat will focus on the implementation of action plans developed by the MPs at the conference and other agreed upon next steps and will reach out to international parliamentary organizations, and other relevant groups to participate in follow-on activities after the conference.
This will be done under the aegis of USAID/Bangladesh's five-year parliamentary strengthening program, Promoting Democratic Institutions and Practices (PRODIP) which includes a focus on increasing women's participation in law making and policy formulation. With financial and technical support from The Asia Foundation, CSGT/BDI of BRAC University will host the network secretariat for two years. During this period CSGT/BDI will consider ways of institutionalizing this network of South Asian women MPs.
The Secretariat will operate with a small office, primarily in a virtual manner. The main activities/functions envisaged for the secretariat for the next two years include the following:
- follow-up the implementation of the agreed upon action plan(s) produced by conference participants;
- generate and facilitate access of the women MPs involved in the Network to technical support, policy briefs, data, and analysis of different policies and issues identified by women parliamentarians;
- facilitate consultations for information sharing and coalition building between MPs and CSOs in Bangladesh and two other selected countries;
- design and host two three-day conferences with a selection of women MPs from the eight countries (with each country sending two representatives, one from the Treasury Bench and one from the Opposition) as part of the follow up to the July 2012 regional conference;
- facilitate reflections on leadership development strategies among the women MPs to identify and document best practices on networking and women's political leadership initiatives in South Asia;
- engage women MPs of the eight South Asian countries to facilitate exchanges and capacity development on different political and development issues of concern to the women MPs, including but not limited to women's empowerment issues;
- review relevant project documents and collate necessary secondary documents, research papers, policy documents on parliamentary frameworks, administration and practices;
- identify measures and mechanisms to link the program with other relevant institutions to advance the vision of the Network and develop a medium-term vision and identify possible strategies for ensuring the sustainability of the Network and its secretariat.
Who are we?
A leading regional centre on research, teaching and policy related to gender and social transformation.
Vision of the Centre
Social transformation and greater gender justice through the generation of knowledge on gender and social change.
Mission of the Centre
Playing a critical role in South Asia through developing alternative ideas and new analyses in the area of gender and social change by working in partnerships and contributing a strong southern voice to the theory and practice of gender and development.
What do we do?
We conduct research and teach, provide training and engage in communications and advocacy on gender and social transformation by focusing on three thematic areas: livelihoods, citizenship and cultural change. We are committed to paying greater attention to the experiences and perspectives of men and boys without losing our focus on women and girls.
Key thematic areas:
Labour markets, livelihoods and social protection
Paid work has the potential for enhancing women's capacity for choice, voice and agency. Organizing around the terms and conditions of work can constitute an important pathway for claiming the rights of citizenship. Not all work carries this transformative potential and greater attention needs to be paid to increasing the quantity and improving the quality of economic opportunities available to working women. We will be exploring the main barriers to women's greater mobility in the labour market, paying attention to constraints on both the demand and supply side. We will also explore the actual and potential role of public policies, private sector developments and NGO interventions in improving the provision of marketable skills, productive assets, organizational resources and social protection.
Citizenship and political participation
Women's organizations, development NGOs and other civil society groups have played a critical role in creating political awareness at the grassroots level but the extent to which this has translated into active citizenship has varied. Future research will seek to understand how more strategic links can be forged between these different forms of organizations and elected representatives in order to increase the political effectiveness of constituencies for gender equity at the local, national and global levels. We will compare different organizing strategies and analyse how they lead to changes in the exercise of citizenship and their effect on gender equitable outcomes. We will also explore how political constituencies for gender equity can influence processes of service delivery to make them more accountable to excluded groups.
Religion, media and culture
Changing norms, values, beliefs and attitudes are part of the social changes in Bangladesh. Previous research examined the resurgence of conservative forms of Islam, proliferation of media images and sought to understand the apparent weakening of the culture of son preference and a growing indifference to the sex of the child. It is clear that there are competing discourses around gender in Bangladesh with very different implications for future social change. We will develop these insights further to obtain a better understanding of cultural representations and discourses around gender in the media, in religious forums and in everyday life and how these can be harnessed to achieve a more tolerant and progressive vision of society and of the place of women and girls within it.
Communication and Publications
We will take an integrated approach to communication using both conventional and new mediums such as workshops, digital technology, media articles, videos, photography exhibitions and academic books and publications. Our goal is to generate debate and discussion through presenting our research findings to a broader audience of policy makers, practitioners, academics, donors and the wider public.
CGST is developing a core undergraduate course on gender, culture and development as well as a Master's degree on the same subject to be taught at BRAC University.
Collaboration and linkages
Globally, we have strong links with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex; the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University; the Social Research Centre, American University Cairo, Egypt, Institute of Social Sciences Trust, India and the University of Ghana.
We collaborate with and support BRAC programmes and the Research and Evaluation Division (RED). We will develop joint work with BRAC International.
We have strong relations within BRAC University with the English and Humanities Department, and have established relations with the following other departments: Law; Economics and Social Sciences; the Institute of Governance Studies (IGS), the Institute of Education and Development (IED) and the School of Public Health (SPH).
We collaborate with other public and private universities and independent institutes and centres in Bangladesh for example the Department of Gender and Women's Studies of the University of Dhaka.
The Government will be a key interlocutor for the CGST
Relations with BRAC Development Institute (BDI)
The CGST will function as a semi-autonomous space within BDI which is a resource centre for promoting research and building knowledge for practical solutions to address poverty, inequity and social injustice.
How do we work?
- Bringing together academics, researchers, practitioners and activists from multiple disciplines
- Emphasizing capacity development
- Publishing in journals, books, working paper series
- Using innovative communication strategies for information dissemination and influencing
Simeen Mahmud Professor Naila Kabeer
Coordinator International Associate Director
Maheen Sultan Dr Sohela Nazneen
Deputy Coordinator Research Fellow
Professor Perween Hasan Professor Amena Mohsin
Central Women's University, Dhaka Department of International Relations
Professor Firdous Azim Dr Samia Huq
Chair, English and Humanities Department, Assistant Professor, Economics and Social
BRAC University Sciences Department, BRAC University
CGST, established in January 2012 is a regional centre on research, teaching and policy related to gender and social transformation. The Vision of the Centre is: "Social transformation and greater gender justice through the generation of knowledge on gender and social change" and its Mission is to "Play a critical role in South Asia through developing alternative ideas and new analyses in the area of gender and social change by working in partnerships and contributing a strong southern voice to the theory and practice of gender and development. It conducts research and teaching, provide training and engage in communications and advocacy on gender and social transformation by focusing on three thematic areas: livelihoods, citizenship and cultural change. Its key thematic areas include the following:
- Labour markets, livelihoods and social protection
- Citizenship and political participation
- Religion, media and culture
CGST takes an integrated approach to communication using both conventional and new mediums such as workshops, digital technology, media articles, videos, photography exhibitions and academic books and publications. Our goal is to generate debate and discussion through presenting our research findings to a broader audience of policy makers, practitioners, academics, donors and the wider public.
Globally, CGST has strong links with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex; the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University; the Social Research Centre, American University Cairo, Egypt, Institute of Social Sciences Trust, India and the University of Ghana.
CGST/BDI is part of BRAC University which was established by BRAC in 2001. The mission of the BRAC University is to foster the national development process through the creation of a centre of excellence in higher education that is responsive to society's needs, and able to develop creative leaders and actively contributes to learning and creation of knowledge. The BRAC Development Institute was established in 2008 as a a resource centre for promoting research and building knowledge for practical solutions to address poverty, inequity and social injustice.
Promoting Democratic Institutions and practices (PRODIP), a five year project, contributes to USAID/Bangladesh's development goal under the Governing Justly and Democratically Program Objective of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Framework. The Asia Foundation, in partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY), implements the project. It specifically contributes to build "more effective and responsive democratic institutions and processes in Bangladesh." To achieve this goal, PRODIP works closely with the Parliament of Bangladesh and civil society partners to implement a comprehensive, two-pronged program to strengthen democratic governance: on the supply side by assisting the Parliament to improve its law making and oversight capability, strengthen its committees, increase public awareness of its functions, and create opportunities for increased public input into the development of national policies; and on the demand side by helping civil society to understand how policies and laws are made, and how civil society can maximize its effectiveness through participating in the legislative process.
The Secretariat is housed at the Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST)/BRAC Development Institute. This is a small office with the following personnel:
Maheen Sultan, the Deputy Coordinator CGST and Sohela Nazneen, Research Fellow will be responsible for overseeing the establishment of the Secretariat and its operation and Maheen Sultan will be the contact point with PRODIP's program staff. A full time Senior Program Officer and a full-time Program Officer will assist the project management in caring out the functions of the Secretariat. The team will be support by BDI administration and finance staff.
Centre for Gender and Social Transformation/BDI
66 Mohakhali CA
Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
Phone 88 02 8824051