By SHIZA MALIK
ISLAMABAD: Spirits were high on Wednesday as the three-day international conference of women parliamentarians ended with the resolve to continue building alliances between women parliamentarians across borders.
The conference on ‘The Role of Women Parliamentarians in Strengthening Democracy and Social Justice’ was organised by the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. Lawmakers from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Australia, Romania, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Maldives, Indonesia and Nepal were in the capital to attend the conference.
Addressing the participants at the closing ceremony, caucus patron MNA Dr Fehmida Mirza emphasised the importance of collective action for women’s empowerment. “Patriarchy is not confined to borders so women’s collective action should not remain confined to arbitrary borders either,” she said.
Dr Mirza called upon the women in the audience to work together to end systemic injustice against women and other marginalised groups. “Nothing about us, without us,” she declared, drawing applause from the audience.
PML-N MNA Dr Attiya Inayatullah reminded the audience that Pakistani women’s struggle for empowerment is a great success story which has resulted in major legislative changes.
Today, Pakistani women have achieved innumerable successes in civil society, media, academia, arts, sports and almost all other fields, Dr Inayatullah said.
“We deliver much more than babies,” she quipped.
Echoing the views of many participants at the conference, Dr Inayatullah underscored the importance of cooperation among women to achieve shared goals.
“Alliances have been central to feminist movements everywhere. Evidence shows that alliances help generate best practices, spot abuse and build pressure,” she said.
These alliances, Dr Inayatullah said, must also be built with men. She argued that no jobs should be gender-specific.
“We must bridge the distance between men and women but also between male and female tasks,” she said.
Cautioning against antagonistic feminism, she argued that the struggle for women’s empowerment should not aim to gain power over men. “The aim is for women to gain power over themselves,” she said.
Women’s Parliamentary Caucus Secretary MNA Shaista Pervaiz Malik thanked the participants, organisers and supporters of the conference and read out the conference resolution drafted by the participating lawmakers.
She said the women’s caucus is determined to continue building alliances with women parliamentarians all over the world.
Ms Malik expressed hope that the event is organised annually and can transform into a proactive network of women leaders which can ensure the economic empowerment and political participation of women all over the world.
Speaking to Dawn, Romanian MP Mara Mares said the conference had been an ‘inspiring experience’ and congratulated the organisers for bringing together women from so many parts of the world.
“The discussions at the conference were very fruitful and we realised that we face some common issues in our respective countries,” she said.
Myanmar MP Cho Cho Win told Dawn this was her first experience attending such a conference and stressed the importance of continuing such initiatives.
“Women’s rights can no longer be ignored. Women are a vital part of not just families and communities but also democratic politics. Social justice and democracy are meaningless if women are not empowered within nations,” she said.
Iranian MP Masoomeh Aghapor Alishahi said women parliamentarians are agents of change and alliances across borders are important for achieving shared goals.
She stressed the importance of economic empowerment and suggested that in the future, representatives of international finance institutions such as the IMF are also invited to attend such conferences.
Earlier, Ms Alishahi took the podium to suggest making March 13, the first day of the conference, the official day of women parliamentarians working for social justice and democracy.
Similar views were expressed by Indonesian MP Ammy Amalia Fatma Surya who said that conference had left her inspired and given her many new ideas to take back to her country.
“I am inspired to improve women’s participation in politics in Indonesia and work on legislation to protect women and children from abuse, violence and social injustice,” she said.