Women’s Right in South Asia

Mar 10 2015
Women’s Right in South Asia

Participation of Ms Madi Sharma as Speaker at the European Institute for Asia Studies Seminar on Women's Right in South Asia.

The event focused on how South Asian governments have demonstrated strong political will in addressing poverty and gender discrimination. They have very good national poverty reduction strategies, as well as remarkable legislation outlawing women’s discrimination in the economic, social, and political spheres. However, women face several socio-cultural and economic obstacles to exercise their full potential. Women are highly restricted in their access to credit; large sectors of the population lack everyday access to sanitation facilities and healthcare, and social and cultural attitudes restrict women’s mobility, access to education, political participation. In a region prone to disasters – natural, economic and conflict-related – South Asian countries need to realise the tremendous capacity women have to be transformational agents in community disaster planning and preparedness, as they are in the ‘front line’ and have intimate knowledge of their communities, according to a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.


This seminar also served to launch the yearly calendar published by Alaap-International, titled “Legendary Women of Pakistan”. The publication, including over 250 profiles of prominent Pakistani women, shows how they have fought back against the odds of state discrimination, societal prejudice and institutional biases, and how they have been transformational agents in every sphere of life in order to protect the safe future, dignity and quality of life for the coming generations.


Delivering my speech I emphasized on the fact that economic, social and cultural rights are fundamental for development of women's rights in South Asia. However we have to question if we are actually progressing or regressing in this aspect at the moment. For these rights to become a reality we need to identify development, equality, participation, sustainable growth and empowerment as the elements that will make the change.


Other participants also pointed out that despite women being at the peak of leadership, there is nevertheless a weakened position of women in their majority. The reality is these women leaders are most of a result of political dynasties. They are so busy with their everyday issues that they haven't done enough for women. The big issue is minority women. Their treatment, discrimination and killings are a disgrace and a shame. The rise of intolerance and religious extremist targets mainly women.  Even the role of the media is working against women's position in society.


The participants were very excited about the speech and there were a lot of interesting follow up questions which triggered an honest dialogue between the panellist and the participants. Later after the event I was interviewed by the Pakistani TV.


Other speakers included Mr Shiraz Raj, Director, Alaap International, Ms Andleeb Haider, Joint Director, Alaap International, H.E. Ismat Jahan, Ambassador of Bangladesh to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg, Ms Shada Islam, Director of Policy, Friends of Europe , Mr Gie Goris, Editor in Chief, MO Magazine and Mr Khalid Jamali, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Pakistan.


This was a great opportunity for me to transfer my experiences as a Member of the EESC on the important of the economic, social and cultural rights for women empowerment, civil society participation and development.


Please do not hesitate to contact me for any further information madi@madisharma.org


Thank you for this great opportunity to introduce the EESC’s initiatives the field of Women's Rights.



Madi  x


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