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Women in Politics is not just about getting women into elective and appointive positions in government. It is also about getting half of the world's population to assert their rights and exercise their responsibilities for their own welfare and future- and, that of their children and the generations to follow.
It is these rights and responsibilities of the women electorate that was the focus of the 3rd Asia-Pacific Congress of Women in Politics held on 21-24 November 1996 at Korolevu, Fiji with 81 participants representing 29 countries. As its theme "The Power of the Women Electorate" suggests, the congress sought to highlight the critical role of women citizenry in realizing the vision of democratic governance.
This vision was earlier articulated by the delegates to the First Congress of Asia-Pacific Women in Politics held last June 1994. Briefly, this vision was the outcome of a series of discussions wherein the women from Asia-Pacific leveled off on their understanding and analysis of the situation of women in politics in their region; and what kind of politics they want to create and practice. The result is what the women refer to as their vision of a new political paradigm. A framework that sees democratic governance as defined by excellence, integrity and accountability, gender equality, sustainable development and peace. It is also a framework that sees the necessity of creating a critical mass of competent, committed and effective women politicians in elective and appointive positions in government; and of developing a responsible women's citizenry.
It is the partnership of these two - the women in leadership positions and the women electorate, that will promote and put into practice the women's transformative political agenda that will:
- guarantee equal rights and opportunities to every member of society in charting the course of development, and
- always serve the common good as opposed to private ends.
The Platform for Action that resulted from the First Congress focused on getting women represented in national and local governments. Its formulation was intended in part for presentation during the Fourth World Conference on Women held at Beijing in September 1995.
Coming after Beijing, this congress sought to reaffirm the equally important role of the women electorate. They are primarily the source of support of the women in elective and appointive positions in government. The women electorate have the power to vote into office those they think deserving of the positions. They also have the power to help those in office realize their respective agendas. Thus, developing a responsible women electorate is crucial in order to realize the vision of Transformative Politics.
This 3rd Congress of Asia-Pacific Women in Politics started off with a review of the achievements made in the area of electoral politics as well as organizing and advocacy for electoral reforms in the Asia-Pacific region. A series of speakers shared their own experiences and insights including women who have been in elective positions. This provided input for the participants in expounding on a Vision of Responsible Women Citizenship in Transformative Politics and a Platform for Action for the Empowerment of the Women Electorate. National and sub-regional action plans to implement this Platform for Action were also formulated by the participants.
Delegates take a break from the workshops sessions. Second row from left to right: Virginia Teodosio of the Philippine Center for Housing Cooperatives, CAPWIP Board Member from East Asia - Hon. Jung Sook Kim Member of Parliament of Korea, CAPWIP Board Member from Pacific - Fanaura Kingstone, CAPWIP Board Member Remedios Rikken, and Nisha Hussein of UNIFEM Pacific. First row from left to right: CAPWIP Executive Director Rosa Linda Miranda, Laufitu Taylor, UNIFEM Regional Programme Adviser for the Pacific, and Pang Yin Fong, journalist from the News Straits Times Press of Malaysia.
The Third Asia-Pacific Congress of Women in Politics was organized on the heels of the Second Congress for Pacific Women in Politics to give more CAPWIP affiliates from the Pacific the chance to participate.
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