Uphold women’s political participation, ASEAN governments urged

A day ahead of the 26th ASEAN Summit scheduled on April 26th and 27th in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, women activists and peacebuilders participants to the recently concluded ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) 2015 today urged ASEAN member states to uphold women’s political participation in conflict/post-conflict situations as enshrined in the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and General Recommendation number 30 of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

‘It’s high time that women be guaranteed the right to a meaningful political participation and we urge ASEAN governments to institutionalize mechanisms to realize such. Women, particularly in Southeast Asia, have been experiencing discrimination and political exclusion in the decision making processes and structures addressing peace and security when in fact, women are the ones most vulnerable in times of wars and conflict,’ said Malou Tabios-Nuera, coordinator of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID).

Women participants to the ACSC/APF likewise called on ASEAN member states to immediately come up with their respective ‘national action plans’ on Women, Peace and Security. At present, according to the report of ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), only the Philippines and Indonesia have drafted their respective national action plans.

The AIPR was established under Provision B.2.2.1 of the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint.

WOMEN IN CONFLICT SITUATIONS

Tabios-Nuera explained, ‘in the case of Myanmar/Burma for instance, there is a very limited women’s participation in ongoing peace negotiations with the state and non-state armed actors despite the formulation of a nationwide ceasefire agreement. Worse, even parliamentarians are excluded in the processes.’

She added, ‘data shows a very low percentage of women representation in the Myanmar government particularly in ministries and public administration. There is also a challenge to address discriminatory laws and practices that contribute to the infringement of women’s rights and political participation.’

According to the report of the Inter-Parliamentary Union issued in 2012, women from Burma especially those from ethnic communities are essentially disenfranchised at every level of post-conflict transition where important decisions are made. Burma ranks as one of the world’s lowest number of women in the national parliament with 5.7% occupied seats in the lower house and 1.8% in the upper chamber.

Meanwhile, the women in the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, Philippines may have undertaken relatively higher political participation in the peace process, but ‘the right to equal opportunity and non-discrimination of women in social and economic activities have yet to be implemented especially in the conflict-affected communities,’ said Dayang Karna Bahidjan of Nisa UL Haqq FI or Bangsamoro Women for Justice

Tabios-Nuera stressed, ‘a genuinely people-centered ASEAN should also mean a women-centered ASEAN that recognizes the significant role of women in peaceful and democratic social transformation. Women can no longer afford to be confined by a system that doesn’t recognize their capacities and strengths to effect meaningful changes.’

She concluded, ‘the ASEAN vision of a peaceful and prosperous community by 2015 and beyond will remain illusory without women being part of its blueprint. To the ASEAN heads of states, we appeal to make this 26th ASEAN summit a stage to turn the hopes and aspirations of women into a concrete reality.’ ###

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