Senggigi, West Nusa Tenggara. The issues of empowerment and protection of women need to be given greater prominence in light of the high number of women living in poverty, a conference of parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia heard on Monday.
“Today, women account for 70 percent of the 1.3 billion people worldwide still living in poverty,” said Marzuki Alie, president of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).
“Indeed, literacy among girls and women is lower than among males, and there continue to be violations of their civil and human rights.”
Marzuki, who is also the speaker of Indonesia’s House of Representatives, was speaking at the opening of the 33rd conference of the WAIPA, the women’s chapter of the AIPA.
He said these fundamental problems were also responsible for the low level of female representation in politics, and called on the delegates at the WAIPA conference to address these issues in the Southeast Asian context.
He also called on them to review the progress made in the programs drawn up at WAIPA conferences in previous years.
“We need to evaluate what hasn’t been done yet, what obstacles are still standing, and what are the success stories that can become valuable lessons and the basis for best practices for all of us,” Marzuki said.
He acknowledged that the challenges toward greater respect for women’s rights and gender equality in Southeast Asia were complex, and called for a comprehensive approach that could overcome this complexity and present a solution.
He also cited the WAIPA parliamentarians as playing an important role in improving women’s participation in democratization and development.
“We hope that as women parliamentarians, you will play a crucial role in helping your respective governments follow through on a range of policies, agreements, memorandums of understanding and resolutions by Asean and AIPA,” he said.
“You can help introduce all these understandings into your national legislation to be implemented in the form of concrete policies and programs.”
The WAIPA conference, which runs through Saturday, is being attended by legislators from all 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and is chaired by Indonesian House member Nurhayati Ali Assegaf.