Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Walter E. Washington
801 Mount Vernon Place NW
Washington, DC 20001
On 2 June 2010, IFES chaired a panel discussion at InterAction’s 2010 annual Forum titled “Promoting Women’s Political Participation in South Asia.” Vasu Mohan, IFES’ Deputy Director for Europe & Asia, moderated the panel, including: Gulmina Bilal Ahmad, Director of Individualland Pakistan and author of Women Parliamentarians in South Asia; Terry Rogers, Senior Advisor and Co-Founder of Women Power Connect India, and Robin Lerner, Counsel (Global Issues), Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Mohan, who recently returned from Afghanistan, has worked on democracy, governance and human rights programming in Asia for the past 12 years. Mr. Mohan set the stage for discussion by briefly sharing IFES’ work with women’s groups under Women’s Legal Rights Initiative in India, as well as highlighting the overall importance of women’s issues in the region.
Ms. Gulmina Bilal Ahmad, a former Senate candidate and a member of the Awami National Party gave a presentation on the status of women’s political participation in Pakistan entitled Swimming against the Tide. Ms. Bilal provided quantitative data on women’s political representation and background to the current political scene in Pakistan. She drew attention to notable achievements of women in politics, including a current female Speaker of the Parliament and the fact that Pakistan is the only Islamic republic to have elected a female Prime Minister twice. At the same time, however, she described systemic and pervasive obstacles to women’s political roles due to both attitudes of fellow male colleagues and the societal perception of women in politics.
Read Ms. Gulmina Bilal Ahmad's Presentation »
Ms. Terry Rogers, an advocacy specialist who has worked with IFES for many years, shared her experience working with civil society in India to professionally lobby both national and local governments on women’s issues. Women Power Connect, a national network for women’s groups to advocate on women’s issues, came to life with Ms. Rogers’ technical guidance and in collaboration with civil society activists in India as the first women’s lobbying group in South Asia. Ms. Rogers also shared her observations from her recent work with women’s groups in Afghanistan, Egypt, Morocco and Lebanon.
Ms. Robin Lerner provided the U.S. perspective on addressing women’s political participation in the region, including commenting on empowerment vs. victimization both in the region and globally. She highlighted a number of Congressional bills that deal with international gender issues, most recently the “International Violence against Women Act of 2010.”
In the Q&A session, panelists addressed questions on the role of U.S. organizations working internationally on gender issues reaching out to their government representatives to advocate on women’s issues, as well as addressing the role of Islam on the perception of women as political leaders. In conclusion the moderator closed with the words from an Afghan saying “Drop by drop, a river is formed” referring to all the contributions from U.S. government, international and local civil societies to further empowerment of women both in South Asia and in the world.