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SOUTH ASIA: Parliamentarians For Greater Role of Women

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By A Correspondent

The four-day South Asia Women Parliamentarians' conference ended on July 12 with a declaration of women's political leadership in the region, underlining the need for a positive change regarding their role and participation in politics.

The conference launched a regional network and a secretariat for women parliamentarians from South Asia that will facilitate dialogue and serve as a regional coordination centre supporting women MPs, said a USAID press release.

The Brac University in Dhaka will house the secretariat.

The USAID, the Asia Foundation and the DFID jointly organised the conference titled “Women Leading for Gender-Responsive Governance” at Hotel Radisson in the capital.

Legislators from seven South Asian countries -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- representatives of political parties, civil society, and gender experts, attended the conference.

Participants underlined that women leaders must have access to decision-making positions and a more gender-neutral working environment.

Delegates agreed that more needs to be done to ensure the rights of women in terms of equal representation in politics.

“I hope America will learn lessons from Bangladesh as the country has done much to advance political engagement of women,” US Ambassador Dan W Mozena told reporters after the programme yesterday.

Talking about the number of women lawmakers in the US, he said he did not know the exact figure, “but it is fewer than in Bangladesh.”

Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, state minister for women and children affairs, told the conference that women parliamentarians could play a crucial role in achieving gender-responsive governance.

“Evidence shows participation of women in politics not only develops social policies, services, and women's working conditions but also decreases violence against women,” she added.

She called upon legislators to work together and increase women's participation in decision-making positions to ensure gender-responsive governance.

Opposition Chief Whip Zainul Abdin Farroque said women in the region were still lagging behind men in the political domain and it should be addressed.

The women parliamentarians at the conference condemned the summary execution of an Afghan woman by the Taliban this week.

Bangladesh lawmaker Ruby Rahman, Simeen Mahmoud of Brac University and Hasan Mazumdar, country representative of The Asia Foundation and Justice Fakhar-un-Nisa Khokhar of Pakistan, among others, spoke on the occasion.

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