Over 230 civil society organisations, including human rights defenders and grassroots activists from Asia and the Pacific, representing large groups of women in their own countries are in Bangkok this week for a regional civil society forum on women’s human rights. This included CSO representatives from Vanuatu, Gaetono Kalopong, Vpride and Yasmine Bjornum, Sista.
The Beijing+25 Regional CSO Forum is a space to celebrate achievements and identify regressions on women’s empowerment, as well as to facilitate intersectional and intergenerational dialogue and solidarity between the diverse constituencies represented. “This is an inclusive, feminist space where diverse voices of women from across Asia and the Pacific are heard, acknowledged, and validated,” said representatives from the Beijing+25 Civil Society Steering Committee for Asia and the Pacific.
The Forum also serves to consolidate the civil society inputs to the regional and global review processes for women’s human rights which will be followed up at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 64 at United Nations headquarters in New York in March 2020.
“We have seen some significant achievements particularly around normative standards on women’s human rights such as laws on violence against women or the recent ILO Convention to end Gender Based Violence in the world of work. These wins would have not been possible without an organised feminist, women’s movement.” said Nalini Singh from Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Fiji.
However, lack of implementation and accountability were underlined as systemic barriers to the Beijing commitments, and patriarchal authoritarian governments’s increasing attacks on environmental, women human rights defenders. “Neoliberal rules, mostly in the legally binding forms such as WTO rules (which preceded the Beijing commitments) or IMF’s structural adjustment programmes/loans (which preceded CEDAW), have been consolidated, and more recently brazen collusion between political and economic powers have been increasing. It is fundamental that these structural barriers are named and concrete ways to remove such must be on the governments’ review agenda” said Misun Woo from Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD), Thailand.
Dolores Tajaran Balladares, originally from the Philippines and currently working in Hong Kong said, “As a migrant woman, I work without rights and dignity, for more than 12 hours everyday. I have very low wages, and very little rest, sometimes none at all. Migration is a symptom of ‘mal-development’ and results from neo-liberal policies, but we have no choice but to make a living to support ourselves and those that we love. Privatisation makes it even more difficult for us to access basic services where we live and work.”
Civil society delegates also shared the importance of regional partnerships and platforms such as this, for learning and exchange, in order to overcome the challenges faced at local and national levels. “This forum has given us the opportunity to share our experiences, express solidarity and strategise for our collective struggles. We know that when women stop, the world stops!” said Saku, Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia.
Youth feminist activist Gloria Konare from Solomon Islands ended the opening session by saying,” We are deepening our intersectional analysis, creating positive narratives, believing survivors, loving indiscriminately, learning from the lived realities of those around us, changing the ways we organise, listening to those that came before us, and paving the way to a feminist future”
“We are privileged to be here, and partner with civil society for our shared agenda for gender equality and the empowerment of women in the region,” added Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director, UN Women Office for Asia and Pacific. He was accompanied in the Opening Plenary by Srinivas Tata, Director, Social Development Division of the UN Regional Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) who emphasised the UN’s convening role in bringing civil society voices into intergovernmental forums.
The civil society forum will continue for three days in Bangkok after which the governments will meet to review the Beijing Platform for Action’s regional process at United Nations ESCAP. The regional review is part of the global review of women’s human rights.
About Beijing+25 Review Process
The Beijing+25 review process began in 2019 in all regions of the world and will culminate in a global review at the 64th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2020 at UN Headquarters in New York. The global review will highlight the achievements and barriers to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). It also marks the commemoration of 40 years of the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which is the international bill for women’s human rights.The structure of the Asia Pacific Beijing+25 CSO forum follows an ‘Anger, Hope, Action’ framework and emphasises the feminists demand for systemic change to achieve women’s human rights.
SOURCE: Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)