SWAN 10th Annual group Photograph at ‘The Park Hotel’
South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)’s Tenth Annual Conference
New Delhi, India, 31st August to 2nd September 2019
Theme : Gender Empowerment for Sustainable Development : Issues and Challenges Facing the Women of South Asia
Supported By : Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai, and Siddho Mal Group, New Delhi
Venue : Park Hotel, 15, Sansad Marg, Connaught Place, New Delhi 110001
Inaugural Session convened at the India Islamic Cultural Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110003
The landmark Tenth Annual Conference of the South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) was convened in New Delhi from 31st August to 2nd September 2019, on the theme “Gender Empowerment for Sustainable Development : Issues and Challenges Facing the Women of South Asia”. The detailed Programme and List of Participants are placed below at Annexures I and II.
The South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) expresses its sincere gratitude for the support received from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai, and the Siddho Mal Group, New Delhi, without which this Conference would not have been possible. SWAN thanks the President and Management of the India Islamic Cultural Centre, New Delhi, for their support and cooperation in hosting the Inaugural session of the Conference.
1700 hours, 31st August 2019
Inaugural Session of the Conference :
The Inaugural Session of the Conference was held at the India Islamic Cultural Centre. Lodhi Road, New Delhi. The Conference began with the excellent and highly acclaimed performance of Abhimanyu Vadh presented by Rasa United, choreographed by Vanashree Rao.
Mr Sirajuddin Qureshi, President, India Islamic Cultural Centre, warmly welcomed the eminent individuals, the Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, and prominent women leaders who have come as SWAN delegates. He congratulated SWAN on this landmark event, marking the completion of ten years, a full decade of their activities. He lauded SWAN’s motto : Wisdom, Unity, Dignity, which encapsulates SWAN’s vision to achieve sustainable development through direct, active and full participation of women, with full agency, and not just as objects of the development process. He agreed that gender empowerment and gender equality are vital as rights and equity issues, as well as for the development and prosperity of society as a whole. He agreed that laws should be reviewed to make them adequately gender sensitive. He appreciated the important issues that will be discussed during the thematic sessions of the Conference, especially the challenges of overcoming malnutrition, and the issue of women’s unpaid work. Mr Sirajuddin Qureshi wished the Conference every success, together with a pleasant stay in New Delhi for all the delegates.
Ambassador Veena Sikri, Founding Trustee and Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) added her words of welcome for the high dignitaries and all SWAN delegates who had traveled to Delhi to mark this milestone celebrating ten years of SWAN’s existence and activity. It is remarkable that many who are here today were with us ten years ago in March 2009, when SWAN’s first annual Conference was convened at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. SWAN has brought us together to achieve our shared vision for the women of South Asia as an integral, equal and empowered part of society. Women are the irreplaceable pillars of every household. Nonetheless, outside the small percentage who are with the formal and organised sectors of the economy, women’s invaluable contribution to child care and care for the elderly, to work within the home and in agriculture, crafts and many sectors of the informal economy remain unevaluated, unacknowledged in the GDP, and even worse, taken for granted. Development and prosperity for society as a whole, including achievement of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are unachievable without including gender equality as an inalienable and integral part of the solution. The inadequacies that result from the lack of gender equality are reflected in the abysmal rankings for most South Asian countries in the World Economic Forum’s Annual Global Gender Gap Report. SWAN seeks amelioration in partnership with all, by bringing men and boys on board. The genesis of the problems faced by the women of South Asia is certainly complex and multi-facetted, with some aspects that could be specific to individual communities, ethnicities and religions. Yet, in discussions and exchange of experiences during SWAN’s nine Annual Conferences and the series of specialized Conferences convened over the last ten years (see Annexure III for the full list of SWAN activities), the most consistent refrain has been that the crux of the problem lies in the firmly entrenched mindset towards women, a mindset that mitigates against respect, equality and empowerment for the women of South Asia. The need for changing mindsets is the most significant common thread that SWAN encounters in the feedback from all its activities. Appreciating the critical role of media (all formats) in creating and reinforcing mindsets, SWAN has, for five years, been working on its project “Women for Change : Building a Gendered Media in South Asia”. SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference has before it the Interim Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia, presenting the outcome of five years of collective, coordinated work on this project. The methodology and objectives are agreed upon collectively at SWAN’s Annual Conferences, but ground-work and implementation is by participating institutions in each country. In conclusion, Ambassador Sikri expressed her heartfelt gratitude to Tata Trusts, to the Siddhomal Group, and to the India Islamic Cultural Cenrtre, for their generous sponsorship of SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference.
Ms Shireen Vakil, Head Policy & Advocacy, Tata Trusts, New Delhi, congratulated SWAN on their landmark Tenth Annual Conference. She conveyed her particular appreciation over the critically important issues on the agenda for discussion over the next two days. Ms Shireen Vakil emphasized that while South Asia as a whole, including India, have made great progress in substantial sectors of the economy, there still remain significant uncovered gaps in achieving gender equality. The most recent edition (2018) of the Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum shows that, with the exception of Bangladesh (ranked 48 out of 149 countries), most of the other countries of South Asia are far, far lower in the rankings. India is ranked at 108 in this 2018 index. In the sub-index on economic participation and opportunity for women, and on health and survival for women, India is ranked at 142 and 147 respectively. Clearly, the issue of gender empowerment, and equal participation by women in every sector of the economy are going to be vital factors in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The huge gaps between male and female participation rates stand out in key sectors. Across India, just two per cent of land is owned exclusively by women. The gap in internet access between men and women is 34 per cent in urban areas, and 52 per cent in rural areas. The average pay gap between men and women doing similar jobs is over 33 per cent. Across India, 53 per cent of women are anaemic, and 42 per cent of pregnant women are underweight. Tata Trusts is partnering with the Government of India in the Poshan Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) for ameliorating this serious situation. It is difficult to underestimate the negative impact of sexual harassment and gender based violence, including trafficking and social practices like child marriage, on the psyche of women, and how much these mitigate against gender equality and gender empowerment. It is worrisome that the Female Labour Force Participation Rate in India has declined from 42.7 per cent in 2004-05 to just 23 per cent in 2017-18. There are a host of socio-economic and cultural reasons for this, including mindset issues, ranging from unequal pay, safety concerns at the workplace, violence against women, inadequate creche facilities, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of women work in the unorganised/ informal sector of the economy. The combined result is the strong disinclination among women to continue working as family incomes rise. It is estimated that in India, GDP could go up by as much as 60 per cent with a strong rise in female labour force participation. If we are to overcome the social attitudes and deep patriarchy that are primarily responsible for this situation, it is vital to bring men and boys on board as partners in achieving gender equality. The process has started, and some awareness has been generated among men and boys, but this is far from enough to achieve our objectives. Former US President Barack Obama has frequently emphasized that men, too, have the responsibility to fight for gender equality. Ms Shireen Vakil wished SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference every success in their deliberations.
Ms Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Director, India Foundation, and former Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), recalled that the NCW predominantly received complaints relating to violence against women. Violence against women is endemic not only in South Asia but across the world. The single largest cause for this is indeed individual and community mindsets, but here one must include the mindsets of not just men but women as well. So, in order to end violence against women, we must inculcate in men and women, in boys and girls the realization and acceptance of the importance of gender equality. I am glad that the SWAN project, Women for Change : Building a Gendered Media in South Asia, has incorporated this approach, and is working with both men and women in the media. I greatly appreciate SWAN taking up the challenge of overcoming malnutrition, which is another scourge across South Asia. There are two aspects of this problem that need special focus. First, girls (as much as, if not more than just women) must be taught the importance of looking after their health. Girls and women are so absorbed in their social responsibilities towards the family, in cooking and cleaning and caring, that they just do not realize or appreciate that if their health falters, then the whole family is in danger. Nutrition, with adequate food intake, is the first step to maintaining good health. Issues like availability of sanitary napkins, now being freely supplied to adolescent girls and to women, is talked about as a convenience, as a hygiene issue, but is rarely linked to good health of the girl/ woman. Women and girls must be made to understand that this (sanitary napkins) is essential for their health. So the three problems in overcoming the challenge of malnutrition are lack of education on the subject, lack of access (food insecurity) and the lack of involvement of men in the process.
South Asia still needs massive advancement in the education sector, in terms of full enrolment of girls at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels (can we follow the Singapore model of compulsory, even forced enrolment?), and in the context of inculcating, through the school curriculum, attitudes of respect (and non-violence) towards women and girls. Education can provide the level playing field that alone can ensure equal access for women to all resources (healthcare, maternity and childcare leave, inheritance, technology et al) and ensure the changed attitude among men, making them willing to share in the onerous burden of social responsibilities (women’s unpaid work). The best years of a women’s life for starting a family and for starting a career are the same. Invariably, women feel obliged or are forced to make the choice of leaving the work-force, or never entering it in the first place. Society as a whole, especially men, should be willing to solve this dilemma by sharing the burden, including through ensuring facilities for crèches or day-care centres, and other facilities that can contribute to women’s productivity and health. Unless this is done, women will always be left behind.
Ms Kumaramangalam congratulated SWAN for lasting ten years, and for being so active, especially in the non-gendered atmosphere prevalent across South Asia, and wished them every success in their future endeavours.
HE Shidatha Shareef, Minister for Gender, Family and Social Services, Government of Maldives, conveyed the warm greetings of the people of Maldives. The countries of South Asia represented in SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference are unique in their own ways, with different ethnicities, languages, cultures and religions. However, what unifies us in South Asia are the commonalities and our shared heritage. SWAN brings together the women of South Asia in their shared search for equality and empowerment, and the right to work, the right to receive equal pay for equal work, to own property, and to live freely. The women of Maldives continue to face their own share of challenges. Nonetheless, 2018 has been a promising year for them. In 2018, after the elections, for the first time there is a gender-balanced Cabinet in Maldives, with six women Cabinet Ministers, including the Minister for Defence. However, we need more women as Members of Parliament. This time, to the disappointment of the women of Maldives, only four women have been elected as MPs, in a House with 87 members. There have been no women members of the judiciary in Maldives, either in the High Court or in the Supreme Court. The new Government has corrected this imbalance by appointing, for the first time ever, two women judges. Paid paternity leave is also a reality now. The Constitution of Maldives does not allow discrimination against women. The Gender Equality Act of 2015 gives more rights to women, and does not allow victimization. In local government, at the city, atoll and island levels, there is 33 per cent reservation of all council seats for women. Despite all this progress, women are still not considered as equals in society, either at the community level or politically. Traditional or stereotypical gender roles for women are still considered the norm in Maldives, and this hinders gender equality. Women’s unpaid work covering child care, cooking, cleaning and laundry, continue to be the practiced norms all across Maldives. Indeed, if we add the time spent doing unpaid work to the working hours of women (their regular jobs), then women work much harder, many more hours per day, than men. In Maldives, the recently elected Government is now working on the Gender Equality Policy, which will focus on equality in rights, representation, and resources for women. We will continue our work with patience, and will not give up. I look forward to sharing all these thoughts, ideas and plans during our discussion over the next two days.
HE Dr Dechen Wangmo, Minister for Health, Royal Government of Bhutan, thanked SWAN for this opportunity to address this august audience on several issues of vital importance to the people of Bhutan and South Asia. The present government in Bhutan was elected to power just eight months ago, and for the Hon’ble Minister, this is the first opportunity to serve the people of Bhutan in this capacity. The overwhelming feeling in Bhutan is that while the nation has signed on to many UN conventions and treaties, and has formulated many Action Plans on implementing the commitments enshrined in these Conventions and Treaties, the actual delivery on the ground and the actual benefit to the people of Bhutan has been minimal. Now is the time to act, to deliver benefits, and to touch the lives and improve the lives of the common men and women. Bhutan follows the policy of GNH (Gross National Happiness), with its four pillars pertaining to the economy, conservation of the environment, maintaining traditions and culture, and good governance. At the heart of these four pillars is the health and well-being of the people of Bhutan, and at the nucleus of this is the health and well-being of women and children.
In Bhutan, the Ministry of Health has recently approved a dynamic policy for Accelerating Mother and Child Health, a policy that intrinsically tackles the vicious cycle of ill-health caused by high levels of malnutrition among young mothers. Malnutrition starts in the womb, since the mother suffering the pernicious effects of malnutrition can only give birth to a weak child with health-related deficiencies. The Bhutan Government’s policy aims to break this vicious inter-generational cycle of ill-health caused in large measure by mal-nutrition. Bhutan is following very seriously the UNICEF/ World Bank recommended programme for the Thousand Golden Days of a child’s life, starting from the point of conception. Each mother is assured of eight ante-natal check-ups, and eight post-natal check-ups, where every facility is provided and monitored, including supplemental feeding to overcome malnutrition, and screening of the child for congenital disabilities. The second vital programme being taken up by the Ministry of Health to help the women of Bhutan is the early screening for cervical cancer, the leading cause of cancer among women in Bhutan.
The eminent members of the Bhutan delegation look forward to exchanging experiences and discussing all these issues with their counterparts from other South Asian countries. No country can progress unless they recognize and incorporate the centrality and agency of women in the solution-seeking process. The data parameters for women in South Asia is not very encouraging. Bhutan would like to work shoulder to shoulder with other participants in SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference in order to change this situation for the better.
Hon’ble Dr Najma Heptulla, Governor of Manipur, sent a warm message addressed to all SWAN delegates on the occasion of the Tenth Annual Conference. Hon’ble Dr Najma Heptulla had gladly accepted the SWAN invitation to participate as Chief Guest at the Inaugural Session. However, she was unable to leave Manipur due to ill-health. In her message, she conveyed her congratulations and best wishes for the success of SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference. The theme of the Conference is particularly important, she said, since this will facilitate discourse on the issues and challenges of the South Asian women in their struggle for gender empowerment and sustainable development. I support the view, Hon’ble Dr Najma Heptulla said, that Government should pro-actively pursue the principle of gender budgeting to ensure adequate fund allocation for women specific schemes and also the general development programmes which benefit women. There should be sufficient fund flow to advance the cause of women for a level playing field. It is important that special provisions are made for economic empowerment of women along with their political empowerment in order to enable them to benefit from new opportunities in today’s world. Empowering women in South Asia is important to ensure an equitable growth of the region and for this, gender equality is the first step. Our South Asian women should identify their strengths and abilities and move towards a world of empowerment. During the Conference eminent representatives from South Asian countries and experts will be able to interact and exchange their views on issues pertaining to gender empowerment for sustainable development of the women of South Asia, on the basis of which, a sound and practicable way forward, bringing together all stakeholders, can be finalized.
Ambassador Veena Sikri, Founding Trustee and Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN), proposed the vote of thanks, and invited all present to join for High Tea.
0930 hours, i September, 2019, Park Hotel
Thematic Session no. 1 :
South Asia’s Malnutrition Challenge : A Women-Led Strategy for Accelerating Progress
Chairperson : Dr Kaosar Afsana, MBBS, MPH, PhD, Professor, James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Dhaka
Chairperson’s Summary : Despite some progress, prevalence of undernourishment has remained “virtually unchanged” over the last three years, while the incidence of hunger is slowly on the rise (UNICEF, 2019). South Asia is the worst affected region in the world where the prevalence of stunting and wasting among children is the highest and so is the number of severely food-insecure people. In South Asia, 65 million children are stunted; half of the adolescent girls are underweight and anaemic; over 40% of women are anaemic; and over one-fifth of population are overweight or obese. The UNICEF Report “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” (2019) has emphasized the strong link among hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. More importantly, the number one risk factor for global burden of diseases is associated with diet related malnutrition. Every year, 11% of GDP is lost due to malnutrition. There is a huge need for a global call for a more comprehensive approach to understanding these inter-relationships and acting on the challenges. All governments in South Asia are according special attention to overcoming these serious problems, but are slow in progress towards meeting targets of SDG 2.
The South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) organized discussions at its Ninth Annual Conference in Kathmandu in 2017 and now, at the Tenth Annual Conference in New Delhi, has emphasized the critical role of women in overcoming these problems of malnutrition, hunger and food insecurity and food behaviour practices, at the individual, family and community levels. Women’s poor nutritional status not only affects their own health, but also has long term intergenerational effects on nutritional and health status of children and their development and productivity. As a natural corollary, women should play a central role in the solution-seeking and solution-implementation process, bringing to bear their traditional knowledge of health-sustaining and nutrition-building processes, strongly based on locally-available inputs, combined with the relevant aspects of modern science. This is likely to yield the quickest possible results, and, in the process will empower the women as equal partners in fulfilling every responsibility in the home and in society (also accentuated by UNICEF) in reducing gender inequalities.
In order to improve the role of women in improving nutritional status and food behaviour practices, SWAN agreed that it would undertake a project, in at least a few countries, and if possible in all the nine countries of South Asia. The SWAN group in Sri Lanka has successfully completed, in 2017, their project on “Empowering plantation workers towards better Nutrition & Sexual and Reproductive Health”. The proposed SWAN project can benefit greatly from the conduct and outcomes of the Sri Lanka project.
The objectives of the proposed project are threefold, to Increase awareness and educate women, family and community on good agricultural practices and avoidance of hazardous chemicals, and promote small scale production of nutritious foods in their own localities, so that women become the agent for change in the home and community; to promote behaviour change in family and community enabling them to make right food choices and have healthy, safe, nutritious diets, especially for children; and to Increase awareness of non-communicable diseases and promote life style change (physical exercise, appropriate food choices, sleep, rest and stress reduction). The project is expected to run for two years.
The target groups are first, women and family members, and second, community members, including men and boys, so that they recognize and accept the centrality of women’s role on issues concerning food and nutrition.
A brief outline of the Project Plan is given below :
|1. Selection of women leaders from the community||1. Discussion with key informants at community levels: local government bodies, health management committee, NGOs and community influential, etc.|
|2. Capacity building of women leaders||2.1 Training of trainers
2.2 Training and refreshers of women leaders
|3.1. Good agricultural practices, food safety and production of small hold farming, including women friendly agricultural technology
3.2. Healthy and nutritious food practices
3.3. Healthy life style practices
|Each trained leader will form small group of women farmers from the community. They will be trained to do small holding farms promoting good agricultural practices and food safety. They will also organise forum with men and women to promote healthy, nutritious and safe food and healthy life practices. Women leaders will also choose schools or community clubs to promote these practices.|
|4.1. Supportive supervision of women leaders
4.2. Monitoring of community work
|4.1. Women leaders will be supervised and supported to improve their performance in communicating messages, empowering community and enhancing community cohesiveness
4.2. Monitoring of field activities and performance indicators will be followed.
|5. Use of ICT||ICT will be used to inform the community about all the issues discussed above.|
|6. Collaborations with existing network||SWAN will collaborate with existing network at country and regional levels to enhance the visibility of nutritional challenges|
|7. Documentation||Process documentation will be carried out and a report will be produced.|
|8. Dissemination||Women’s voices will be recorded and shared. SWAN’s experience and evidence will be shared through SWAN network and meetings, collaborative network meetings and conferences, and publishing papers and monographs.|
- Development of new generation women leaders to address nutritional challenges
- Increased number of small holder farming with good agricultural practices
- Increased awareness and improved practices of healthy, nutritious and safe food, incorporating traditional practices
- Improved knowledge, through dissemination, about life-style changes and improved practices
- Recommendations (including advocacy strategies) for gender sensitive and gender focussed food and nutrition policies.
HE Dr Dechen Wangmo, Minister for Health, Royal Government of Bhutan, described the challenge of malnutrition as the seminal challenge, hindering the achievement of most Human Development Indicators across South Asia. Much more than just a health challenge, she emphasized the economic dimensions of the challenge of malnutrition. All countries must invest in women and children, so that through this, society as a whole can improve its levels of health and economic activity. This should be considered as a pan-society issue, not just in silos like gender, health, education, food and agriculture, so that mindsets can be changed, and through this, all the socio-cultural barriers to the advancement and equal participation of women can be removed. In Bhutan, we are seeking to incorporate gender and health features in all policies. Thus, the main impetus behind six months compulsory maternity leave is to encourage breast-feeding (with no supplementary diet) for at least six months. Bhutan is also focusing on identifying micro-nutrient deficiencies in children, since this has strong implications for the development of cognitive abilities and growth of children. Diet is the vital factor here, and traditional practices provide a reservoir of knowledge. However, in Bhutan, the traditional diet has been rice and potatoes and cheese, which lacks micro-nutrients, and is predominantly carbs. There are now food additives that can be sprinkled over the traditional meal. SWAN provides an essential platform for exchange of experiences and best practices that can benefit the entire region.
Dr Abdul Sattar Yoosuf, Executive Director, International Center for Environment, Development and Operational Research (ENDEVOR), Male, described his work on health and environment issues with the World Health Organisation (WHO), including his work in Maldives. In Maldives, among children (6 to 8 years) 50% are under-weight (boys are better off than girls), 10% are obese and 40% are fine. Malnutrition is a major cause for this, which in turn leads to a whole range of NCDs (Non Communicable Diseases). These are more the result of nurture rather than nature. Governments need to recognize not just the seriousness of this crisis, but also the important need for a holistic approach to solve the problem, bringing together health, education, traditional practices and economic development. The focus on the health sector alone will not bring about the desired results, since these Issues are closely connected with environment and development. However, execution of most programmes are unidimensional, and this is where the problem lies.
Dr Sahul Bharati, MD (Pediatrics) and Pediatric Endocrinilogist. Director, BHIM (Build Healthy India Movement), a non-profit organization, Chandigarh, described his life-long work to overcome the high prevalence of anaemia among women in Himachal Pradesh. Diet is the primary cause, but analysis is necessary to understand whether the iron available in the diet is not being absorbed by the body, or whether there is an iron deficiency in the diet, In the latter case, either iron supplements should be made available, or the iron deficiency can be remedied with suitable changes in the diet. It is critical to understand and factor in local specificities in tackling such issues. For example, an elderly resident of the district explained that anaemia among women rose sharply after the new road was built to access the region! What he meant was that once the road provided access to the cities and towns nearby, the women (and men) started selling local produce like milk, reducing family consumption in the interests of earning more cash. Similarly, with the construction of the road, the farmers moved towards cash crops, which yielded higher revenue, but also meant that the farmers moved away from local green leafy vegetables that gave the women the much-needed iron intake to counter anaemia. So, it is vital to educate women about the importance of their health, and the dietary inputs needed to maintain good health. In short, the holistic approach, once again.
Dr Aruna Uprety, Public Health Specialist, Kathmandu, highlighted as the core problem that we in South Asia are ignoring, and as a result, forgetting our traditional knowledge of food values and nutrition. This is why, despite all governments spending large amounts of money to overcome the malnutrition crisis, the results are inadequate. Traditionally, the focus was on locally grown products, and seasonality of diets, depending on the time of the year. Today, the focus is on highly processed foods, like Maggi noodles, which lack any nutrients, but are highly popular due to advertising campaigns and convenience in cooking. Earlier, in Nepal, there used to be locally convened food festivals, with one of these dedicated to just sprouted foods. Even National Geographic magazine has brought out a special issues on Food as Medicine. Today the focus is entirely on food fortification and on supplements, or even on sprinklers. Even the most prevalent anaemia among women cannot be treated with just iron and folic acid tablets with no change in dietary patterns. And natural foods like flax seeds and sesame are over-marketed as supplements! We must disseminate knowledge about the importance of natural, locally available seasonal foods as the best (and cheapest ) way to good health.
Dr Farhat Sahak, Maternal and Child Health Program Manager, Agency for Assistance and Development of Afghanistan, Kabul, explained that in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Public Heath is fairly new, but it is nonetheless trying out very innovative approaches. They have detailed plans for ANC (ante-natal checkups) and PNC (post-natal checkups), including vaccinations, but implementation is just not good enough. Afghanistan has a good network of community midwifery programme workers, but what is really needed are specialized health service workers. The number (and rates) of stunting, severe stunting and wasted children is unacceptably high. Afghanistan remains one of the worst countries in the world for women and children, because of low literacy levels among women, misogyny, severe security issues, and lack of access to health services and other essential services.
Dr Mira Shiva, Director, Initiative for Health, Equity and Society, New Delhi, pointed out that most governments in South Asia have been gender-blind in their efforts to overcome the challenge of malnutrition. We need gender-justice. Why do women still eat last in the family? This may be a cultural practice or tradition, but it is adversely impacting the health of women, children, and society as a whole. Overcoming the malnutrition challenge needs an integrated approach, incorporating food security (at the family, community and national levels) and food sovereignty as well. De-nutrification of food must not be allowed, by processes like polishing of rice and grinding of wheat into maida. Pharmaceuticalization of food and nutrients must not be allowed. Every effort must be made to maintain bio-diversity, preserve indigenous seeds, and ensure that the soil is healthy, without excessive use of chemical fertilisers. Over-processed foods, use of carcinogenic herbicides, overuse of antibiotics (and antivirals and antifungals) even for poultry and animal husbandry has led to a massive increase in non-communicable diseases, with a strong adverse fall-out on the health of women and children. Navdanya’s programme for Mahila Anna Swaraj (Food Sovereignty in Women’s Hands) seeks to re-establish biodiversity (through Community Seed Banks) and empower women economically through their traditional role as food producers and processors.
Dr Sujatha Samarakoon, Medical Consultant, Trustee AIDS Foundation Lanka, Colombo, explained how the SWAN Sri Lanka Chapter had successfully completed the project on empowering plantation workers in Sri Lanka towards better nutrition and sexual and reproductive health. The peer-educator model has been successfully used for this project, with strongly positive results. Each selected peer-educator receives training, is taught to maintain a diary, and reaches out to 100 peers in the community to educate them on selection of nutritious food, promoting home gardening, empowering women on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) with male participation, and imparting skills to prevent sexual abuse and gender based violence. Health camps were convened and focus group discussions of peers under the guidance of peer educators and field supervisors were held. Almost 2500 peers have been reached, and they have learnt about food nutrition, as well as the dangers of HIV and teenage pregnancies. Community togetherness has increased enormously and community support groups have been created resulting in women’s empowerment. The Project Report is being placed on the SWAN website, where it can be accessed by all.
Ms Neelam Kshirsagar, Head, Project Development, Impact India Foundation, Mumbai, thanked all the panelists for their detailed and very informative expositions, An enormous amount of effective work has been done at the grass-roots level. Successful interventions have been made, which are making a difference to the lives of the people, especially women and children. The challenge for SWAN is the next stage, which is planning advocacy strategies and policy recommendations, and reaching out to governments in order to ensure that the benefits of the research and knowledge is available to all. Reaching out to and sensitizing young boys and girls is vital, as is advocacy for banning of junk food, and other harmful chemical based products
Dr Vinita Sharma, Former Advisor and Head, Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development (SEED), Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India, New Delhi, highlights the link between ensuring food diversity (especially for young children) and generating awareness among mothers about this. In the USA, the Bento box concept is used for lunchboxes for school children, and every compartment is used for different components of the required diet (fresh fruit, vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and so on). There are other factors, such as the lunch-box material (stainless steel is best, rather than plastic) and the need for seasonal (and regional) changes/ adjustments in the diet. Mothers who are made aware of all these aspects, will certainly contribute significantly to the good health of their wards.
Following the presentations by the panelists and the discussants, there was a lively Q&A. Appreciation was expressed for the valuable explanations, bringing home the dangers of malnutrition, and the importance of traditional knowledge as among the most vital (and inexpensive) repositories with a wealth of information on this subject. Cherie Aung Khyn (Myanmar), Deepak Tamang (Nepal), Mahbouba Seraj (Afghanistan), Indira Shrestha (Nepal), Mano Alles (Sri Lanka) and Ila Sharma (Nepal), among others, took part in these discussions.
1400 hours, 1st September 2019, Park Hotel
Thematic Session no. 2 :
Women’s Unpaid Work and Their Empowerment
Chairperson : Professor Dr Indira Hirway, Director, Centre for Development Alternatives (CfDA), Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Chairperson’s Summary : Unpaid work essentially means that work which does not receive direct remuneration. Women’s unpaid services for their own households comes under the category of unpaid work. Such work is not counted in national income accounts and is therefore invisible in national data systems.
Women’s unpaid work can be divided into two categories : unpaid care for their own children and for the old, sick and disabled in the family; and unpaid household upkeep work, such as cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping for the family and supervising this work. Across South Asia (and in many parts of the developing world) unpaid services almost invariably includes collecting fuel (wood, cow-dung and others) and fetching water for the family. Unfortunately, and this is the crux of the issue, this work is shared highly unequally between men and women. Overall, it has been estimated that in India (and most of South Asia) about 80% of this unpaid work is done by women. This imposes a huge burden on women, especially those from poorer households (30 to 40 per cent of households), resulting in involuntary time poverty, which leaves women with no time to look after their health, educate themselves or develop skills. This segment of women are totally bereft of opportunities for human capital formation. She is trapped in poverty and cannot escape.
Though women’s unpaid work is performed out of love, as work it is an inferior kind for work. The work runs round the clock, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. There is no retirement nor are there any retirement benefits. There is no upward mobility in this work or promotion of any kind. In short, it is dead-end work. It is drudgery. This work is ‘officially’ invisible since it is not included in national data systems. As a result, the problems and issues arising from women’s unpaid work are not addressed effectively by policy makers.
Unpaid workers have a limited exposure to the outside world and limited scope in doing outside work. Basically, the burden of unpaid work results in women’s lower status in the labour market. This is because when women enter the labour market (many are not able to enter because of their domestic responsibilities) they continue to carry on their shoulders the responsibility for unpaid (household and other) work and therefore there is no gender equality to start with. Apart from this, their mobility in the labour market is limited because of social norms, and invariably, they have lower human capital such as education and skills.
All this results in lower rates of workforce participation by women, and lower wages (than men) even when they do participate, leading to higher unemployment among women. Women remain overcrowded in low productivity, stereo-typed jobs. And this is just because they are women. Thus women face high injustice as well as violation of their basic human rights of equal opportunity. This leads to the disempowerment of women.
Since these inequalities and the resultant disempowerment of women are not being addressed by conventional economic policies, women are left high and dry. Special measures are necessary to overcome this serious malaise that adversely impacts the empowerment of women.
Chairperson proposes a three-fold approach, the three Rs. First, Recognise unpaid work of women in national data systems through time use surveys, The ILO has recognized unpaid work as work. In order to quantify unpaid work, it is vital to conduct scientific well-designed time use surveys in each country of South Asia. So far, Maldives, Bhutan and Afghanistan have not conducted national time-use surveys. Some countries, notably Nepal have conducted modular time use surveys, which do not give accurate results. Only three countries have conducted time-diary based systematic time-use surveys: Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. Here, too, some errors have crept in, affecting the quality of the data. Many activities are missing from the time- diary, since paid work and unpaid work have not been divided systematically. India has, in early 2019, started a fresh round of systematic time-use surveys.
Second, Reduce unpaid work through appropriate policies including improving infrastructural facilities for women (providing water at the door step, clean fuel like LNG gas or electricity, and easy access to health and educational services). Provision of adequate childcare facilities is one aspect that all governments must focus on. This is vital for reducing unpaid work. Such facilities should be non-discriminatory, and income-neutral. India, for example, does have the ICDS programme and the Anganwadi facilities, but their functioning needs to be improved
Third, Redistribute unpaid work in the family by making men share this work equally. Bringing men on board is vital for the success of our efforts. This coordinated approach can go a long way towards empowering women. In addition, key factors include providing equal ownership of all resources to women, and enabling social mobilization so that they can fight for their rights. To state this differently, the presently accepted distribution of paid and unpaid work lies at the core of the strongly patriarchal societies prevalent across South Asia. Unless the stranglehold of patriarchy is weakened and ultimately removed, women’s empowerment and gender equality will never be achieved. The patriarchal mindset envisions men as bread-winners, and women as home-makers. This is the mindset deeply engrained among both men and women, regardless of whether the woman is working in the organized sector or in the informal sector or is fully occupied with household duties. In other words, men do the paid work, and women assume full responsibility for the unpaid work. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will remain unachievable as long as this mindset persists. The achievement of targets in each SDG (not just SDG 5 on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls) is intrinsically linked with women’s unpaid work, be it in the sectors of health, hunger and malnutrition, poverty alleviation, education, environment, water, sanitation and energy. Women’s unpaid work must be calculated and shown in numbers, only then will women’s contribution be appreciated. Modern technology (ICT) does help women working from home, by providing the marketing platform, and spreading knowledge about their product.
Chairperson emphasized that beyond the three Rs, a consolidated strategy is essential for changing mindsets (bringing husbands on board); for bringing the focus on equal ownership of all resources between men and women; for increasing the female labour force participation rate, including through education and training; and for social mobilization to enhance awareness, recognizing that while there is free choice for every woman, many will need legal and institutional support. Women can benefit from the fourth industrial revolution only through education and training.
HE Shidatha Shareef, Minister for Gender, Family and Social Services, Government of Maldives, congratulated SWAN on discussing this vital issue. She emphasized the huge linkages between unpaid work and gender issues. The country’s economic growth and development cannot be achieved without the issue of unpaid work being recognized and tackled. For women, this will increase their access to resources and their quality of life. In Maldives, lack of action to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid work is leading to falling female labour force participation rates, from 54% in 2010 to 42% in 2016. During this period, male lavour force participation rates remained unchanged at 75%. There is also a national gender wage gap of 20%, despite the fact that in Maldives, there is 99% literacy among women, many of whom are highly educated. The all-important fisheries sector in Maldives is described as male-dominated even though the entire process of fish-processing is female-dominated. SWAN as a whole is looking forward to evolving a strategy on dealing with this issue, including policy recommendations.
Ms Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Dhaka, highlighted the crux of the issue, that unpaid work is not considered ‘work’ in the conventional sense. A housewife needs eight pairs of arms (shows slide) to get through her daily chores, yet she herself is the first to say “I do not work”! Only that effort for which there is remuneration is considered ‘work’. There are 22 activities involved in rice production, from sowing to harvesting, and 17 of these are done entirely by women. Yet there is no recognition or evaluation of this. Women are strong contributors to food security in Bangladesh, yet there is no word for women farmer in the Bengali language, only the word for helper. All this contributes to lowering the status of women in society, with little appreciation or respect for her, resulting in the rising incidence of violence against women. Nobody beats up someone they respect. In Bangladesh in 2011-12, 80 per cent of married women faced domestic violence, and 82 per cent of girls were married before the age of 18. Women have made great strides in the economic, political and social life of the country, yet they remain marginalized and vulnerable. In the predominantly agrarian societies across South Asia, the majority of rural women will never leave their homes to join the formal economy, so it is their work at home that must be evaluated and included in the SNA (System of National Accounts).
Since 2012, Manusher Jonno Foundation has run a nationwide campaign in Bangladesh titled “Equality Through Dignity” urging inclusion of women’s unpaid work in the SNA, and through this in the GDP, as the vital ingredient, through recognition of their economic contribution, for raising the status of women and reducing discrimination and violence against them. Under this project, the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) conducted national research through an empirical study to estimate the contribution by women to the Bangladesh economy. CPD concluded that if the woman’s household work were counted on the basis of willingness to accept method, the contribution would be equivalent to 87.2% of Bangladesh GDP (FY2013-14). However, if it is based on replacement cost method, the contribution would be 76.8% of the GDP for the same fiscal year. The empirical research (March to May 2014) also estimated the divison of non-SNA work between men and women. In both rural and urban areas, women are spending 7.7 hours per day on non-SNA work, three times more than men, who spend just 2.5 hours per day on non-SNA work. In a separate study, Oxfam has estimated that if all the non-SNA work done by women globally is calculated, it would amount to approximately US $ 10 trillion! Manusher Jonno Foundation is pushing for use of the Satellite Accounting System for calculation of women’s unpaid work, and for reflecting this as such in the national statistics. This practice is being followed by several countries.
SWAN should vigorously pursue this subject, which is of great relevance and importance for the women of South Asia.
Ms Mohna Ansari, Member, Human Rights Commission of Nepal, Kathmandu, pointed out that in Nepal, as in the rest of South Asia, strongly patriarchal values prevail, and as a result, the burden of unpaid work falls squarely on the shoulders of women. This rigid division of unpaid care work mitigates strongly against the economic empowerment of women. It imposes time-poverty on women, which adversely affects their health, limits their access to education and creates a strong literacy gap between men and women. Women remain poor, and much more vulnerable to violence against them. Stereotypical social norms and perceived gender roles discourage, even prevent men from from sharing the burden of unpaid work. It is vital to work on changing these perceptions among men and society as a whole. In Nepal today, more and more men are going abroad to work in the Middle East. This has further increased the burden of unpaid work on women, especially in the agricultural sector. In a survey conducted by Action Aid Nepal, 92 per cent of the women surveyed said they received no help from men in their care work or household work. The survey estimated that if women’s unpaid work is evaluated at standard rates, it amounts to US $ 11,25 billion, or close to 45 per cent of the GDP of Nepal (US $ 25.18 billion in 2017). SWAN should pursue this critical issue vigorously, finalise recommendations and advocacy strategies with individual governments.
Professor Dr Chaw Chaw Sein, Professor & Chair, International Relations Department, University of Yangon, explained that although women are 51.4 per cent of the population of Myanmar, the levels of gender equality are poor. Since 2011, the landscape for women is changing, The Government and all stakeholders are working together to reduce the levels of gender inequality. The National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women, 2013-22 has been adopted. Women’s participation in political leadership has grown. In the recent parliamentary elections, there were 114 women candidates, and of them, 45 were successful, one as young as 20. Women are well-represented in public sector jobs. Fifty three per cent of those working n the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are women. In academia and teaching, too, more than half are women. Women get six months maternity leave. However, the higher positions in all sectors are invariably dominated by men, with little or no women’s representation. Women face several hurdles and impediments, including the burden of unpaid work over and above their work responsibilities. Cultural norms make it difficult for women, including opposition from family members (the husband) if they have to travel. On 8th March this year, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said “Let us consider how women can contribute to nation-building”. Perhaps there should be a separate round-table with experts to discuss how to move ahead on this vital subject. `
Ms Pramila Rijal, Founder President, South Asian Women Development Forum (SAWDF), Kathmandu, said all of us should focus on how to convert the informal economy into the formal economy. Poverty among women can be redefined if we are able to convert all the work they are doing, paid and unpaid work, into the formal economy. The first step is to create awareness among women about the value of what they are contributing to the economy through their paid and unpaid work. Specific examples of this are the development of rural tourism in Nepal through home-stays. a revenue generating model with women at the core with a strong management role; women artisans being involved in direct marketing through models like Dilli Haat (New Delhi) making the women entrepreneurial; and the SAWDF model of involving women in creating direct access to water supply (instead of walking for hours each day to fetch water) through the Tata Utility Services technology for safe drinking water. This has been introduced in Nepal through the public private partnership (PPP) model. The Government of Nepal agreed to offer a tax rebate for registering the land in the woman’s name, and through this legal intervention, land ownership among women has gone up from just 10 per cent to 35 per cent. In addition, the Government of Nepal charges only Nepali rupees 100 for registering the land in joint ownership between husband and wife. Such examples if utilized widely, would transform the lives of rural women across South Asia.
Ms Sheeza Imad, President, Maldives Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Male, emphasized that structurally, women have every opportunity in Maldives, beginning with a good education, but the key problem remains cultural stereotyping and the mindset against gender equality. Women participate actively in the workforce, but dominate only in the nursing and teaching professions. For paid work, women receive 50 per cent the salary of men, and in the sectors of unpaid work, the woman to man ratio of doing this work is 5: 1. In Maldives, the work opportunities are there, but women’s participation remains low. First there is the high presence of foreign labour, around 2 : 1 in many sectors, and this has adversely affected women. In addition, there is the illegal labour force. In sectors like fish processing, women had a dominating presence, but increasingly, raw fish is being handed over to foreign collection vessels, and this reduced the participation of women in a vital sector. In short, a serious combined effort on changing mindsets and encouraging women to diversify their economic activities is called for.
Dasho Dorji Choden, former Cabinet Minister, Royal Government of Bhutan, emphasized the importance of changing mindsets among every segment of society if we are serious about overcoming the problems confronting the women of South Asia. Traditional patriarchal mindsets are inculcated in each of us through our parents at home and our teachers at school. Women being solely responsible for the drudgery and chores that are defined as unpaid work is part of this mindset. As a result, women lose their self-confidence and respect for themselves, no matter how skilled they are. Dasho recounted an example where the husband earned less as a driver than his wife, who was a skilled weaver of traditional brocades. Yet the wife (and her children) described her as just a housewife, with the husband being the earning member of the family. Unless such perceptions and mindsets are changed, the status of women in society cannot improve. Young girls suffer enormously when neither the school nor the family looks after their needs during menstruation, leading even to their dropping out from school or from active participation in special events. Their very real problems have for too long been ignored by society. The discussions are covering both women’s unpaid work and women’s work in the informal sector. The Government of Thailand’s social security schemes are impressive indeed. Bhutan, too, is working on creating women farmers’ groups, and advocacy and entrepreneurship groups. Bhutan now does not talk of just maternity leave, but family leave, so that fathers, too, can avail of this and stay involved.
Ms Bibi Russell, President, Bibi Productions, Fashion for Development, Dhaka, felt that respect for the nations’ civilizational heritage and culture should be inculcated by parents, and should form as essential part of each child’s education. Throughout history women have been the preservers of cultural heritage and traditional knowledge. If children imbibe this from their parents as part of their upbringing and as part of their educational curriculum, respect for women will be ingrained in them. This is vital for changing mindsets. Fashion for Development works almost exclusively with women artisans, and by paying them well, contributes to their prosperity, and that of their families, communities and villages. She agreed that there should be a specialized, perhaps Round Table discussion to agree on advocacy strategies. Unless the women of South Asia themselves step up their demands on this vital issue, nothing will change.
Dr Boonson Namsomboon, Chairperson and Founder, Forward Foundation, Bangkok, conveyed her appreciation for the passionate yet high quality of discussions in SWAN on this vital issue. She explained that in Thailand, on the assumption that women are responsible for the unpaid work and will remain housewives all their lives, they were deprived of access to education. This is a big problem particularly in the rural areas. Women want to work. yet without education and training, they are constrained to work only in non-formal sectors, in the unorganized part of the economy. Many remain home-based workers, with little possibility of up-grading their skills. This is a strong contributor to gender inequality across the country. However, the Government of Thailand has in position very elaborate social security schemes, which are of great help to women.
The presentations by the panelists was followed by an active discussion and Q&A. Dr Mariyam Shakeela, Maldives, pressed hard for a SWAN action plan (short and medium term) on how to end this problem of women’s unpaid work, including through changing mindsets. Sarita Kumari, India, described how even small steps taken at the micro (village) level can give women self-confidence, dignity, and the strength to overcome mindset issues. In her village, the women are trained in skills that they can practice from the home, and their earnings are deposited in their individual bank accounts. Indira Shrestha, Nepal, said the focus should be on seeking solutions, especially through strategising for advocacy. In Nepal, data collection on women was poor before 1975. Ever since the milestone study on Status of Women in Nepal (1977-81) was published, valuable disaggregated data, including time-use surveys is published every 10 years. The most recent in this series was in 2016-17, after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal. Dr Malavika Chauhan, India, enquired whether modern ICT (information and communication technology) had made it any easier to estimate women’s unpaid work. And what would be the impact of the fourth Industrial revolution, especially sectors like bio-technology. Basir Quraishi, Afghanistan, who is participating in a SWAN Conference for the first time, greatly valued the sincere discussions and important statements made. He appreciates the sentiments of women who are feeling marginalized. It is true that in Afghanistan, the contribution of women is taken for granted, that they will stay at home and be responsible for all the unpaid work. While he agrees that this work done by women should be recognized and evaluated, at the same time he feels that it will take a long time to change the prevailing mindsets. Such changes in mindsets cannot be forced. The process of changing mindsets needs advocacy and patience. The Constitution, the Government and the community should formally recognize the value of unpaid work. Perhaps this can be included in marriage contracts! Community awareness should be created and women should advocate for this.
Veena Sikri, India, explained that the SWAN Annual Conferences normally have full plenary format for all sessions, since this enables all SWAN delegates to learn about the work completed since the previous SWAN Annual Conference. However, the SWAN practice is to arrange specialised Round Table discussions of experts in the interim period between two Annual Conferences. Certainly, SWAN will make every effort to arrange the Round Table discussion on Women’ Unpaid Work. To begin with, each of the country experts will be requested to prepare brief Reports on the situation regarding Women’s Unpaid Work in their respective countries, including action initiated, if any, on the three Rs, on mindset change, on women in the informal economy, the falling female labour force participation rate, and the impact of all these trends on gender equality and gender empowerment. This would help us in formulating policy recommendations and advocacy strategies on this vital issue, for discussion at the proposed Round Table.
0930 hours, September 2, 2019, Park Hotel, New Delhi
Thematic Session no 3 :
Women for Change : Building a Gendered Media in South Asia
Chairperson : Veena Sikri, Professor & Ambassador, Founding Trustee & Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)
Chairperson’s Summary : SWAN has circulated, as a Conference document for discussion in this Session, the Interim Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia. The Interim Report represents the culmination and outcome of more than five years’ work by SWAN and the participating institutions and individuals from all nine countries on the flagship project Women for Change : Building a Gendered Media in South Asia. A brief synopsis of this project will be useful for all present.
In 2013, UNESCO (New Delhi Cluster Office) and SWAN conceptualized this project together. In September 2014, the project was launched at SWAN’s Sixth Annual Conference in Thimphu, Bhutan. UNESCO and SWAN agree that gender equality is central to the idea of a pluralistic and inclusive media eco-system. Indeed, gender equality is a pre-condition for genuine freedom of expression. So this project seeks to strengthen freedom of expression by strengthening gender equality. The media is an important partner, both in the promotion of gender equality as well as in removing negative gender stereotypes embedded in individual and community mindsets. SWAN has a dynamic and interactive regional media network, which brings together women media practitioners, academicians and media researchers from nine nations. UNESCO has developed a wide range of tools for promoting gender equality and gender sensitivity in the media. UNESCO and SWAN, having agreed to bring together their respective strengths in order to build a gendered media in South Asia, launched this initiative with three key objectives : to address the vulnerability of women journalists in South Asia : advocate equal rights for women working in the media; to strengthen the gender sensitivity of the South Asian media, including on portrayal of women in media content and through advertising; and to engage with stakeholders, including advocacy wih governments, to bring about gender equality in and through the media.
In Phase I of the project, completed by October 2016, Gender Sensitive Guidelines for Women in Media in South Asia (GSGWMSA) were finalised at the May 2016 Regional Consultations held in New Delhi, covering print, electronic and online media, including the entertainment and advertising sectors, with a special focus on issues relating to portrayal of women in each of these segmnets. The GSGWMSA are categorized under two broad heads. The first is Gender Equality for Women in Media, which covers (a) Gender balance at all decision-making levels; (b) Gender equality in work and working conditions; (c) Gender equality in unions, journalists’ associations, and media self-regulatory bodies; (d) Gender balance in education and training; (e) Ethical codes for gender sensitive editorial policies in media organizations; (f) Guidelines for owners and decision makers in media; (g) Addressing Gender Based Violence (GBV) and harassment at work. The second broad head under the GSGWMSA is Portrayal of Women in Media under the following heads (a) News and current affairs; (b) Entertainment; (c) Online; (d) Advertising; and (e) Depiction of GBV and sexual harassment through the media. The GSGWMSA provide a uniquely comprehensive framework for ensuring gender equality and gender empowerment for women, both in and through the media. The GSGWMSA were discussed and approved at SWAN’s Eighth Annual Conference in Yangon in October 2016, taking into account the views expressed at National Consultations (on the GSGWMSA) held in seven countries between May and October 2016. This completed Phase I.
The methodology for Phase II of the project, agreed at SWAN’s Yangon Coference, was to conduct the Baseline Survey based on detailed guidelines to be provided for all participating delegates and institutions by the Regional Coordinators, Professor Gita Bamezai, Project Director, ICSSR-IIMC Project on Women in Media, Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi, and Professor Jaishri Jethwaney, Senior ICSSR Research Fellow, Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID), New Delhi. IIMC has coordinated all aspects relating to the news media and entertainment sectors (including cinema), while ISID is coordinating on advertising and portrayal issues, and the Multi Media Tool Kit (Gender Sensitivity Test). Financial support for conducting the Baseline Survey has been received by individual teams from several sources, including, IPDC Secretariat at UNESCO (Paris), UNESCO (Nepal), UNESCO (Islamabad), the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi, separately for IIMC and ISID, the India Sri Lanka Foundation, Colombo (for the empirical research in Sri Lanka), and the Fojo Media Institute, Linnaeus, Sweden, with International Media Support (IMS) Denmark, for the Myanmar Country Research Team.
By May 2017, IIMC and ISID completed the development of the methodology for the empirical research through the Baseline Surve, and by October 2017, detailed Guidelines for Secondary Research (Baseline Survey) were circulated to all South Asian participants. These were discussed animatedly at SWAN’s Ninth Annual Conference in Kathmandu in November 2017, during the Plenary Session, and during the specially organised Inception Meeting for Phase II of the project. Individual teams presented the outcomes of their respective secondary research, and discussed these with the Regonal Coordinators. The Regional Coordinators made detailed presentations on the primary research procedures and processes required for completing the Baseline Survey in each country.
In May 2018, with the support of UNESCO (New Delhi), ISID and IIMC convened the Regional Training and Consultation Workshop in New Delhi, with the participation of media researchers and institutional heads from seven countries. This Workshop, ensured capacity building for the participating country teams on research methodology for the primary research content of the Baseline Survey. The Workshop also discussed the structure and functioning of the Multi Media Tool Kit (Gender Sensitivity Test); and finalised the timelines and template for the Country Research Chapters for the Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia. After May 2018, UNESCO New Delhi has discontinued its association with the SWAN project.
The work done by the Country Research Teams has benefitted greatly fom the advice and views received from their respective Country Advisory Boards. SWAN will move ahead on this project based on continuous advice and interaction among the members of the Regional Project Advisory Board that has now been established.
The Interim Report has been prepared by the Editorial Team of Veena Sikri, Jaishri Jethwaney and Ratan Kumar Roy. Volume I of the Interim Report has the collective and comparative analysis of the individual Country Research Reports, collated under nine chapters. Volume II compiles the individual Country Research Reports. The vigorous discussions on the Interim Report, together with the presentations by the Regional Coordinators and each Country Research Team have been summarised below. The key issues agreed in the first meeting of the Regional Project Advisory Board are ;
- Each Country Research Team congratulated SWAN on the preparation of the Interim Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia, representing the collated outcome of over firve years of coordinated work on this project
- This is SWAN’s first such project Report, and on the occasion of SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference, this should be published as the principal Conference Document;
- Based on the discussions in the session, and separately between research teams, Regional Coordinators and the Editorial Team for the Interim Report, it is clear that each Country Research Team needs to either up-date their Reports, or send in fresh inputs under specific heads. It was agreed that all the data and analytical updates should be sent no later than 15th October to enable the timely publication of the final Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia.
Panelists and Discussants :
The presentations began with the Regional Coordinators, who described the research outcomes for South Asia and for India. Shri KS Dhatwalia, Principal Director General, Press Information Bureau, Government of India, and Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi, gave a Special Address.
Shri KS Dhatwalia highlighted the central coordinating role that IIMC has played in this unique SWAN project that is researching issues of gender and media in nine countries of the South Asian region. The vital perspectives covered by this research impact gender equality, the role of the media in changing mindsets, and the significant interaction between these aspects. This is a difficult enough exercise in one country, but SWAN has brought together nine countries in a coordinated effort, with significant results. IIMC is closely following the outcomes, and the discussions on the next steps.
IIMC as an institution with over 50 years standing has attached the highest importance to collaboration, coordination and sharing experiences with the countries of the global South. IIMC has achieved a high degree of excellence in teaching and media research covering all aspects of this highly complex sector : not just the news media, but electronic and social media and the advertising sector as well. IIMC strongly feels that media research is a process that needs to constantly up-date its areas of work, including on sensitive issues like fake news and authentication of sources.
IIMC, soon to be a deemed University, warmly invites all the countries of South Asia to join in and participate in the specialized courses they offer, be this the Development Journalism programme or any other.
Professor Jaishri Jethwaney, Senior ICSSR Research Fellow, ISID (Institute for Studies in Industrial Development), New Delhi, highlighted the major outcomes of the research, covering women in advertising and portrayal issues in nine countries. In India, the seminal research study on this subject was undertaken by ISID with funding from the ICSSR (Indian Council for Social Science Research). The research process, namely the Baseline Survey, has been completed despite lack of support from UNESCO New Delhi after May 2018. Most of us do not appreciate the enormous impact of media, including advertising, on mindsets. We do not realize how much our knowledge of the world around us is shaped by what we read, see and hear through the media. Research is a passion. It analyses the problem, but does not necessarily provide solutions. The solution-seeking through policy recommendations begins now, based on the results of the research presented through the Interim Report, taking into account the views of all stakeholders.
The objective of our research has been to understand the role of the advertising sector in all the nine countries, especially as regards portrayal of women. Amazingly, just five global conglomerates control 85 per cent of the advertising sector all over the world. So even though the size of the advertising sector varies widely in the nine countries covered by the research (in India the ad industry is a robust US $ 10 billion sector), the problems, approaches and attitudes remain strikingly similar. In the ad industry, it is the creative team that is supreme in determining the strategy on how to reflect women in any particular advertisement, based on their perception of the interests of the target audiences.
The results of the research reveal, across all nine participating countries, that the advertising industry has been blatant in portraying women either stereotypically as passive, dumb, non-consistent, poor decision makers, or as sex objects.. In six of the nine countries of South Asia, there is a large presence of global agencies. In the remaining three countries, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Maldives, where the global conglomerates are absent, women are stereotypically portrayed, but not necessary sexually objectified across brand categories. The principal features of the research results on the portrayal of women through advertisements are :
- Gender-Insensitive Content– In the advertisement contents of almost all the nine South Asian countries, one finds stereotypes about women. In Bangladesh, advertising content is regarded as ‘skewed against women’. In Nepal the ad content, as stated in the country report, is considered stereotypical ‘but not necessarily derogatory towards women’. In India, although the trend is changing (seeking now to portray women in liberal and bold roles), a lot of the ad content on women portrays them as passive, low in intellect and social hierarchy. Some brand categories, like beauty products, deodorants, condoms and apparel sexually objectify women. Stereotypes are also common in Myanmar, Pakistan, Maldives, Afghanistan and Sri Lankan
- Essentialist Content refers to advertising content that continues to portray women in essentialist roles, i.e., roles determined on the basis of set gender attributes, as per essentialist understanding. This trend is specifically observed in the advertising industry of Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, where women are most often portrayed in jobs, including as nurses, secretaries or lower level officers, regarded suitable to women because of their natural attributes. Women continue to be portrayed within traditional and typical domestic roles, as in Sri Lanka, where even girl-children are projected in a similar manner, helping their mothers in the household chores.
- Content Promoting Body-Shaming : While this is a common trend across many South Asian countries, it was particularly the case with the advertising content in Bhutan, where being slim is considered an attribute of beauty. Some research studies in Bhutan reflect that body shaming in Bhutanese advertising contents has a major influence on young girls and women in the country and is affecting them in a negative manner.
So why does advertising portray women offensively? The following could be some of the reasons :Advertising is a commercial medium that has the ubiquitous burden of brand building and persuading the customer to buy the brand being advertised. As advertisements are located within news stories in the print media and in between entertainment programmes on television, the chances are that people zap channels when ads appear, or flip newspaper pages, which have many ads. Therefore, in order to attract customers, advertisers often provoke people to arrest their attention. Among many strategies that an advertiser may use, the one that is most often used is bold imageries of women. There is not much empirical research to suggest whether this attention-seeking strategy helps in better sales for the brand that objectifies the female body.
- Advertising is an aspirational medium that attracts the young and the uninhibited. As a brand strategy, life style advertisements often have glamorous models essaying the roles, who are portrayed as objects of desire for the audience.
- Either suitable laws against inappropriate and indecent portrayal of women do not exist in most South Asian countries or when they do, they remain lax in implementation. Advertisers take advantage of this situation. In India, despite a number of laws and policies in place, the industry often flouts these with impunity.
- Often the content creators have inadequate sensitisation or understanding of gender and related issues. As a result it is easy for them to fall prey to the patriarchal narratives that are taken as the norm in portraying women.
Following up on this last point, the research results reveal that while women are joining institutes and faculties of media and mass communication in increasing numbers, seeking careers in the media sector, at the same time, mass communication course curriculum and syllabi have hardly any content on gender issues and gender sensitivity. Bangladesh is the only exception where there are separate modules on gender issues. It came as surprise that in India, out of the more than 300 universities and institutes of higher learning that impart education and training in journalism and mass communication, just about 5% syllabi has some content on gender.
The research findings have policy implications for both the government and the industry. These need to be discussed among all stakeholders from the public and private sectors in each country, so that appropriate policy and legal frameworks can be evolved in the best interest of equality, prosperity and development of all. This would include gender sensitization of educational curricula, and engagement of the government with advertising industry and professional bodies to create a mechanism of self-regulation based on gender sensitivity indicators.
Seema Goyal, Professor, ISID, New Delhi, explained details about the Multimedia Took Kit (MMTK) with Gender Sensitivity Test developed by ISID, New Delhi, for use by creative teams, and as an advocacy tool. The seminal research study completed by Professor Jaishri Jethwaney on “Portrayal of Women: An Empirical Study of Advertising Content – Issues and Concerns for Policy Intervention” has brought the spotlight, inter alia, on one critical issue : the low level of engagement of creative teams (the content creators) on gender issues, and on laws and codes of professional ethics. Therefore, there is the vital need to influence the minds of the content creators with robust data and literature review on the portrayal of women in advertising that occupies so much commercial space in the media.
With this in mind, the ISID research team has envisioned a Multi-Media Tool Kit (MMTK) with a Gender Sensitivity Test (GST) for the self-examination of the creative teams on their ad narrative on various brands, based on a few gender sensitivity indicators. The GST is a self-appraisal of creative work from the gender perspective. The GST can be used by a creative team in checking the gender sensitivity of the ad narrative created by them, before it is released in the media for public consumption.
The making of MMTK with the Gender Sensitivity Test has involved (a) rigorous process of desk research to identify the relevant materials that would be of interest as reference material for the creative teams, (b) compiling the major findings and insights from the baseline survey, as the basis of narrative in the MMTK, and (c) the critical appraisal of a sample of advertisements from across brand categories from the gender perspective, incorporating both the actual advertisements and the critical analysis.
Based on this, the Project Research Team at ISID has conceptualized and produced the MMTK Work-Book aimed to serve a Reference Library for all creative teams. This will function as the repository of feminist and other literature, references and texts of existing laws and policies on the subject, texts of the codes of professional ethics followed by organisations like Doordarshan, ASCI, BCCC, and others, critical analysis and appraisal of ads (across brand categories) from the gender perspective, and identified best practices, as well as select empirical studies on the portrayal of women in advertising. All of this will be presented in a non-linear interactive format encompassing text, audio, video and animation, for reference and guidance of the creative teams, and other interested groups.
The prototype of this web-enabled MMTK created by the ISID Research team for the Indian Advertising Sector can be suitably adapted by other countries in South Asia. The MMTK can also be strategically altered for the news and entertainment sectors as well. There can be a common MMTK incorporating input from all South Asian countries also. All this is the future.
In addition to being a reference tool for creative teams, the MMTK is expected to serve as an advocacy tool for policy intervention, both at government and Industry levels.
Dr Ananya Roy, Senior Consultant, Department of Communication Research, Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi, explained that in this project, IIMC has developed all the knowledge tools in the news media and entertainment sectors, while ISID has done the same for the advertising sector. In he news media and entertainment sectors, there is great similarity in the results that have come in from all the nine participating countries. Women are under-represented in the media workforce in almost all sectors. Portrayal of women is a huge problem in all countries. Women are not equal partners with men. They are relegated to the background, seen as objects of attraction. Women’s careers in media (and other sectors) are affected because for them, the best years of their careers are also the best reproductive years of their life. And women find it difficult to re-enter the workforce once they have left for family reasons.
In India, the ICSSR funded study done by IIMC covered 10 States in 5 zones (North, East, South, West, and Central) based on: concentrated media eco-systems, diversity in media in terms of language, location, reach and accessibility, and media education hubs/ centers. This project included the media consumer survey. As part of this survey, we asked people’s views on how they perceive the media. Does projection through the media influence the views of consumers? The answers revealed the direct influence of media on the views of consumers. This perspective by consumers is in direct contrast with the views of media owners/ editors, who say that they write what consumers want to read, reflecting the views of the consumers themselves.
Information and communication technologies including media are theoretically often seen as enablers of development that, through equitable participation, can lead to women’s empowerment, Yet their effectiveness is determined largely by the socio-cultural and political environment in which they are initiated and put to use. In India, communication technology is among the country’s top 5 economic growth drivers (alongside infrastructure, healthcare, automobiles and financial services). India has the second-largest online population in the world after China, with 462 million users. The number of smart phone users in India will touch 1.1 billion by 2024 (as projected by Ericsson) up from 300 million in 2018. Mobile internet penetration is estimated to increase to 44% by 2020 (GSMA, 2015). Indian video OTT services are set to grow at 21.8% CAGR to reach $1.7 billion by 2023 from $638 million in 2018 (Economic Times, 2016). Penetration of television has increased by 7.5% in the last two years, rising from 183 million households in 2016 to 197 million households in 2018.
The total media and entertainment market in India shows continuous and strong growth. Yet, this democratization of the media has left women on the margins, since it has not empowered women to the same extent as men. While India accounts for 12% of the world’s internet population, only 29 per cent of all internet users in India are women (UNICEF, 2017), amounting to a 42 per cent “digital gender gap”. There are 114 million more men than women owning mobile handsets in India, and men and outnumber women owning a SIM card by 25 per cent (GSMA, 2015). India’s OTT video market is also overly dominated by male viewers with 79% of the total users being men (Counterpoint Research, 2019). The figures for television are, however, more encouraging with television attracting an almost equal viewership between men and women: 348 million male viewers as compared to 327 million female viewers (Economic Times, 2016).
The political economy of the media in India, including ownership patterns and determinants of content, negatively affect women’s empowerment, including through low levels of media workforce participation, and serious under- representation at decision-making levels, including on issues relating to portrayal of women in media. Most of the leading media companies are owned by large conglomerates, which are controlled by the founding families (Media Ownership Monitor India, 2018). Among the most read newspapers and most viewed television news channels in India, only one newspaper company, Hindustan Times and its affiliates, is owned by a woman.
The press in India is far from gender-balanced, especially in non-metro cities. Women journalists in the Indian language press are scanty, with fewer job opportunities available to them, and “prejudices against them (are) formidable” (Jeffery, 2000). Even when able to enter the media as professionals, many women journalists experience slow or limited progress. The existence of a glass ceiling is not denied even by women who have reached the top of the hierarchy in news organisations. Women journalists in India continue to battle sexist representation and are forced to bear the use of sexist language.
Stories on women abound on special events such as Mother’s Day, International Women’s Day and others.,while at other times, news related to women are primarily sensational articles on glamour, sex, domestic violence and other forms of violence. In content production, the proliferation of primarily digital media has enabled production of user-generated content, and the rise of “citizen journalism”. While this may signal lowering of barriers to and decentralisation of media content production and distribution, implying democratisation of information, the same large media institutions tend to predominate online spaces. As a result, “women still feature less frequently than men in news discourse; women journalists and media professionals are often locked out of the more prestigious beats, and their occupation of senior positions within media organizations is still minimal” (UNESCO, 2018). The only segment that has bucked this trend is online media, where women’s representation is high at 42 per cent (NWMI).
Finally, in India, most journalism curricula do not include specific modules on gender. it is interetsing to see the analysis from different ends of the spectrum on the reasons for this. Most media educators believe that including gender in syllabi is not useful without a prior social change with regard to gender perspectives, since merely learning about gender issues does not necessarily make Indian students, with sexism deep-rooted in their mental make-up, gender sensitive (Jenefa, 2016). However, the study found women respondents to be in favour of inclusion of gender as a key component in the curricula, since this would make students more aware of gender issues. This could change even deeply ingrained mindsets, which would subsequently translate their learnings into gender-sensitive news writing and reporting.
Basir Quraishi, DHSA, Kabul, thanked UNESCO, SWAN and the IPDC Secretariat for supporting DHSA in conducting the Baseine Survey on the Status of Women in Media in Afghanstan. The project was a component of the regional initiative launched by UNESCO and SWAN on ‘Women for Change: Building a Gendered Media in South Asia”. The methodology of this survey was proposed by SWAN and supported by UNESCO Kabul. The methodology covering secondary and primary empirical research, included desk research on the functioning of media outlets on a detailed number of parameters; and using survey tools, including interviews, manual and online filing of questionnaires, for interaction with women journalists.
DHSA conducted this survey in several provinces of Afghanistan, including, with sample sizes, Kabul (68), Herat (40), Balkh (43), Nangarhar (13), Kunduz (8), Kandahar (7), and Khost (5). A total of 50 individuals (from different media groups) completed the online survey. Online surveys are uncommon in Afghanistan and therefore it took more time than expected to get the survey forms filled online. Respondents from different age groups participated in the survey with a majority of respondents i.e. 63% belonging to age group of 18-25 years, 31% in the age group of 25 -35 years, while 4% and 1 % respectively belonged to 35-45 and 45-55 years age groups. In terms of educational qualification, a majority of the respondents i.e. 67.14% were Bachelor Degree holders, 4.29% were Master holders, 18.57% above high school (14 grade passed) and 8.57% were high school certified. As regards marital status of the respondents – the large majority i.e. 67% (over 80% in manual surveys) were single. Most of the respondents i.e. 81% were associated with News Media; 16% were associated with Entertainment Media. The participants of the manual survey were associated with different media forms : 42% were working in radio; over 40% were engaged in TV; 6.6% were associated with print media; over 5% worked in online media while 5% were associated with other types of media. Regarding area of work/expertise half of the participants i.e. 50% mentioned reporting; 29% stated Anchoring; 4% each stated Production and Direction; 3% mentioned Designing, 1% script writing while 7% mentioned other areas.
Overall, the survey has provided valuable empirical information on the status of women media professionals in Afghanistan, as well as grounds for initiating efforts to improve the situation. The broad conclusions based on empirical research are clear. The media sector, through flourishing in Afghanistan, is still in the early stages of development. A majority of the workforce in media organizations has limited experience, even though career growth prospects seem bright. It is vital to ensure the induction of more women at every level and in decision-making roles in order to promote gender equity, potentially through a mentor programme that ensures buy-in from media-owners and their boards. The second recommendation for improving gender equality in and through the media is to enhance financial remuneration (including allowances and benefits such as pension, bonuses, medical and insurance) for women in all media formats, and to ensure career advancement opportunities through capacity building trainings and courses. Finally, it is essential to address the issues of sexual harassment and GBV through punitive measures, awareness raising among men and women, implementation of stronger laws and establishing effective complaint mechanisms.
Dr Kajalie Islam, Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, explained that the Bangladeshi mediascape has undergone a period of rapid growth since the 1990s, with the growth of not only newspapers in their hundreds, but radio and television stations, advertising agencies and most recently, online news portals. Participation and role of women in the media sector in Bangladesh is still understudied. In the current context of Bangladesh’s media landscape, female participation is increasing in numbers, but there are serious issues which need special attention. A safe workplace for women and gender equity in the media is interlinked with the larger question of women’s rights in the country.
The top ten leading newspapers of Bangladesh have very low proportion of women employees, with only two of these employing between 11% and 15% women, another four employing between 5% and 10% women, and the remaining four employing less than 5% women. The low participation of women in the newspaper industry has been attributed to several factors, including lack of security, lack of adequate transport facilities, discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and an overall male-dominated work environment not conducive to women. The proportion of women employees is much better in the radio, TV and online sectors. However, the proportion of women in top level management and editorial roles remains abysmally low in all sectors.
In Bangladesh, among 23 universities and 26 departments offering media and communication-related programmes, 19 departments have courses focusing on gender studies (for example gender and communication), 15 at the under-graduate level, and 4 at the Master’s level. This is a good proportion, which augurs well for the future.
Portrayal issues : other than some political news which by default are women-centred because the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the leader of the main opposition party as well as the Speaker of Parliament and several Cabinet Members happen to be women, the most news about women in the media is about violence against women and entertainment news. Women are most often portrayed as victims in hard news, and as glamourous at best and as sex objects at worst, in entertainment news. Focus on the marital and family status of women as wives and mothers characterises most news about women. News of sexual harassment, abuse and rape, and violent crimes against women related to romantic relationships are often sensationalized, sexualised and even more gender-insensitive than other news. Images accompanying news of everything from accidents to natural disasters, are dominated by women, who are depicted as helpless, hapless victims, in tears and often physically leaning on male family members for support.
Overall, the key findings and concerns highlighted in the Bangladesh Country Research indicate that :
- Media houses in Bangladesh do not have exclusive gender-related policy for their employees or even for the purposes of presentability;
- The management of the newspapers claim that they have a women-friendly and gender-sensitive work environment with a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment in the workplace and that complaints, though they are rarely ever made, are and would be taken very seriously.
- The National Broadcast Policy of Bangladesh contains some provisions regarding the representation of women on Radio, such as Articles 3.7.1. and 4.4.10, which contain directives and prohibitions regarding the derogatory representation of women. While the state-owned Bangladesh Betar, follows the National Broadcast Policy, with regard to gender-related issues, private radio stations do not have any such written policy or guidelines regarding the representation of women.
- The National Broadcast Policy also contains some provisions regarding the representation of women on television. Articles 7.1, 3.7.5, 4.3.5, 4.4.9 and 4.4.10 have directions and prohibitions to prevent the derogatory representation of women. However, none of these clauses ensure equal treatment of women in the workplace and appropriate representation of women on screen.
- Film is probably the only media in Bangladesh with policies which directly address the representation (though not participation in the industry) of women. The Ministry of Information has circulated a draft policy titled “National Film Policy 2015 (Draft)” which has some articles and clauses that contain certain directives to ensure gender equity of male and female characters. However, this is still a draft policy, yet to be passed.
- There are no gender-related policies or laws regarding online news portals. The draft of the National Online Media Policy (2015) is yet to be passed. bdnews24.com has some unofficial guidelines regarding the usage of language (e.g., the use of the Bangla word “nari” instead of “mohila”), confidentiality (not publishing the names of victims) and the representation of the third gender. Facilities at online news portals are fluid though they claim to prioritise night transport for women.
- Ambiguity still prevails with regard to office policies and facilities, while they vary between organisations. Most newspapers, radio and television channels offer transportation facilities for women who work during the night shift. Some television channels provide health facilities, including essential supplies such as sanitary napkins, first-aid boxes and immediate medical care in nearby hospitals.
- Maternity leave also varies based on the in-house policies. While the organisations claim that they follow the government stipulations, some radio and television channel workers maintain that it gets determined by personal relationships within the organisation. There are, however, allegations of discrimination against some channels, on the basis of the sex of the employees, with regard to their pay and opportunities.
The principal Recommendations and Way Ahead for women in media in Bangladesh is to ensure that comprehensive policies are put in place addressing gender issues, including the participation and portrayal of women across various sectors within the media. To ensure the effectiveness of the same, specific needs of women such as maternity leave coupled with other perks and benefits need to be provided by the media industry, in order to boost female participation in the media workforce. The introduction of a comprehensive gender policy would provide an equal footing for all gender groups and actually enhance the participation of women at different levels within the media houses in Bangladesh. The inclusion of women at different levels, especially the decision-making level, would ensure greater equality in terms of pay, facilities and opportunities in the workplace, together with issues of portrayal of women in the media.
Mr Samten Wangchuk, Co-Founder, Project Coordinator & Lead Researcher, Dhensel Research and Consulting, Thimphu, provided valuable inputs about how the participation in the project by Dhensel Research and Consulting has been a tremendous learning experience. He thanked SWAN, UNESCO New Delhi and IPDC Secretariat for their support. After completing the secondary research for the UNESCO SWAN project, the group went on to the next stage of verifying and validating the findings of the secondary research, while also gathering additional data and materials that were deemed necessary and conveyed during the meeting of participating countries at the Capacity Building Workshop in New Delhi in May 2018. Around October 2018 the first meeting of the Country Advisory Board for Bhutan was held. The cooperation and endorsement from the Advisory Board, a diverse group representing various media and government organisations, enabled the project to take an official outlook, giving the process the much-needed boost in support of the survey component. In preparation for the Baseline Survey, after discussing the proposed Survey questionnaire with the Advisory Board members, a pre-test was carried out with some of the former journalists, where it became clear that certain questions had to be modified, included or removed from the questionnaire. With the questionnaire finalised, the Baseline Survey, the first of its kind for Bhutan, was rolled out on December 5 2018. The team, in close consultation with the Advisory Board members, sat together over the weekend for data analysis and to agree on outcomes of the survey. The role of the Advisory Board has been invaluable in providing strategic advice and recommendations.
The survey also invited men to participate. However, there were issues, especially arising from the name of the survey, which discouraged men from participating. They felt “A study to map the roles, opportunities and working conditions of women media professionals” was not relevant to them. However, since it was one-on-one interaction, the enumerators were able to convince men about the importance of their participation. The project required creating an online repository of media materials and data. Upon fully completing this project, this repository will function as an important data source for all researchers and media practitioners, invaluable for ready reference. The Baseline Survey conducted for this unique project advocating for a gender sensitive media has the capacity to empower women in media. In the course of this project, it was also apparent there was very little awareness on the subject. Acknowledging that media plays an important role in terms of shaping perception, bringing in diversity and advocating for women rights, all efforts would prove futile if these do not lead to change, bringing in favorable conditions for women working in media. The study is significantly revealing. Therefore, if not sustained or built upon further, all cause and intention would be rendered pointless.
We would now like to carry our work further by conveying the findings of the project to policy makers, parliamentarians, government agencies, NGOs and representatives from women and media related organisations, so that discussions on implementation can start. Discussions on the study will also be initiated in mainstream media and social media platforms. Media has already shown interest on the project and several newspapers have also covered the story when the survey kicked off. We must all work together to seek funding for the next stage, focused on implementation.
Principal conclusions for Bhutan : While the proportion of men and women working in the media in the initial years after recruitment are almost equal, there are clear differences in the positions men and women assume in the media. The small percentage of women participating in management meetings and contributing to decision making can be attributed to the decreasing number of women in media as they grow older. There are no women in media after the age of 40, unlike men who continue even after 51 years of age. Maximum number of women in media are between the ages 26-30, when they are in junior positions.
Despite support from the family and spouse, women’s overwhelming responsibility for household management and care work seems to challenge women’s participation in media. Among married women, 60.7 percent are contemplating leaving the profession as opposed to 23.3 percent among married men. Further, almost 70 percent of women with children expressed their intentions to leave the profession against 26 percent men. The results on intention to leave suggest that the likelihood of women leaving the media profession increase with marriage and children. The disproportionate amount of time spent by women on household responsibilities may be causing women to leave the media profession, despite societal acceptance and support from the family and spouse.
The overall results relating to work conditions suggest that these are gender neutral. Since the work conditions are not gender responsive, particularly for those with children, working in media may be difficult for women who are married and have children, causing them to leave the media profession. This perception, that gender neutral work conditions adversely affect the ability for married women with children to continue working in the media differs between the men and women questioned for the survey. In short, going by the findings, work conditions can be considered gender-insensitive towards women. Since family and household responsibilities are unevenly distributed between men and women, gender insensitive working conditions makes it most likely that married women with children will give up their jobs in the media..
Subtle as they may be, biases against women and gender-based discrimination is an intrinsic part of Bhutanese media scenario, a situation that merits and warrants intervention to make working conditions favourable for women.
Dr Maryam Shakeela, former Cabinet Minister, Chairperson, AWA (Addu Women’s Association), Maldives,
Ms Minha Faiz, Chairman, One Media Group, Male
The research identified issues and concerns regarding women in media, and portrayal of women through the media in the Maldives, including discrimination, stereotyping, unfair treatment, harassment of all forms, and barriers to senior leadership positions. Clearly, in the Maldivian media industry, stereotypical depiction of gender roles emphasizes the outdated patriarchal beliefs regarding gender. The study also touched upon restrictive demands that are placed on women that limit their ability to work certain hours or benefit from overtime, thus affecting their take home pay. Research also led to an analysis of the advertising industry. This is an underdeveloped area that needs to be regulated through guidelines and policies to avoid any discrimination, stereotyping and negative portrayal of women.
Currently, in media outlets of this very male dominated industry, on average the ratio of women to men in each organization is 1:3. Interestingly the low level of female participation is attributed to the lack of stability within the profession as well as an allegation that women demand higher wages than men. The media leaders (almost all men) also claim that the nature of the job is somehow perceived as unfavourable to women, and that more men apply for the jobs than women. However, when cross-checked with women respondents, significant discrepancies emerged in these allegations.
The study done in the Maldives clearly brought out that women working in the media industry face multiple challenges ranging from discrimination, harassment, stereotyping to outright negligence and disregard for women’s capability or their welfare. In fact, all forms of harassment and bullying at the workplace were considered to be a major issue. Very often, the victim herself is victimized or blamed, resulting in many victims just remaining silent. Thus, many cases go unreported for fear of repercussions by peers. Women felt that they get side-lined, ignored and unappreciated during programmes and events that are at the forefront of the media world. Fair play on issues regarding harassment and how media turns the tables around victimizing the already victimized women is indeed a major concern. All forms of marginalization, discrimination, lack of fair play on issues, and blatant obstructions in accessing opportunities, especially leadership positions, have a negative impact, leading to gender imbalance.
The broadcasting and advertising industry in Maldives has cited “client’s needs” as a justification for its content. In the advertising and entertainment industries, women are most often portrayed in domestic settings with little or no character dimension and representation.
Lack of awareness on the need for proper ethical guidelines to promote gender equity and suppress stereotyping and negative portrayal, especially in the advertising industry, is seen as a pressing concern. Lack of legal framework for specific media is a hindrance to their progress as well as a barrier to the progressive and sustainable growth of media industry in general. At the moment there are no specific guidelines that prohibit behavior (including sexual harassment and violence) that may be deemed harmful and discriminatory to women, especially those working in the field.
Media studies’ institutes need to encourage more female participation and the course content needs to include gender sensitization units. Currently the course content is not gender sensitized and the ratio of men to women enrolling in media training and education institutes in Maldives is currently at 3:1. Certainly, this fact does contribute to the situation where the majority of media positions in the profession are occupied by men.
Some of the key recommendations that emerged from the study are as follows:
- The media in Maldives should agree to adapt to a mechanism through which gender equality can be attained. This includes creating policies wherever these are missing, and making serious efforts to implement the existing policies that would protect the rights of its women employees.
- Lack of adherence to existing guidelines is a serious problem.
- Gender inclusive policies, including policy against sexual harassment should be implemented in each and every organization. .
- Media organizations should include articles/stories about women and for women with due respect to them as capable people, rather than objectifying them.
- Generating awareness through all forms of media on the importance of gender balance to create sustainable organizations and economies.
- Conduct regular monthly audits and submit these to regulatory bodies such as the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and the Maldives Media Council.
- Conduct expert-verified and mandated training sessions in order to generate awareness on the rights of women working in media as well as address the negative representation of women (with harmful gender stereotypes) in media. There can be a set number of sessions depending on the size of the employee base, and this can be monitored by the regulatory bodies of media in Maldives, followed by the monthly reports.
- While at present there are codes of conduct in individual organizations, many do not focus heavily on the rights of women. The Maldivian law states that any company or organization that has higher than a certain number of employees should have a committee of employees that assesses and looks into cases of harassment at workplace. There is, however, currently no system in place to check and monitor if the law is actually being implemented. While there are regulatory bodies, no organization or company is legally obligated to obey or respond to the calls or orders of the councils currently in place. There should therefore be legislation in place to empower these organizations.
- Instances in print media include the usage of attention-grabbing headlines that stray away from content of the news in a bid to gain readers. There are currently no adverse consequences of such actions by any broadcasting media or news corporation. Through implementation of the law, this should be stopped.
- Rules and regulations need to be set up for representation of women in advertisements. Legislative measures need to be in place to combat the current deregulation in the field of advertisement to ensure that all advertisements for public viewing are subject to guidelines that do not promote harmful messaging and enhance oppression of any group within society.
- Media should adopt policies that will protect the rights of its women employees and set standards that would ensure that the gender gap is narrowed
- Establish online mode of reporting on sexual harassment to stop victims’ silencing due to fear of losing their jobs or fear of damaging their own reputation or fear of getting blamed by peers.
Ms Thin Thin Aung, Co-Founder and Director, Mizzima Media Group, Yangon, reflected her own views as well as the outcomes of the secondary research recently completed for Myanmar as part of the SWAN project, supported by Fojo Media Institute, Sweden, and IMS, Denmark. Empirical studies on the Myanmar media industries through the lens of gender equity are scarce. The research that has been done suggests that gender-based stereotyping is prominent across media industries, and that this largely perpetuates a victimized, objectified, and sexualized view of women (Article 19, 2015; Fojo Media Institute, 2015; Gender Equality Network, 2015; and, IMS-Fojo and Myanmar Women Journalists Society 2017).
Media portrayal of women often depicts women as family figures and homemakers or as victims, thus reinforcing traditional gender roles and stereotypes while failing to capture the diverse roles they play and are able to play in the evolving Myanmar society. This portrayal of women in media has been found to conform to stereotypes, even in certain cases when women were in charge of content development or production. A longitudinal study of media progress on this issue found that women are twice as likely to appear as victims in media, and are more likely to appear in passive roles as opposed to active. In addition, women’s magazines often depict women as sex objects, rather than as subjects, reinforcing the view of women as reproductive beings, with norms of modesty taking centre stage. Gender-based stereotyping is particularly prominent in broadcasting, where the research found that women are covered more prominently in television (40 per cent) and far less in radio (15 per cent). This reflects society’s emphasis on female appearance and objectification, considering them to be more attractive on television.
Women are underrepresented across media in terms of news sources and subjects. Gender Equality Network (GEN) Myanmar conducted a content analysis of news stories through the lens of gender equality and diversity. GEN (2016) monitored and analyzed print news media coverage during the pre- and post-election period in Myanmar, from mid-August to the end of December 2015. The high proportion of male sources in news reflects the concentration of men in high-status positions in Myanmar society. Indeed, men are typically sourced as high-status subjects or spokespersons to represent the government, business or civil society by Myanmar media. Doubtless, journalists tend to focus on elite voices, meaning most of the time the sources they seek in high ranks are predominantly men.
In the rare instances where they are covered, women media sources tend to be linked to gender stereotypes that reinforce traditional roles of women belonging to the domestic sphere. Women news sources are rarely seen as academic or professionals but more often as domestic workers, homemakers, ordinary citizens, and sources for personal experiences. Women are more likely to be portrayed as victims than men, and, as a result, the most common types of stories to include female voices are those about crime and violence.
In general, women journalists have freedom to select their news beats, meaning equal opportunities for covering subjects such as conflict, finance, commerce and politics. However, some who work in newsrooms where gender issues are neglected and gender stereotypes of “protection” rather than “empowerment” are promoted, face pressures and restrictions on working in potentially dangerous areas.
Policy recommendations for gender and media studies call for the incorporation of gender studies in the journalism curricula of universities and other media training institutes. At present, efforts to promote gender equality and sensitiveness among Myanmar journalists is sporadic, mostly stemming from the non-governmental sector.
Mr Om Prakash Ghimire, Executive Director, SODEC (Development Communication Society) Nepal, Kathmandu, explained that the national average figures of women journalists may give a positive picture (compared to other South Asian countries) in terms of quantity, but the detailed figures for specific media segments provide a more nuanced and fluctuating picture. The records of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), the umbrella organization of professional journalists, show that there are 13050 journalists (members of FNJ) throughout the country, with 2,354 (18 per cent) of these being women journalists. However, government records indicate that there are 19,539 journalists accredited by the state, out of which 2,334 (11.94 per cent) are women journalists (DOI Annual Report, 2018).
According to a study of 907 media houses, carried out by Sancharika Samuha (Women Communicators Group) in 2015, there were 7438 journalists in these media houses, out of which 5576 (75 per cent) were men journalists and 1862 (25 per cent) were women journalists, active in their profession. There are many journalists who are neither members of FNJ nor are accredited with the Government of Nepal. Based on FNJ data, Department of Information, and Sancharika’s study, it can be concluded that on average 20 per cent women journalists and 80 per cent male journalists are working in news media across Nepal.
There is no exact authentic data on the ratio of men and women in entertainment media. Conversations with some professionals working in entertainment media suggest that there are more than 5000 human resource personnel, professionals and support staff engaged in the Nepalese entertainment media. Out of these, there are about 1500 females and 3500 males. Interestingly however, the man to women ratio among the artists is almost 50:50. The entertainment sector has engaged thousands of women and exposed them to society. However, due to the lack of research, there is no proper database to analyze the situation and status of women in this sector
The Sancharika Samuha (2015) report says that out of the total percentage of women journalists, 2.4 per cent are editors-in-chief while 4.3 per cent are managing editors. In comparison to other media, FM radio has more women editors (11.1 per cent), assistant/sub-editors (20.7 per cent), senior reporters (23.6 per cent), and reporters (26.6 per cent). The male to female ratio in top and middle management, however, is skewed in favour of men. While there is no exact data available in this regard, based on conversations with some professionals, around 10 to 20 per cent women can be found in management roles in the entertainment media.
These figures suggest that some efforts have been made to promote women journalists, which have yielded positive outcomes. However, more effort is needed for a gendered media in Nepal to materialize, as envisioned by the Constitution and national policies. National policy relating to media and gender has a mandatory provision to ensure 33 per cent representation of women in the public sector. But in television channels, as indicated by the research, state-owned television channels seem to have a weaker gender ratio as compared to private channels.
In Nepal, there are only rare cases of salary and remuneration discrimination between men and women for the same work and same position in the media sector. However, in terms of work opportunity, several working women journalists complain that they are discriminated against by editors and media houses as compared to men.
The study highlights the diversity of Nepali society, which is yet to be fully reflected in media both in terms of content and employment. However, it is a changing process. The government of Nepal adopted a new Mass Communication Policy in 2016, formulated to ensure the development of media as envisioned in the Constitution of Nepal. This policy was formulated through the new participatory approach, where In addition to politicians and bureaucrats, the policymaking domain has expanded to include donor agencies, international non-governmental organisations, other NGOs and pressure groups.
The new Mass Communication Policy has tried to address the issue of inclusiveness in Nepali media with the provision to increase the representation of women and other social groups. The policy also targets media houses, encouraging them to maximize inclusiveness, including through journalists, anchors, and editors producing more stories about women, dalit, indigenous nationalities, Madheshi, backward and marginalized communities, and people with disabilities. The policy indicates the need for increasing women’s ownership in media, and favours media content that strengthens inter-cultural, inter-caste, inter-region, inter-gender, and inter-lingual dialogues and cordiality. Unfortunately, there are no such provisions for private and commercial broadcasting.
The increased coverage of women’s issues is a positive sign of an attempt to construct a gendered media. The Nepali media should work towards educating the general public and the society at large to spread the awareness that women’s issues and gender-related issues are not merely personal, but also social and national.
This is probably the first comprehensive research in Nepal carried out by analyzing the secondary data from gender and media perspective. This research is a milestone towards bringing in a gendered media. Following are the principal recommendations from this research :
- There is a lack of authentic information and database on gender and media at the national and provincial levels because of which the policies and programmes are unable to address the key problems that are holding back the building of a gendered media. There is an urgent need to conduct a national level comprehensive study by mapping the policy, practices, and gaps in news media, advertising sector, media curricula and entertainment media to come up with key issues and pressing concerns for further action to bring about a gendered media.
- Some media agencies and women’s agencies of the state like the Press Council Nepal and the National Women’s Rights Commission publish their annual reports. However, they are missing out on the inclusion of a gendered media perspective database, for which specific efforts are necessary. For example, Press Council Nepal publishes an annual report which documents the yearly developments in the media landscape of the country. But it does not break down the statistical data according to gender categories and issues. If Press Council Nepal realizes the importance and need of a gendered media, it will be able to feature its report from a gender perspective as well. Some kind of sensitization and advocacy is needed to address this gap.
- In academia, there has been limited research on gender issues. So, the need for researchers to grapple with gender-related issues is also pressing. This can be addressed through discussions and deliberations within the Nepali academia.
- The importance of the advertising sector in addressing issues of gender stereotyping must be realized. However, this sector lacks sufficient sensitization with regard to gender; hence, a comprehensive study of the advertising sector is needed to unlock and reorient its focus on specific gender issues, gaps, and possible areas of interventions. Research and study can guide the concerned sector towards advocacy initiatives in this regard.
- It is also recommended that a comprehensive national study on gendered media should be undertaken by universities or research organizations.
- A collaboration with media/women related UN agencies like UNESCO or other agencies and research and advocacy organizations can help create synergy in boosting the objective of creating a gendered media
Ms Fathima Shanaz, Lecturer, Journalism Unit, Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, Colombo, explained that in terms of the number of women members at middle and top management in entertainment media organizations in the country, a study on Gender and Media in Sri Lanka (2015) with 80 (45 female: 33 male) respondents concluded that women occupied less than 10% of these positions. There is a process of selecting the candidates for the positions in the field of media through open advertisements and through personal interviewing processes. Although the advertisements do not specify any gender preference, there are far fewer women candidates than men candidates recruited through this process.
Portraying woman in a stereotypical manner through advertisements can be identified when they are invariably shown doing laundry, cleaning the house, contributing to care for children, helping them in their education, cooking, cleaning toilets, doing the dishes. These are the activities traditionally identified as being performed by women, the chores that are passed down from generation to generation.
Secondly, portraying women as beautiful and perfect creatures can be identified in Sri Lankan advertisements across various product categories. Almost all the advertisements have women who are beautiful, fair and voluptuous. Milk powder, cosmetics, furniture and even services are promoted using attractive women.
In Sri Lanka, there is no one law covering all media segments. However, there are several Acts that cover the state media institutions. Specifically. These are, for newspapers, the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Special Provisions Act (No.28. of 1973); for radio, the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation Act. (No. 37 of 1966); and for television, the Sri Lanka Television Corporation Act (No. 6 of 1982). There are a few acts that cover both State owned and private media outlets. For the film industry, the government introduced the National Film Corporation Act. 47 of 1971. The Sri Lanka Press Council Act was passed by the parliament in 1973 as the Sri Lanka Press Council Law (No. 5 of 1973).
The Draft National Media Policy, which was introduced in 2007, has still not been implemented. The draft does contain a few lines regarding gender sensitive reporting. It specifically mentions the need “to pursue media practices that would ensure fair and just treatment in matters of gender”. Other than that, it also has one article regarding the reporting on crimes against women, on gender based violence, on children’s rights and other gender issues, providing guidance on media practices that will not harm the rights of children, women and all citizens in society.
In 2006, in response to concerns about gender based violence and sexual harassment, the government informed all state agencies to set up a monitoring committee on sexual harassment at the workplace as a mandatory body. However, there has been no operationalization on this by the media houses. The Report on Sri Lanka published by IFJ mentions several attacks against women journalists. “Attacks on women journalists included the assault and housebreaking of former associate editor of The Sunday Leader, Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema and the threatening of the editor of Ceylon Today, Hana Ibrahim. Among those who had to flee the island are the two female editors of The Sunday Leader, Sonali Samarasinghe and Frederica Jansz.” In general, Issues pertaining to gender based violence (GBV) are either hidden or exaggerated. The Media Ministry is considering the development of a gender-sensitive media policy, which would aim at positive portrayals of women and media reporting on GBV.
In order to rectify the situation and address the concerns reported based on empirical research, the following major recommendations and suggestions are being made by the Sri Lanka Research Team:
- A fresh dialogue be initiated on the Draft National Media Policy, which was first introduced in 2007
- In the light of issues pertaining to GBV and sexual harassment at the workplace, in 2006 the government informed all state agencies to set up a monitoring committee to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace. However, out of four state media institutes, only one has appointed a female executive officer as a member of such a committee, who has since retired. Since there is no one in the post currently, the Ministry of Child Development and Women is being requested to urgently act on this matter
- It is suggested that a common mechanism for addressing issues pertaining to GBV and sexual harassment be formulated. There is a lack of a uniform Code of Conduct or a Code of Ethics within the media industry in Sri Lanka. This has resulted in instances of GBV and sexual harassment in the workplace going unchecked. As such, a Uniform Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics should be developed in order to urgently remedy the situation
- A gender policy for all the state universities was introduced by the University Grants Commission, which requires a university to prepare a specific gender policy. To this effect, only seven universities have published, ‘Centre for Gender Equality’, on their university websites. The consultation processes for the same in all other universities are underway. The Ministry of Higher Education and the University Grants Commission also took an active initiative under the title, ‘Preventing Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV): Strategies for Universities’ in 2013. It is important that the above be effectively implemented within various media training/education programs and in the state universities. State universities should also include Women and Gender studies within their course curricula.
Ms Ila Sharma, Former Election Commissioner of Nepal, Kathmandu, conveyed that she began her career as a journalist way back in 1988, in what was then a good newspaper, but the only newspaper. I have experienced at first hand how the media and the news they carry is essentially a reflection of the societal mindset. So I fully appreciate the importance of this project that SWAN has been working on for more than five years. When I began in journalism, women were asked to work on the traditional ‘soft’ stories. I recall how proud I felt when I was asked to write editorials, with the feeling that I had ‘arrived’. But since 1990, the situation has been changing. FM Radio has been a huge revolution. Women’s by-lines are increasingly visible. To improve the status of women in society (including the media) it is vital that women be more active in mainstream economics and politics. Then all diversionary tactics like character assassination and sexual harassment will cease, and women will come into their own in the media. They will no longer face obstacles while working in the media. As Election Commissioner in Nepal, I ensured 50% reservation for women among the seats for Mayors and Deputy Mayors. This is now making a huge difference, facilitating the active participation of women in local self-governance. Women in media should help women in politics with positive, unbiased coverage.
Ms Kesang Dema, Press Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Royal Government of Bhutan, Thimphu, explained her earlier roles, first as a journalist, and then as the Co-Founder and Lead Researcher for Dhensel Research and Consulting. As a journalist, I had huge differences with, and so used to fight with government representatives, but now, as Press Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, I have big differences with the journalists. It is good to have both perspectives. Nonetheless, I see my present role as the representative of media in the Royal Government of Bhutan. I have been with the UNESCO SWAN project since its very inception. This is a unique project, and the research already done is path-breaking. We really have high hopes for this project, especially that this will carry us beyond the present phase of data collation and analysis into the realm of changing policies and self-regulation by owners and editors. The Bhutan team is deeply committed and passionate about this project, and I will help them in every way possible in the next phase of the project.
Ms Tareen Hossain, Executive Director, Daily Ittefaq, Executive Editor, Online Editions, Dhaka, explained her work with the news daily Ittefaq, especially the online edition. Online editions are the trend of the future. I firmly believe that the next big push for empowerment of women will come through social media, emphasising that all safeguards are necessary here, such as ensuring verified Twitter accounts. Social media was the platform for the #metoo movement. In Bangladesh there is an exponential growth in the presence of women on social media platforms. Bangladesh is today the 9th largest market in the world for mobile phones, with 81 million mobile and internet users. The potential for further growth in this market is huge, especially if we can persuade women in rural areas to join their urban sisters on social media platforms. (The Chairperson hoped that Tareen would be able to guide SWAN on the strategy for empowering the women of South Asia through social media).
Ms Yashoda Timsina, Information Commissioner, National Information Commission of Nepal, Kathmandu, said that we all agree that information is power. My work as Information Commissioner in Nepal has brought into focus that the critical issue confronting women today, even impeding their empowerment, is their lack of information in specific areas that are integral to their well-being and contribution to the community and society as a whole. Just consider the vital issue of malnutrition that is today the scourge of South Asia. Women have forgotten the traditional knowledge handed down to them by mothers and grandmothers. Even in rural areas, the women rely on fast food (noodles) for feeding their families, quite ignorant that the greens so essential for good health are available in their backyards. Why is the correct information and awareness not being disseminated among the women? All this should be part of the Right to Information. Yes, we do have 41% women in local government in Nepal, but very few are aware of their responsibilities in dissemination of information. Many are greatly influenced in their work by the male members of their families, the husband or the father or the brother. All of us in SWAN must work together on this and walk ahead together on this vital aspect of gender empowerment.
Dr Ratan Kumar Roy, Research Fellow, Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, speaking as member of the Editorial Team, welcomed the detailed presentations made by the Country Research Teams from nine countries. The Interim Report on the Status of Women in Media n South Asia, circulated at the Conference, has been prepared on the basis of the Country Research Reports received from each Research Team. Even as the Editorial Team prepared the Interim Report, they have been in email contact with each of the Country Research teams about missing details or gaps in the data collected. I am glad to see that the presentations by the Country Research Teams have gone far beyond the earlier Country Research Reports, and have filled in many of these missing details. The Editorial Team requests that the re-worked Country Research Reports be sent to us at the earliest, as requested by the Chairperson, so that we can complete the publication of the Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia.
1430 hours, September 2, 2019, Park Hotel, New Delhi
Valedictory Session :
(i) South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round Table
(ii) Perspectives on the Way Ahead and the Brainstorming
Moderator : Veena Sikri, Professor & Ambassador, Founding Trustee & Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)
Veena Sikri, Founding Trustee & Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN), welcomed all SWAN delegates to the Valedictory Session of the Tenth Annual Conference. She extended a very special and warm welcome to the Parliamentarians and Cabinet Ministers and former Cabinet Ministers who are participating in the South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round Table. This is the first time that SWAN has organized such an event, signaling that after ten years, based on our collective and focused work on specific projects, we are now ready to move to the next stage of policy advocacy. South Asia as a region has had the world’s largest number of women Heads of State and Government. Despite this, South Asia as a region lags behind almost all other regions of he world in the global gender gap. This is why SWAN has chosen to focus their efforts on women at the grass roots level. We have taken the bottoms-up approach rather than the top-down approach. We seek guidance, support, and advice from the very distinguished parliamentarians and Ministers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, and Nepal, including their assessment of SWAN’s work, and above all their views on how best to hasten the process of gender empowerment for the women of South Asia. Your wisdom and experience is legendary, and your views are invaluable for SWAN as we launch into the second decade of our existence and activities. Immediately after the South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round Table, we will end SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference with a full discussion on Perspectives on the Way Ahead, which includes the Brainstorming with all SWAN delegates.
South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round Table
Her Excellency Shidatha Shareef, Minister for Gender, Family and Social Services, Government of Maldives, Male, keenly appreciated the discussions over the last two days, where views have been exchanged on significant and relevant issues concerning empowerment of women in South Asia. I do feel that SWAN has derived practical and valuable lessons from the last ten years through the focus on sustainable development, beginning with drawing up the SWAN Roadmap for this. Each of us finds the exchange of views so useful because these reflect, to a greater or lesser degree, the situation in each of our respective countries. The discussion on the role of media was so relevant. Each of us in political life has suffered when the media tries to twist words and conclusions to suit their particular points of view. In Maldives we have several laws favouring women’s empowerment, whether it is the Domestic Violence Act, or the Act against Sexual Harassment, or the Gender Equality Act of 2015. However, these are either ineffective, or the focus on implementation has to be strengthened. A serious assessment is needed on how much we have achieved, and how to traverse the remaining path ahead of us.
Hon’ble Ms Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), New Delhi, expressed her joy at participating in SWAN’s first Parliamentarians’ Round Table. I have met old friends here, and this has brought back memories of my years as a young lawyer, when I had just started my struggle for gender equality. I recall working with Mira Shiva on women’s reproductive rights. Yes, there has been change towards the better for women, but how much of this reflects a genuine change in the mindset towards women? Or has change happened only to the extent that suits society? The first requirement towards making such change irreversible is the enactment of effective legislation. It is only in the last 15 to 20 years that we have seen effective legislation enacted in India. Way back around 2000 to 2002, I was fighting a case for a young girl who had had her eyes gouged out. I asked for the death penalty for the perpetrator, and fought the case right up to the Supreme Court, but the Judge said there is no law that will allow this. Now, after the tragic and inhuman Nirbhaya case, the laws have changed and the death penalty has been accepted for rapists and sexual offenders. I ask those who oppose the death penalty to think about the human rights of the women who have been violated. In India, in 1997 the Supreme Court issued the Vishakha Guidelines and in 2013, Parliament passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Before this, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 was adopted by the Indiian Parliament. So India’s laws are very good. Nonetheless, we need to continuously pursue the effective implementation of these laws, and identify the gaps that prevent effective implementation. The women and children who are victims very often do not have the financial security to pursue legal cases. And above all, there is no societal acceptance of the victims, who are stigmatised throughout their lives. This needs to change. Government of India has adopted a number of gender sensitive policies, including gender budgeting, giving each family new LPG connections in the name of the wife, allotting government housing in the name of the wife, and substantial increase in maternity leave benefits. Empowerment is not wearing western clothes, empowerment is facilitating contribution by each woman, such as the Indian women scientists who have leading roles in India’s space programmes, even though they come from traditional conservative families. (The Moderator said that given the seminal contribution by the Hon’ble MP to legal support for gender empowerment, SWAN would like to seek the support of Hon’ble MP for this cause throughout South Asia).
Honble Ms Maryam Sama, Member of Parliament, National Assembly of Afghanistan, Kabul, thanked SWAN for this opportunity to participate in the Tenth Annual Conference. The women of Afghanistan desperately need the support of SWAN sisters across South Asia. The women of South Asia must help each other. This is a human cause, a humanitarian cause. We cannot keep quiet. All of us (delegates from Afghanistan) are seriously concerned about the situation in Afghanistan. The need of the moment is to ensure women’s power, so that women can play an equal role in society. If women are given equal power, they will change the world. Our problems are very similar across the countries of South Asia. My own journey is dedicated to the empowerment of the women of Afghanistan. I hold a Graduate degree in Management and Political Science. We lived in Iran as immigrants, but my family came back to Herat when I was just eleven years old. My very first job was with the media. I have worked with radio and with television. My work with the media has made me understand society and life in Afghanistan, a war-torn and violence-wracked country. I felt the pain suffered by women in Afghanistan, and I realized that the young are the only hope for Afghanistan. In order to serve the people directly, in particular to help the women of Afghanistan, I decided to fight the elections for Member of Parliament, and I was successful. I am committed to bringing peace with protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan, and this is vital for all the people of South Asia. So let us work together on this. (The Moderator conveyed that all of us in SWAN are fully support and share he views of Honble Member of Parliament. We have been working with the SWAN delegates from Afghanistan, including disseminating their views among Indian media and think tanks).
Honble Ms Sagufta Yasmin, Member of Parliament, Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad, Dhaka, conveyed her greetings to SWAN from the women of Bangladesh. The timing is just right for these discussions on a vital issue, sustainable development for the women of South Asia, where all of us face very similar conditions. There is little doubt that throughout South Asia, women are being left behind because of the all-pervasive traditional mindset. Women are honest and dedicated, yet they suffer poverty in far greater proportion than the national average, and they have little or no participation in decision-making processes, whether in the family, the community or at state levels. They have no power, since male members are making all the decisions. Economic empowerment is the critical issue facing women across Bangladesh and South Asia, since this alone will bring them acceptance and equality. Bangladesh is emerging as a global role model for women’s empowerment. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is doing her best to empower women. In our country, in addition to the PM, the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, and six Cabinet Ministers are all women. We have 71 women Members of Parliament, 21 elected and 50 nominated. Under PM Sheikh Hasina, it is now mandatory while registering a new-born child, to provide the mother’s name in addition to the father’s name. In order to encourage the family to educate their daughters, money is transferred to the mother’s mobile telephone for purchase of books and uniforms. This has made a strong difference in school enrolment for girls. The process of divorce has been considerably simplified and streamlined to avoid harassment for women. Maternity leave and benefits have been strengthened. Day care centres are coming up everywhere. PM Sheikh Hasina herself supervises all these issues. Nonetheless women are facing obstacles in their endeavor to achieve equality with men. The laws and sound executive decisions are there, but implementation is inadequate. SWAN is a good and strong organization, where we can share all our experiences and best practices. If we can keep up this practice of learning through sharing, one day we shall overcome!
Hon’ble Ms Kesang Chuki Dorjee, Member of Parliament, National Council of Bhutan (Upper House),Thimphu. I can honestly say that I have seen SWAN grow from its early beginnings into a strong organization. I have attended six of the ten SWAN Annual Conferences so far convened. Based on my experience, I can say with confidence that SWAN is evolving, gaining strength and learning from the experience and views expressed at each Annual Conference. Today, we have about 100 participants from 9 countries. The participants’ number is increasing at each Annual Conference. I am particularly glad to see SWAN brothers joining us each time. Chime Paden Wangdi first invited me to join SWAN. At that time, I was with the media. Chhimmy Pem and I organized SWAN’s Sixth Annual Conference in Thimphu in 2014. This Sixth Annual Summit saw the birth of the UNESCO SWAN Women in Media project. At this Conference, we also initiated the Rural Tourism Project (a special Workshop was convened on this) and we launched the Skills Development Project. Each time I participate in the SWAN Annual Conference, it is wonderful to see so many familiar faces, so many friends. This is the enduring enchantment and success of SWAN : we all love what we are doing and this keeps us together. For this, I thank Founding Trustee Veena ji, It is not easy, year after year, to bring together and to keep together this group of powerful and opinionated women. And she has done it with great grace and persuasion.
The very fact that SWAN is today convening its first ever South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round table says a lot about how far we have travelled. It is wonderful to see so many distinguished Ministers, Members of Parliament, and former Ministers and MPs participating on this Panel. From Bhutan, former Minister Dasho Dorji Choden is an integral part of Bhutan’s SWAN Chapter, who has helped us coordinate so many projects. Now is indeed the key moment to reflect on the path ahead, on where we want to be at SWAN’s 15th Annual Conference. Hon’ble Minister Dechen Wangmo said that this is time to act. Have we ben able to act over the last ten years? Should we have achieved more? The key factor determining SWAN’s success is the interest and willingness to act shown by each individual participant. We should be keen participants in every session, and not skip some sessions to go shopping! All of us work hard to organize these Annual Conferences, in our respective countries and after we get here. The decisions on future action, and the speed and success in the implementation of these decisions depends on each one of us. So let us, at SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference, renew our individual commitment to work for the success of SWAN. There can be no better forum than this for the women of South Asia.
I am now in my second term in the Upper House of the Parliament of Bhutan. Before I joined Parliament, I was closely involved in the media project. I am glad the Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia is now going to be published. I fully support the idea of the Advisory Board for SWAN, with one member from each country. This is an excellent idea. This will be a purposeful and useful coordinating group, where the members can, in turn, coordinate with the members of the SWAN country chapters. The SWAN Advisory Board can also consider setting up sub-committees to monitor special projects.
Finally, I have two suggestions for SWAN’s work in the coming years : (iI Given the wealth of expertise and vision at this Conference, SWAN can consider taking up specialised gender issues at relevant international forums, since ours is a voice that will certainly be listened to with care and appreciation; and (ii) Our distinguished Parliamentarians can consider gender issues on which they might like to propose legislation in their respective countries. This will be of great help to the women of South Asia, and to progress, prosperity and development in South Asia as a whole.
Overall, we in SWAN can be very proud of where we are today. I thank Veena ji for her leadership, and I hope that SWAN can keep its focus on implementation. In the sessions that have already been held, strong decisions have been taken. As we return to our respective countries, we must re-dedicate ourselves to the continued success of SWAN in the coming years.
(The Moderator was deeply touched by Hon’ble Member of Parliament’s warm words of support. She thanked Hon’ble Member of Parliament for her well-thought out suggestions on the way ahead, for her faith in the work of SWAN, in particular for her strong support to SWAN in the past, present and future)
Hon’ble Dr Sonal Mansingh, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), New Delhi, conveyed her best wishes for the future success of SWAN. The swan is a bird that can fly long distances, from Mount Kailash in the Himalayas to Kanya Kumari at the southern most tip of the Indian sub-continent. It flies very high. The swan’s wisdom is legendary. It is believed that the swan can separate milk from water, and drink just the milk. I wish SWAN a long and successful flight in all its endeavours. SWAN is truly a unique grouping, bringing together the women of South Asia.
I am today the first woman artiste to be nominated as Member of Parliament, and I thank Prime Minister Modi’s Government for this. For decades, as a classical dancer, I have depicted women’s roles, taken from the epics. I have depicted the plight of Draupadi, from the great epic Mahabharata. Draupadi was intelligent, beautiful, and could argue with men as an equal. She was a princess and a queen, with five husbands, yet she was forced to fight for her dignity at the Court of the Kauravas, when they attempted to disrobe her in open court. This is the struggle between a woman’s honour and the male gaze. I have depicted this as solo dance theatre,. titled “Draupadi’s Life”. Art is a great way of communicating a message, which in this case, is the depiction of Dharma (right way of living), Niti (governance) and Satya (truth).
Across South Asia, the age-old traditions and mindset that has controlled the activities of women, and bound them to one set of norms is changing, but is this changing fast enough? Above all, is this change applicable universally, for all women, whether from rural or urban areas, whether they belong to tribal communities or from the urban elite. The rich women and the women in power must be benefitted equally with the women working in agriculture or at construction sites. Women who consider themselves empowered must empathize with other women who are in much more difficult circumstances, cutting across all strata. Only then will change become meaningful and irreversible.
In public spaces, there is hardly any recognition of women’s contribution. There are hardly any roads, parks or stadiums named after great women. We must change this and give equal space and respect to the achievements of women. It is only in December 2018 that the UN Secretary General honoured the contribution of Hansaben Mehta (1897-1995) to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by ensuring gender sensitive language, especially *human rights” rather than rights of man.
Hon’ble Ms Selima Ahmad, Member of Parliament, Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad, Dhaka, explained that she is a first-time Member of Parliament, unlike her compatriot, Hon’ble Sagufta Yasmin, who has been MP for twenty years. I am from the private sector. I am the Founder President of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. We do advocacy with the Government for gender-friendly business policies. We have been successful in supporting women entrepreneurs through a special budgetary allocation of Taka 100 crore. Through this fund, loans are given to women entrepreneurs on low rates of interest, with no collateral. For me, gender empowerment comes through economic independence, which also brings in social equality and empowerment. If you have money, then you have choices. As a private sector person, I favour the focus on development. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has always supported gender empowerment, both through her policies and by supporting more and more women joining as Members of Parliament. Parliamentarians must support the development process in every way possible, and so must bureaucrats, who must partner with them in order to ensure that the laws are better and more quickly implemented. The bureaucrats’ role is vital, and they must come on board to ensure better implementation. My specific suggestion for SWAN is that we should seek to involve government representatives in our meetings. The bureaucrats will then understand our point of view, appreciate it and be more responsive in the implementation. All the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are women-centric. The SDGs can be achieved only if women are placed at the centre of the implementation process. Here, too, the bureaucrats’ role is critical.
I see a great difference between the approaches of men and women parliamentarians. Women are more focused on social benefit, while men seem more focused on individual benefit. The parliamentary seat that I have won this time has come to the Awami League for the first time. Each MP has been given solar lights for installation in their respective constituencies. The male MPs installed this in individual homes. I used the solar lights for lighting up dark alleys and streets, so that it is safer for women to move around. During my campaign, I studied how I could help the women in my constituency. I realized that they would bathe in the river, but there were no enclosed areas for them to change out of their wet clothes. So I built small cabins for them, for which the women were most grateful.
Similarly, in SWAN each of us should think of simple yet unique ways in which we can help the women of South Asia. Let each of us send in our suggestions to Veena, indicating the areas of work that we consider most important for SWAN, and how we should coordinate our work in the identified area. Once all these suggestions are put together, we’ll get a great Action Plan for SWAN. Politics, development and gender empowerment will all come together in this.
In conclusion, I have one important thought to convey. We have all begun to raise our daughters like our sons, and this is great. But how many of us have the courage to raise our sons like our daughters?
Ms Yankila Sherpa, Former Cabinet Minister and former Member of Parliament, Kathmandu, appreciated the vision and hard work of Veena ji in bringing all of us together year after year, for ten years now, and in guiding our work in specific projects. Each Annual Conference is a learning experience, and we take back to our respective countries what we share and learn from each other. As a former Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, I can say that the critical factor lies in poor implementation. It is easy to give advice, it is even easy to pass laws, but at the grass roots level, it is very difficult to implement. I agree with the Hon’ble Member of Parliament from Bangladesh that we should involve government representatives in our meetings so as to quicken the process of implementation. In Nepal, we have 33% women Members of Parliament, and over 40% women in local government. Women’s participation is there, but this has made little difference to the actual situation on the ground at the grass roots level. Over the last 18 months, the present government in Nepal has passed many laws and bye-laws, but once again, there is little focus on implementation. We have Constitutional bodies like the Information Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Election Commission, but these remain administrative bodies, with very little focus on women. The all-important critical issue is that the societal mindset and social structure remain unchanged, unable and unwilling to accept a gendered society. Unless this changes, there is very little hope that Parliament or any of the Constitutional bodies can make a difference. So let SWAN focus on a strategy for changing mindsets, including groups for lobbying and advocacy in our respective countries.
Dasho Dorji Choden, Former Cabinet Minister and former Member of Parliament, Royal Government of Bhutan, Thimphu, congratulated SWAN on the well-chosen themes and excellent discussions at SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference. The selected themes are relevant and important, and since each thematic session was longer in duration, excellent discussions were possible. SWAN has gone through difficult times in the last ten years, but has made progress, and has emerged as a strong, successful and self-sustaining organisation. It is wonderful that this time we have the South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round Table. The voice of parliamentarians in support of SWAN’s ideals and activities can make a huge difference. Unity (and this is a part of the SWAN logo) is the key to SWAN’s future success. SWAN now has a united voice on the critical issues they are discussing. Let us decide to present this united voice to national governments, to regional bodies and even to international organisations. This is my recommendation. A well-coordinated effort in this regard can bring in large positive dividends for SWAN, since it will most effectively convey the outcome of SWAN’s efforts over the last ten years.
SWAN can consider bringing out an annual publication, or even a half-yearly publication, to share and disseminate the success stories of women at the regional, national and even grass-roots levels. This will show that SWAN is going beyond discussions, and focusing on results.
SWAN should renew its focus on implementation of the Rural Tourism project and the Skills Development project. Both these projects are focused on women and girls at grass-roots levels. Success in these two projects (skills development can be brought in as part of the rural tourism project) can make a substantial difference to economic independence, and through this to the empowerment of women and girls, with the focus on rural areas.
My final suggestion is that SWAN participants consider a degree of flexibility by involving interested delegates in their national projects. Thus, an ongoing project being run in say, Bangladesh, could consider inviting experts from Bhutan or Sri Lanka, who are interested in the same area of work. This will greatly expedite transfer of knowledge and exchange of best practices among the countries of SWAN.
In conclusion, I congratulate the leadership of SWAN, wishing them a long and successful flight!
The Moderator thanked Dasho Dorji Choden for her excellent suggestions and recommendations.
The Moderator indicated that the Valedictory Session would complete the section on Perspectives on the Way Ahead, together with the Brainstorming, before the final wrap-up by the Founding Trustee.
Perspectives on the Way Ahead and The Brainstorming
Ms Bandana Rana, Founder & Strategic Director, Saathi, Kathmandu, Member and Vice Chairperson, UN CEDAW, delivered the key-note for Perspectives on the Way Ahead. I congratulate Veena and all SWAN delegates for this excellent two-day Conference. The power and high positions held by each and every delegate in this room is awesome. It is very rare to see such a gathering of high-powered women and men (I particularly welcome this, since engaging men and boys is vital) deliberating on such important themes concerning empowerment of women in South Asia.
I work with the UN, and I do realize that there is great skepticism about the UN, especially the delink between what the UN advocates and policies on the ground. However, on gender equality and women’s empowerment, it is only the UN that has recognized and accepted the significance of bringing this in. The UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action gave a great boost to women’s movements in Nepal and many other countries around the world. I am glad to learn that so many delegates in this room were present at the UN Beijing Conference in 1995. The UN CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) adopted in 1979 (came into force in 1980) is a vital document that has made governments across the world adopt national legislation on discrimination and violence against women. I know that in Nepal, the engendered format of our new Constitution, the 2017 legislation outlawing Chhaupadi (exiling women to huts during menstruation) and the Act against domestic violence, are all the direct fall-out of UN CEDAW.
The year 2020 is very special, marking 25 years of the UN Beijing Declaration, 40 years of UN CEDAW coming into force, 20 years since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, five years since the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and above all, 70 years since the formation of the UN. Next year, 2020, is the year that SWAN should choose to focus on policy advocacy, based on your shared experience and projects that you have done over the last ten years. For this, SWAN could choose to link itself with UN mechanisms. This would bring even greater success to SWAN as it moves into the second decade of its existence. The UN and all member nations will be reviewing achievements and deciding the focus for the coming year(s). SWAN can step in here and circulate your excellent findings on overcoming malnutrition, on women’s unpaid work and on women in media. This can give new insights, which the governments of South Asia (and others) should welcome.
One vital area of focus can be the SDGs. For SWAN, the SDGs are central to your activities, and you have adopted your own Roadmap for achieving Sustainable Development for the Women of South Asia. The SWAN discussions can bring special focus by identifying the critical women-related issues in each SDG. Just identify five or six of the most important such issues. Focus your attention on these rather than just having generalized discussions. Why not prepare a SWAN paper on the SDGs, highlighting best practices and learning from each other’s experiences. A Regional Document on the SDGs and South Asia can be a powerful document, putting together the wealth of experience of the women and men in this room. Data would be needed from Governments as well. The Hon’ble Minister from Maldives has spoken about the rights, representation, and resources of the women of South Asia. These in themselves are powerful aspects.
A vital issue that SWAN can highlight is all aspects of violence against women, and linked with this, the issues of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, and Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Please do consider how these issues can be taken up by SWAN, since these are vital for the women of South Asia.
The key challenge facing SWAN is how to find our voice and strengthen our role in advocacy with all the governments of South Asia.
The Moderator thanked the speaker for her excellent guidance and advice. All of us with work together on these aspects in the coming months.
Ms Rokia Rahman, President, Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs (BFWE), Dhaka, said that she had participated in almost all the SWAN Annual Conferences. She keenly awaited each Annual Conference, and set aside all her commitments to ensure her participation. Essentially, the SWANees coming together and discussing shared solutions to issues of the greatest individual importance gives me great happiness. These are three days of extraordinary happiness, meeting our SWAN sisters in friendship and understanding. The quality of the discussions are the very best, the speakers are excellent, and each of us learns so much that we can take away and implement in our respective home countries, ranging from Grandma’s recipes to hi-tech solutions! I am amazed at the quality and power of the people in this room, especially their wealth of knowledge and experience. Each one is a doer, doing work on projects that helps others. I thank Veena for bringing us together each year, and focusing our attention on the vital outstanding issues that are holding back gender equality and gender empowerment for the women of South Asia. I particularly value SWAN’s bottoms-up approach, the focus on the poorest of the poor women in every society. Several Members of Parliament who spoke a short while ago have strongly urged that we keep this focus.
It is this context that I suggest BRAC’s successful model for graduating women out of ultra-poverty, known as ”Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction : Targeting the Ultra-Poor (TUP)”. BRAC has been working on the TUP model since 2002, and has now shown significant results in terms of graduating women and their households out of extreme poverty. The model works at the village level, identifying families, and then interacting with the women of these households by providing them four primary components of support for the next two years : asset transfers and stipend; training; health care; and community mobilization. I have seen the successful functionng of BRAC’s TUP programme at the grass-roots level. Sometimes the asset transfer of just one cow, with the stipend and proper training has led the family out of extreme poverty. Some NGOs in West Bengal have worked with BRAC’s TUP model, with successful results. Most importantly, BRAC’s findings suggest that the increase in welfare is due to the transformation of occupational structure rather than to a consumption boost due to the stipend/ asset transfer. The programme has immense and direct impact, and is relatively inexpensive. Per participating household, the cost for the two-year program has been estimated at US$325, with an estimated benefit-cost ratio of 5.07.
It will be great if SWAN can consider something along these lines in the coming years.Let us resolve to work for the extreme poor!
Ms Mano Alles, Board Member, Women’s Chamber of Commerce andIndustry (WCIC), Colombo, described the excellent work completed by the SWAN Sri Lanka chapter through the project entitled “Empowering plantation workers in Sri Lanka towards better nutrition & sexual and reproductive health (SRH)”. Dr Sujatha Samarakoon has presented the Report in the Thematic Session on Overcoming Malnutrition. This project targeting plantation families in Nuwara Eliya who are significantly worse than the national averages on under-nutrition, and suffer significant sexual and reproductive health problems including adolescent pregnancies, child marriages, child abuse, and gender based violence. The project has yielded successful outcomes, using the peer educator approach, benefitting around 6000 people in the selected plantations, including 3600 peers who have benefited by improving their knowledge on nutrition and SRH and improving their life styles for healthy living. A new generation of adolescent girls and boys have been empowered through capacity building and leadership to address SRH issues such as STI/ HIV/ cervical cancer/ teenage pregnancies/ GBV and preventing adverse effects and consequences related to such issues. Since such problems are common across plantations in South Asia, and in village life, this pilot project can be considered for replication in other countries. The SWAN Sri Lanka chapter would like to work on this with partner institutions in other countries.
The Moderator conveyed that as a first step towards this, the SWAN Sri Lanka Pilot Project Report will be placed on the SWAN web-site. This should encourage discussions among interested individuals and institutions for scaling up this excellent pilot project.
Ms Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Dhaka, welcomed the suggestion made by Bandana that SWAN should review country-wise the progress made on the SDGs with special focus on SDG 5. Within SDG 5, we can take up key issues like violence against women, financial empowerment of women and political empowerment of women. This is indeed a great idea. In Bangladesh, we have a Citizens’ Platform for the SDGs. Let us bring this model into SWAN, and let us start planning right from now on data collection and exactly how we will present this when we convene the Eleventh Annual Conference of SWAN. Similarly, there should be an implementation plan for each of the themes discussed, such as overcoming malnutrition or women’s unpaid work.
Ms Najiba Ayubi, Director General, Development and Humanitarian Service for Afghanistan (DHSA), Kabul, thanked Veena and all the SWAN team for the excellent Tenth Annual Conference. I recall that after the launch of the UNESCO SWAN project on Building a Gendered Media in South Asia (at the Thimphu Annual Conference), we began serous discussions on methodology and related details at SWAN’s Seventh Annual Conference in the Maldives. Gradually, through consultations with the Regional Coordinators, our work progressed, first with the Gender Sensitive Guidelines on Women in Media in South Asia (GSGWMSA) and then with the empirical research done by institutions and individuals in each country. And this time, at SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference, we have discussed the Interim Report, which will soon be published. This is a remarkable success story for SWAN.
Now we are ready for the next stage of innovative thinking, which is the strategy for advocacy of the policy recommendations contained in the Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia. The example set by this project should be followed by SWAN in other sectors as well, with innovative planning at every stage.
Let me raise here a vital issue of direct relevance to the women in media in Afghanistan. We have spent the last 19 years fighting for our rights, and gaining our rights, seeing success in our efforts. The support we received from SWAN at every stage was invaluable. Today, all our gains are in danger of being lost. We need the support of SWAN at this very critical stage. Can SWAN consider how they can help the women of Afghanistan, especially the women in media? We need SWAN today more than ever before. Can we consider how we can help each other?
The Moderator agreed with Najiba that the SWAN project on Building a Gendered Media in South Asia has indeed been an outstanding success. The Moderator congratulated Najiba on her leadership of the excellent work done by the Afghanistan Research Team for this project. This is the pattern we are seeking to replicate in other sectors as well. The Moderator expressed her fullest understanding and empathy with Najiba’s heartfelt sentiments, highlighting the tremendous uncertainties surrounding the prospective position of women in the new political dispensation that may emerge in Afghanistan. SWAN has unhesitatingly supported he women of Afghanistan in their every endeavor, and will continue to do so. We will work with the SWAN Afghanistan team and finalize the best way of doing this.
Ms Mahbouba Seraj, Executive Director, Afghan Women Skills Development Centre (AWSDC), Kabul, said she was honoured to be here, participating in her first ever SWAN Annual Conference. SWAN as a grouping is unique and has great potential, especially for learning from each other’s best practices and sharing each other’s problems. Mahbouba queried whether each of the SWAN country teams could choose the sector they would like to work on, which may be more significant for them (than for the other SWAN countries). They could work on this for a year or two, and then bring the outcomes or results of their work before the SWAN Annual Conference, just as Sri Lanka has done. In conclusion, Mahbouba fully supported and endorsed Najiba’s words and sentiments about the precarious situation of the women of Afghanistan. One year, two years or ten years from now, what will be the situation regarding women’s rights, regarding human rights in Afghanistan? Will women be able to come out of their homes at all? Pray for us! The situation for women refugees among the Rohingyas is also very difficult
The Moderator agreed that the Sri Lanka model is successful and can be replicated. Sri Lanka was able to raise its own resources for its project, and fund-raising is the first big hurdle. Secondly, Sri Lanka had devised its own peer educator based approach, which has yielded excellent results. This in itself is a model that can be replicated for other countries, and the SWAN Sri Lanka team is working on scaling up their project for other interested SWAN countries. The Moderator added that since SWAN is now going to have its own Advisory Board, this will provide a very useful forum for SWAN delegates to convey their specific areas of interest. The Moderator assured every support from SWAN for upholding and ensuring equal rights for the women of Afghanistan. SWAN does not get into any political issues, but we have consistently supported the upholding of equal rights for women, including and especially in Afghanistan.
Ms Usha Ganguly, Founder Director, Rangakarmee Theatre, Kolkata, congratulated SWAN on its Tenth Annual Conference. I have participated in almost all the SWAN Annual Conferences. Theatre is the most powerful medium for bringing the women of SWAN closer to each other in friendship and understanding. I can create a theatre piece in support of the women of Afghanistan, for their empowerment. I feel deeply for them. Theatre goes beyond boundaries and barriers. Let us create the Second South Asia Women’s Theatre Festival.
The Moderator conveyed that there is an offer from Bangladesh to host the Second South Asia Women’s Theatre Festival (LEELA-II). SWAN will be working on this.
Ms Chime Paden Wangdi, Secretary General, Tarayana Foundation, Thimphu, congratulated Veena, Sunil, and all the SWAN team for this very successful Tenth Annual Conference, All of us owe a debt of gratitude to the SWAN team for having brought us so far over the last ten years. Since June 2017, SWAN is functioning independently, registered as an Article 64 Trust under the Indian Trusts Act of 1882. This change is vital for the future successful functioning of SWAN, but it also means that SWAN has far greater responsibilities now, especially for fund-raising. All of us are committed to the success of SWAN, and we want to help you. Please tell us how we can help you. If you need contributions from each of us, please let us know. Please delegate responsibilities to each of us, so that we can do our bit for the success of SWAN. Let us think abut this very seriously. We can be Rapporteurs for the sessions, or any other role that is considered necessary. We want SWAN to succeed so that we can continue our work at the grass-roots’ level, and at the same time, based on empirically researched outcomes, we can proceed to the next step of advocacy with governments for the policy changes required to bring in sustainable development through gender equality and gender empowerment for the women of South Asia. This is very, very important.
The Moderator thanked Chime for her warm words of appreciation, especially her very apt and accurate analysis of SWAN’s future areas of focus. Now that SWAN has agreed on establishing its own Advisory Board, with one member from each SWAN Country Team, these are exactly the issues that can be coordinated through the Advisory Board. I look forward to receiving the nominations to the Advisory Board at the earliest, so that the first meeting can be convened. We have agreed that each SWAN Country team can decide whether their Advisory Board member should have a one-year or longer term as Member of the SWAN Advisory Board.
Mr Deepak Tamang, Chief Executive Officer, SEARCH-Nepal, Kathmandu, recalled the Fifth Annual Conference in Colombo in 2013, where SWAN’s Roadmap for Sustainable Development for the Women of South Asia had been finalized and approved. In a life-cycle analysis, this was the key moment for the start of SWAN’s project activities. So although this is SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference, SWAN is much younger than that in terms of its project activities. Certainly, there is success and strong positive outcome for the project on Building a Gendered Media in South Asia. This Delhi Conference has seen a strong agenda and powerful discussions, especially the South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round Table. However, the judgment of success will depend on the progress in implementation, and this is where all of us have to work together to ensure that SWAN flies and soars high in the skies.
Mr S. Yaqub Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner of India, New Delhi, expressed fulsome praise and support for the work that SWAN has been doing. He empathized with the views exchanged on gender empowerment as the vital enabler of sustainable development in South Asia. He felt there should be more men participating in SWAN discussions. Men, especially young men need to ne targeted for changing mindsets, rather than just discussions among the converted. He felt SWAN could consider a ‘reservation’ of one per cent for men, and he himself is happy to join! I can make a special contribution in social marketing. I have a PhD in Gender Studies, and I have worked in the Ministry of Women and Child Development. As Election Commissioner, I placed special focus on ensuring full representation of women through the electoral rolls, and on raising the percentage of women coming out to cast their vote. Today, in some constituencies, more women than men turn out to vote! Unfortunately, however, not enough women candidates are given tickets by the political parties to fight the elections. If given the opportunity, women candidates fare better than men, and in the recent elections in India, while only 6% women were given tickets, they won 9% of the seats!
The Moderator thanked Yaqub for his words of praise for SWAN, and for his willingness to join in SWAN’s activities.
Ms Khin Lay, Founder and Director, Triangle Women’s Support Group, Yangon, congratulated SWAN on their Tenth Annual Conference, and expressed her appreciation for the intense discussions over the last two days, on vital issues for bringing in gender equality and gender empowerment for the women of South Asia. For me, it is my second SWAN Conference. I would like a more informal format, which is more participatory. I convey the regrets of our two very distinguished Members of Parliament, Ms Shwe Shwe Sein Latt and Ms Susana Hla Hla Soe, for their inability to travel to Delhi. They have been active participants in SWAN Annual Conference well before they successfully fought the elections and were elevated as Members of Parliament. They greatly value their association with SWAN and have sent their best wishes for the success of the tenth Annual conference. My principal suggestion is that we should involve more and more youngsters from the new generations. In Myanmar I have seen the important role of the younger generation. Convincing them is vital for changing mindsets in favour of the empowerment of women. SWAN is a very important platform for learning about each other, and about sharing problem-solving methodologies. I am happy to discuss about the Rohingyas with any of our colleagues, so that we can understand each other.
Mr Basir Quraishi, Program Director, Development and Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan (DHSA), Kabul, conveyed that he would like a more interactive and informal format, more Workshop style and less of the formal Conference format. This would enable participants to express themselves more freely, In my view, through greater informal interaction, the change of mindsets can start right here. I look forward to the day when Afghanistan will overcome all its challenges, and we can host the SWAN Conference in Kabul.
The Moderator conveyed that there have been several suggestions for the Workshop format, and this will certainly be kept in mind for SWAN’s Eleventh Annual Conference.
Ms Jaya Jaitly, Founder & President, Dastkaari Haat Samiti, New Delhi, explained about the beautiful bags made by Dastkaari Haat Samiti for the SWAN delegates, especially the calligraphy done by her artisans. I have a practical suggestion relating to SWAN’s Rural Tourism/ Ecotourism project that was conceptualized some years ago. The Outlook Traveler Responsible Tourism Summit and Awards is playing a major role each year in developing homestays and related aspects of rural tourism. I have been involved with their work, and I do feel that if SWAN approaches them, they will be happy to organize a Workshop on Homestays for interested individuals and institutions representing the women of South Asia, even with some financing. Rural women’s handicrafts can easily be woven into such a workshop. I’ll be happy to facilitate contacts between SWAN (through Veena) and the Outlook Traveler magazine. Each participating country could send two experts on homestays.
Secondly, I fully support the need for SWAN to make a statement in support of the women of Afghanistan, who find themselves today in a particularly weak and precarious situation, in danger of losing all their hard-earned rights. It need not be a political statement, but a strong statement is necessary.
Ms Zulaikha Rafiq, Independent Consultant, & Executive Director, Be The Change Organisation (BTCO) Kabul, thanked all the SWAN delegates for their sincere and deeply felt support for the women of Afghanistan, including the women working so fearlessly in media. The political agreement has already ben finalized, according to the news just coming in. However, it is certainly a good idea to send a message of support seeking continuation and strengthening of the rights to equality and empowerment for the women of Afghanistan. I will consult with the SWAN Afghanistan team and then coordinate further with Veena.
Dr Abdul Sattar Yoosuf, Executive Director, International Center for Environment, Development and Operational Research (ENDEVOR), Male, emphasized that the key reason for SWAN’s success is that the delegates from all the different countries resonate so well among each other. We appreciate each other’s problems and are united in the search for shared solutions. Through this process of sensitization, one can feel the inevitable change of mindsets taking place in each of us. This is a unique achievement.
Mr Munish Gupta, Chairman PIO TV, USA, said that his senior colleague, Ms Kumkum Chadha invited him to the very useful Press Conference organized for SWAN on Friday (30th August) at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia. I am deeply impressed with the work of SWAN over the last ten years. What has been particularly impressive is the high level of participation and the excellent suggestions received during this Valedictory Session, both at the South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round Table, and the Brainstorming which followed the key-note presentation on perspectives for the way ahead. Several of these suggestions are worthy of being fast-tracked and urgently implemented. I volunteer to work with the SWAN leadership and SWAN delegates to strategize on how this should be done. SWAN should step up its advocacy strategies, at regional and global multilateral levels. I work in India and Africa, and I can see the great potential in SWAN’s work.
Wrap-up by Ambassador Veena Sikri (VS), Founding Trustee & Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) : VS said that the Wrap-up will cover SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference, with the special focus on the decisions taken, and the suggestions received over the last three days (31 August to 2nd September), including the brainstorming.
VS most sincerely thanked all those who have appreciated the efforts put in by her and all members of the SWAN team. None of the SWAN team’s work would have yielded results without the genuine cooperation of the SWAN delegates from all nine countries. This is the real hallmark of SWAN’s success. We are committed to a shared vision of gender equality and gender empowerment for sustainable development in South Asia. We bring out the best in each other. We exchange ideas, learning from each other and sharing our best practices. We have kept together for ten years, with eminent Members of Parliament, domain experts, and media representatives adding to our strength at each SWAN Annual Conference.
SWAN’s landmark Tenth Annual Conference has been a vividly enriching experience, with excellent outcomes on ongoing projects, sound decisions on purposefully moving ahead in the sectors covered by the thematic sessions, and truly pragmatic suggestions to facilitate SWAN’s continued success in the second decade of its existence.
VS enumerates the highlights of SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference :
- The SWAN project on Women for Change : Building a Gendered Media in South Asia has crossed a decisive milestone with the decision to publish the Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia. This is the successful outcome of five years’ consistent interaction and hard work put in by the Regional Coordinators and the Country Research Teams, together with the Country Advisory Boards. The three-member Editorial team will now interact with the Country Research Teams for finalizing the additional material required from them. The Regional Project Advisory Board established, inter alia, for coordinating the next stage of this project has already held its first meeting. Women in Media is the first sector in which SWAN has moved on to the stage of strategic advocacy with governments, based on the policy recommendations contained in the Report. SWAN’s focus on this project is an integral part of our appreciation of the critical role of media in changing the deeply embedded traditional, patriarchal mindsets towards women, a mindset that mitigates against dignity, equality and empowerment for the women of South Asia.
- Future Directions for SWAN : Structurally, SWAN has considerably strengthened its functioning since it was registered as an independent Trust in June 2017. SWAN has been successful in fund-raising. We are deeply grateful to Tata Trusts and the Siddhomal Group for their invaluable support for the Tenth Annual Conference. As agreed, SWAN now has its own Advisory Board, with one member from each SWAN Country Chapter. This will go a long way in facilitating coordination and systematc planning for the future activites of SWAN. The Advisory Board will be valuable for reinvigorating the SWAN Country Chapter activities. The SWAN Country Chapters can streamline their organisational structure and functioning (including fund-raising issues, as relevant), as well as their interaction with national authorities.
The Key-note and the Brainstorming on the Way Ahead for SWAN highlighted the unanimous view that the focus in the next phase of SWAN’s activities should be on advocacy with governments. SWAN should find her voice by strengthening the role of advocacy in all that she does. SWAN’s work should become better known. SWAN should make its voice heard by interacting more effectively with regional and multilateral organisations, including those affiliated with the UN. Stronger links with UN mechanisms can bring even greater success to SWAN.
For its meetings, SWAN should consider inviting the relevant government representatives (from each country). The very successful South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round Table highlights the significance of continued support from legislators. Accordingly, in their respective countries, all SWAN delegates can consider interacting, as relevant, with legislators and government representatives to sensiitse them on the work of SWAN relating to the importance of gender equality and gender empowerment for society as a whole. The united voice of SWAN, spreading the message in a well-coordinated manner across nine countries, can effectively convey the outcome of SWAN’s efforts, the results and conclusions they have arrived at after ten years.
- SWAN agrees that gender equality and gender empowerment are inalienable pre-conditions for sustainable development and prosperity in South Asia, in individual countries and the region as a whole. All speakers and discussants at the Tenth Annual Conference have endorsed SWAN’s bottoms-up approach for achieving this objective through first, the focus on women at the grass-roots levels, the poorest of the poor, and second, through women-led and women-centric strategies. It is in this context that two thematic sessions discussed respectively, the need for a women-led strategy to overcome the challenge of malnutriton in South Asia; and the issue of women’s unpaid work in relation to their empowerment. Both these issues have been identified by SWAN as critical challenges. Even though conventionally, these issues are rarely discussed in the context of gender empowerment, it is the SWAN focus on women at the grass-roots that has brought these issues into the forefront of our attention. Excellent discussions were held, identifying the way ahead for SWAN .
The discussions on overcomng malnutrition were led, as Chairperson, by Dr Kaosar Afsana, Professor, James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Dhaka. South Asia is the worst affected region in the world where the prevalence of stunting and wasting among children is the highest and so is the number of severely food-insecure people. UNICEF has estimated that each year, as much as 11% of GDP is lost due to malnutriion. Women’s poor nutritional status not only affects their own health, but also has long term intergenerational effects on nutritional and health status of children and their development and productivity. As a natural corollary, women should play a central role in the solution-seeking and solution-implementation process, bringing to bear their traditional knowledge of health-sustaining and nutrition-building processes, strongly based on locally-available inputs, combined with the relevant aspects of modern science. This is likely to yield the quickest possible results, and, in the process will empower the women as equal partners in fulfilling every responsibility in the home and in society in reducing gender inequalities. SWAN has agreed that we will take up a coordinated project on overcoming malnutririon, if possible in all the nine countries. In this, SWAN will build upon the positive outcomes of the pilot project already completed in Sri Lanka, where they used the peer educator approach.
The session on women’s unpaid work was chaired by Professor Dr Indira Hirway, Director, Centre for Development Alternatives (CfDA), Ahmedabad. Women’s unpaid work includes unpaid care for family members, the young and the sick and elderly; unpaid household upkeep work, such as cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping; and collecting fuel (wood, cow-dung and others) and fetching water for the family. Unfortunately, and this is the crux of the issue, this work is shared highly unequally between men and women. In India (and most of South Asia) about 80% of this unpaid work is done by women. This imposes a huge burden on women, resulting in involuntary time poverty, which leaves women with no time to look after their health, educate themselves or develop skills. All this results in lower rates of workforce participation by women, and lower wages (than men) even when they do participate. Even after joining the labour force, women still carry the burden of unpaid work on their shoulders. Since these inequalities and the resultant disempowerment of women are not being addressed by conventional economic policies, women are left high and dry. Special measures are necessary to overcome this serious malaise that adversely impacts the empowerment of women. Since 2012, Bangladesh (Manusher Jonno Foundation) has been running a campaign Equality Through Dignity, urging inclusion of women’s unpaid wotk in the SNA (System of National Accounts). They have calculated that this could boost GDP by as much as 75%! SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference agreed to take up a project on Women’s Unpaid Work, to be finalised in consultation with Bangladesh, urging the three Rs : Recognise, Reduce, and Redistribute women’s unpaid work, incorporating the importance of bringing men on board through a special focus on changing mindsets, and simultaneously, working on equality for women in another set of three Rs : Rights, Representation and Resources.
- SWAN’s Rural Tourism and Skills Development Projects : SWAN started work on the rural tourism project in 2014. On the eve of SWAN’s Sixth Annual Conference, held in Thimphu in August/ September 2014, the Tourism Council of Bhutan and SWAN co-organized the Special Workshop on “Ecotourism for Sustainable Development and Gender Empowerment in South Asia”. The Ecotourism Society of India was the facilitator for the Workshop. The SWAN Conference endorsed the Workshop’s conclusions, and agreed to formulate a project on this vital subject. SWAN recognises the potential of ecotourism for integrating women into the process of sustainable development. Women play a central role in rural communities in agriculture, in crafts and textiles, waste management, cuisine and hospitality, preservation of the environment and culture, and inculcating traditional values in the next generation. All these are core values for the development of rural ourism. By making women stake-holders and the principal beneficiaries in eco-tourism projects, the process of gender empowerment receives the highest priority. Eco-tourism becomes the vehicle for skills, livelihood and sustainable development for the women of South Asia. Creating an e-portal to develop rural tourism will enhance knowledge and bring the women of South Asia closer to each other.
The process of project formulation was completed by April 2016. Himmotthan Society, Dehradun, has been the lead agency, with the key central role in project conceptualization and formulation, with the active participation of eight countries. Himmotthan Society coordinated the submission of this project for financial support to the SAARC Development Fund (SDF), Thimphu. However, despite continuing discussions with SDF, and several re-submissions incorporating comments received from SDF, the financial approval has not been forthcoming.
At the ongoing Tenth Annual Conference, this project was reviewed in informal discussions. During the Brainstorming, several speakers requested efforts to revive and re-start the project. Indeed, the participating institutions from India and Sri Lanka have independently started work on their respective rural tourism projects. Every effort is going to be made to secure funding for this valuable and unique project, incorporating skills development and other relevant issues.
- There are several critical issues that SWAN has flagged over the last ten years as being of the highest relevance for ensuring gender equallity and gender empowerment for the women of South Asia. SWAN should continue to flag these as cross-cutting priorities in each project. In addition, SWAN should consider special projects or workshops for finalising advocacy strategies on these critical issues. The most serious among these issues are ending gender based violence, and ensuring the much-needed change in traditional patriarchal mindsets that mitigate against equality, dignity and justice for women and girls. For success in both these objectives, bringing men and boys on board as partners in our effiorts is vital and essential. These have been among SWAN’s principal objectoves from the very outset of our journey. At this Tenth Annual Conference, Members of Parliament and speakers at the Braisstorming have highlighted this issue as well. Clearly these must remain cross-cutting priorities in all SWAN projects. SWAN has consistently emphasised, based on discussions and outcomes of the specialised Conferences it has held, that changes in mindsets must be inculcated right from the stage of primary education, and continued through gender-sensitive curricula at all stages of education, in all subjects.. SWAN, through the Advisory Board will seriously consider the most effective way forward on these critical and challenging issues.
- SWAN and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) : Way back in 2013, at the Fifth Annual Conferrce in Colombo, the SWAN Roadmap for Sustainable Developemnt for the Women of Souh Asia was adopted. SWAN has closely followed the UN SDGs (adopted in 2015) as a vital area of focus, central to our activities. In addition to SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment, each SDG, (whether on ending hunger and malnutrition, on educaruion, on water, on energy, on the environment, and so on) subsumes targets of direct relevance for women and girls. In response to specific suggestions supported by our delegates, SWAN proposes to identify six to eight critical women-related issues in the SDGs, including SDG 5. The objective is to prepare a SWAN paper on the SDGs, highlighting progress towards achieving the particular SDG or the identified sub-target, including obstacles, best practices and learning from each other’s experiences. A Regional Research Paper on the SDGs and the Women of South Asia can be a powerful document, putting together the wealth of experience and expertise of SWAN delegates. Data would be needed from Governments as well, so interaction to seek their support and inputs is vital. Successful best practices such as the BRAC TUP (Targeting Ultra Poor) programme should be studied and included as part of the effort to identify potential game-changers in achieving the SDGs. The Advisory Board will work out the necessary details to start work on this Regional Research Paper.
In conclusion, Founding Trustee thanked HE Shidatha Shareef, Minister for Gender, Family and Social Services, Government of Maldives, HE Dr Dechen Wangmo, Minister for Health, Royal Government of Bhutan, the Hon’ble Members of Parliament, all delegates, and members of the SWAN team for their presence and untiring efforts in ensuring the success of this Conference. Once again, a very special word of thanks goes out to Tata Trusts and to the Siddhomal Group for their support.
Founding Trustee & Convener,
South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)
South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)’s Tenth Annual Conference
New Delhi, 30th August to 3rd September 2019
Theme : Gender Empowerment for Sustainable Development : Issues and Challenges Facing the Women of South Asia
Friday 30th August 2019
Curtain raiser Press Conference : S Venkatnarayan, President, FCC, Veena Sikri, Founding Trustee & Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN), and delegates to the Tenth Annual Conference
Venue : Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia, 19, AB-17, Mathura Road, Government Officers’ Colony, India Gate, New Delhi 110002
Saturday 31st August 2019
Arrival of delegates
Stay At Park Hotel, 15, Sansad Marg, Connaught Place, New Delhi 110001
1700 hours :
Inaugural Session of the Tenth Annual Conference
Venue : India Islamic Cultural Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110003
Abhimanyu Vadh presented by Rasa United Choreographed by Vanashree Rao
Words of Welcome by Mr Sirajuddin Qureshi, President, India Islamic Cultural Centre
Introduction to the South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) by Ambassador Veena Sikri, Founding Trustee and Convener
Address by Ms Shireen Vakil, Head Policy & Advocacy, Tata Trusts, New Delhi
Address by Ms Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Director, India Foundation, Former Chairperson, National Commission for Women, New Delhi
Address by Her Excellency Shidatha Shareef, Minister for Gender, Family and Social Services, Government of Maldives
Address by Her Excellency Dr Dechen Wangmo, Minister for Health, Royal Government of Bhutan
Message from Hon’ble Dr Najma Heptulla, Governor of Manipur
2030 : Delegates’ Dinner at Park Hotel, New Delhi
Sunday 1st September 2019
Venue : Park Hotel
Thematic Session no 1 :
South Asia’s Malnutrition Challenge : A Women-Led Strategy for Accelerating Progress
Chairperson : Dr Kaosar Afsana, MBBS, MPH, PhD, Professor, James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Dhaka
Her Excellency Dr Dechen Wangmo, Minister for Health, Royal Government of Bhutan
Dr Abdul Sattar Yoosuf, Executive Director, International Center for Environment, Development and Operational Research (ENDEVOR), Male
Dr Sahul Bharati, MD (Pediatrics) and Pediatric Endocrinilogist. Director, BHIM (Build Healthy India Movement), a non-profit organization. Chandigarh
Dr Aruna Uprety, Public Health Specialist, Kathmandu
Dr Farhat Sahak, Maternal and Child Health Program Manager, Agency for Assistance and Development of Afghanistan, Kabul
Dr Mira Shiva, Director, Initiative for Health, Equity and Society, New Delhi
Dr Sujatha Samarakoon, Medical Consultant, Trustee AIDS Foundation Lanka, Colombo
Ms Neelam Kshirsagar, Head, Project Development, Impact India Foundation, Mumbai
Dr Vinita Sharma, Former Advisor and Head, Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development (SEED), Deptt of Science and Technology, Govt of India, New Delhi
Lunch : 1300 to1400
1400 hours :
Thematic Session no. 2 :
Women’s Unpaid Work and Their Empowerment :
Chairperson : Professor Dr Indira Hirway, Director, Centre for Development Alternatives (CfDA), Ahmedabad
Her Excellency Shidatha Shareef, Minister for Gender, Family and Social Services, Government of Maldives, Male
Ms Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Dhaka
Ms Mohna Ansari, Member, Human Rights Commission of Nepal,Kathmandu
Professor Dr Chaw Chaw Sein, Professor & Chair, International Relations Department, University of Yangon, Yangon
Ms Pramila Rijal, Founder President, South Asian Women Development Forum (SAWDF), Kathmandu
Ms Sheeza Imad, President, Maldives Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Male
Dasho Dorji Choden, former Cabinet Minister, Royal Government of Bhutan
Ms Bibi Russell, President, Bibi Productions, Fashion for Development, Dhaka
Dr Boonson Namsomboon, Chairperson and Founder, Forward Foundation, Bangkok
1930 : Conference Dinner hosted by the South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN), Juniper Room, Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi
Monday 2nd September 2019 :
Venue : Park Hotel at 0930 hours
Thematic Session no 3 :
Women for Change : Building a Gendered Media in South Asia
Chairperson : Veena Sikri, Professor & Ambassador, Founding Trustee & Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)
Mr KS Dhatwalia, Principal Director General, Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi
Overview by Regional Coordinators
Professor Jaishri Jethwaney, Project Director (ICSSR Research), Senior ICSSR Research Fellow, ISID (Institute for Studies in Industrial Development), New Delhi
Ms Seema Goyal, Professor, ISID (Institute for Studies in Industrial Development), New Delhi
Dr Ananya Roy, Senior Consultant, Department of Communication Research, Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi
Mr Basir Quraishii, Program Director, Development and Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan (DHSA), Kabul
Dr Kajalie Islam, Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka, Dhaka
Mr Samten Wangchuk, Co-Founder, Project Coordinator & Lead Researcher,
Dhensel Research and Consulting, Thimphu
Dr Maryam Shakeela, former Cabinet Minister, Chairperson, AWA (Addu Women’s Association) and Ms Minha Faiz, Chairman, One Media Group Male
Ms Thin Thin Aung, Co-Founder and Director, Mizzima Media Group, Yangon
Mr Om Prakash Ghimire, Executive Director, SODEC (Development Communication Society) Nepal, Kathmandu
Ms Fathima Shanaz, Lecturer, Journalism Unit, Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, Colombo
Ms Ila Sharma, Former Election Commissioner of Nepal, Kathmandu
Ms Kesang Dema, Press Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Royal Government of Bhutan, Thimphu
Ms Tareen Hossain, Executive Director, Daily Ittefaq, Executive Editor, Online Editions, Dhaka
Ms Yashoda Timsina, Information Commissioner, National Information Commission of Nepal, Kathmandu
Dr Ratan Kumar Roy, Research Fellow, Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
The SWAN Regional Project Advisory Board for the Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia meets before the Session ends
Lunch : 1300 to 1400
1400 hours :
Valedictory Session :
(i) South Asia Parliamentarians’ Round Table
(ii) Perspectives on the Way Ahead and the Brainstorming
Moderator : Veena Sikri, Professor & Ambassador, Founding Trustee & Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)
Her Excellency Shidatha Shareef, Minister for Gender, Family and Social Services, Government of Maldives, Male
Hon’ble Ms Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), New Delhi
Honble Ms Maryam Sama, Member of Parliament, National Assembly of Afghanistan, Kabul
Honble Ms Sagufta Yasmin, Member of Parliament, Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad, Dhaka
Hon’ble Ms Kesang Chuki Dorjee, Member of Parliament, National Council of Bhutan (Upper House),Thimphu
Hon’ble Dr Sonal Mansingh, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), New Delhi
Hon’ble Ms Selima Ahmad, Member of Parliament, Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad, Dhaka
Ms Yankila Sherpa, Former Cabinet Minister and former Member of Parliament, Kathmandu
Dasho Dorji Choden, Former Cabinet Minister and former Member of Parliament, Royal Government of Bhutan
Perspectives on the Way Ahead and the Brainstorming
Ms Bandana Rana, Founder & Strategic Director, Saathi, Kathmandu, Member and Vice Chairperson, UN CEDAW
Ms Rokia Rahman, President, Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs (BFWE), Dhaka
Ms Mano Alles, Board Member, Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCIC), Colombo
Ms Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation, Dhaka
Ms Najiba Ayubi, Director General, Development and Humanitarian Service for Afghanistan (DHSA), Kabul
Ms Mahbouba Seraj, Executive Director, Afghan Women Skills Development Centre (AWSDC), Kabul
Ms Usha Ganguly, Founder Director, Rangakarmee Theatre, Kolkata
Ms Chime Paden Wangdi, Secretary General, Tarayana Foundation, Thimphu,
Mr Deepak Tamang, Chief Executive Officer, SEARCH-Nepal, Kathmandu
Mr S. Yaqub Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner of India, New Delhi,
Ms Khin Lay, Founder and Director, Triangle Women’s Support Group, Pazuntaung Township, Yangon
Mr Basir Quraishi, Program Director, Development and Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan (DHSA), Kabul
Ms Jaya Jaitly, Founder & President, Dastkaari Haat Samiti, New Delhi
Ms Zulaikha Rafiq, Independent Consultant, & Executive Director, Be The Change Organisation (BTCO) Kabul
Dr Abdul Sattar Yoosuf, Executive Director, International Center for Environment, Development and Operational Research (ENDEVOR), Male
Mr Munish Gupta, Chairman, PIO TV USA
Wrap-up by Ambassador Veena Sikri, Founding Trustee & Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)
2100 : Dinner : Kwality Restaurant, Parliament Street, New Delhi
Tuesday 3rd September 2019
Departure of Delegates
South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN)’s Tenth Annual Conference
New Delhi, 31st August to 3rd September 2019 Theme : Gender Empowerment for Sustainable Development : Issues and Challenges Facing the Women of South Asia
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
- Honble Ms Maryam Sama,
Member of Parliament,
National Assembly of Afghanistan,
- Ms Najiba Ayubi,
Development and Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan (DHSA),
- Ms Zarqa Haftali Hakimi,
Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF),
- Ms Zulaikha Rafiq,
Independent Consultant, & Executive Director,
Be The Change Organisation (BTCO), Kabul
- Ms Mahbouba Seraj,
Afghan Women Skills Development Centre (AWSDC), Kabul
- Ms Seema Gul Sakha,Board Member,
Afghan Women’s Network (AWN)
- Dr Farhat Sahak,
Maternal and Child Health Program Manager,
Agency for Assistance and Development of Afghanistan,
- Mr Basir Quraishi,
Development and Humanitarian Services for Afghanistan (DHSA),
Kabul Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Honble Ms Sagufta Yasmin,
Member of Parliament,
Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad, Dhaka
- Hon’ble Ms Selima Ahmad
Member of Parliament,
Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad, Dhaka
- Ms Rokia Rahman, President,
Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs (BFWE), Dhaka
- Ms Shaheen Anam,
Manusher Jonno Foundation, Dhaka
- Ms Bibi Russell
President, Bibi Productions,
Fashion for Development Dhaka
- Dr Gitiara Nasreen Professor,
Department of Mass Communication and Journalism,
University of Dhaka, Dhaka
- Dr Kaosar Afsana, MBBS, MPH, PhD,
Professor, James P Grant School of Public Health,
BRAC University, Dhaka
- Ms Suraiya Chowdhury,
Adviser- Design, Prokritee,Dhaka
- Ms Tareen Hossain,
Executive Director, Daily Ittefaq,
Executive Editor, Online Editions, Dhaka
- Ms Marzia Rahman,Lecturer,
Department of Mass Communication and Journalism,
University of Dhaka,
- Ms Jenina Islam Abir,
Lecturer, Department of Media & Mass Communication,
School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences,
Independent University Bangladesh (IUB),
- Dr Kajalie Shehreen Islam,
Department of Mass Communication and Journalism,
University of Dhaka,Dhaka
- Her Excellency Dr Dechen Wangmo,
Minister of Health,
Royal Government of Bhutan,Thimphu
- Hon’ble Ms Kesang Chuki Dorjee,
Member of Parliament,
National Council of Bhutan (Upper House),
- Dasho Dorji Choden
Former Cabinet Minister,
Former Chairperson of the National Commission for Women & Children,
- Ms Chime Paden Wangdi,
Secretary General, Tarayana Foundation
- Ms Chhimmy Pem,
Director, Deptt of Occupational Standards,
Ministry of Labour and Human Resources,
Royal Government of Bhutan,
- Ms Kesang Dema, Press Secretary,
Prime Minister’s Office,
Royal Government of Bhutan, Thimphu
- Ms Kinley Wangmo, Lead Researcher,
Dhensel Research and Consulting,Thimphu
- Mr Samten Wangchuk,
Co-Founder, Project Coordinator & Lead Researcher,
Dhensel Research and Consulting, Thimphu
- Ms Tashi Wangmo,
Dhensel Research and Consulting,
- Hon’ble Ms Meenakshi Lekhi,
Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha),
- Hon’ble Dr Sonal Mansingh,
Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha),
- Professor Veena Sikri,
Founding Trustee and Convener, South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN),
Vice Chairperson, South Asia Foundation-India, New Delhi
- Ms Lalitha Kumaramangalam,
Director, India Foundation, New Delhi
- Dr Malavika Chauhan,
Head, Rural Upliftment,
Head, Civil Society Strengthening,
Deputy Director, Design, Tata Trusts, Mumbai
- Ms Jaya Jaitly,
Founder & President,
Dastkaari Haat Samiti, New Delhi
- Dr Vinita Sharma,
Former Advisor and Head, Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development (SEED),
Deptt of Science and Technology, Govt of India,
- Professor Dr Indira Hirway,
Director, Centre for Development Alternatives (CfDA),
- Dr Mira Shiva,
Director, Initiative for Health, Equity and Society,
Founder member, Diverse Women for Diversity,
- Ms Usha Ganguli, Founder Director,
- Professor Dr Sabiha Hussain,
Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women’s Studies,
Jamia Millia Islamia,
- Ms Neelam Kshirsagar,
Head, Project Development,
Impact India Foundation,
- Professor Gita Bamezai,
Head, Department of Communication Research,
Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi
- Dr Jaishri Jethwaney,
ISID (Institute for Studies in Industrial Development),
- Dr Ananya Roy,
Department of Communication Research,
IIMC, New Delhi
- Ms Seema Goyal,
ISID (Institute for Studies in Industrial Development),
- Ms Kumkum Chadha,
Journalist and Writer,
- Ms Seema Bhatt,
Honorary Vice President, Ecotourism Society of India,
- Ms Sarita Kumari,
Social Welfare Activist, Ghanerao,
- Dr Sahul Bharati,
MD (Pediatrics) and Pediatric Endocrinilogist.
Director, BHIM (Build Healthy India Movement), a non-profit organization.
- Dr Ratan Kumar Roy,
Research Fellow, Centre for Culture, Media and Governance,
Jamia Millia Islamia
(Dr Ratan Kumar Roy is from Bangladesh. As Research Fellow with Jamia Millia Islamia, he is Coordinating Editor for the Interim Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia)
- Mr Sunil Binjola,
Director of Operations,
South Asia Foundation (SAF India),
- Mr MM Sharma,
Former Senior Programme Director,
ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations)
- Mr Manoj Bhatt,
- Her Excellency Shidatha Shareef,
Minister for Gender, Family and Social Services,
Government of Maldives,
- Dr Mariyam Shakeela,
Former Cabinet Minister
Honorary Consul of Belgium,
Chairperson, AWA (Addu Women’s Association),
CEO, SIMDI Group of Companies,
- Ms Sheeza Imad,
Maldives Women’s Chamber of Commerce,
- Dr Abdul Sattar Yoosuf,
International Center for Environment, Development and Operational Research (ENDEVOR),
- Ms Minha Faiz,
Chairperson, One Media Group,
- Daw Dr Chaw Chaw Sein,
Professor & Chair, International Relations Department,
University of Yangon,
- Ms Thin Thin Aung
Co-Founder and Director,
Mizzima Media Group,
- Ms Khin Lay, (Khin Than Myint)
Founder and Director,
Triangle Women’s Support Group,
- Ms Khyn Hla Hla Aung (Cherie),
CEO and Designer,
Elephant House Co. Ltd, Yangon
- Mr La Ring, Program Officer
Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation (EMReF),
- Ms Pwint Hlwar (Iki)
Senior Research Officer
Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation (EMReF),Yangon
Hon’ble Ms Mohna Ansari,
Human Rights Commission of Nepal,
- Hon’ble Ms Yashoda Timsina,
National Information Commission (NIC),
- Ms Bandana Rana,
Founder & Strategic Director, Saathi,
Member and Vice Chairperson, UN CEDAW Committee,
- Dr Aruna Uprety,
Public Health Specialist,
- Ms Yankila Sherpa
Owner and Managing Director,
Snow Leopard Trek, & Vice President,
T-HELP (Trans-Himalayan Environment Livelihood Program Nepal), Kathmandu
- Ms Ila Sharma
Former Election Commissioner of Nepal, Kathmandu
- Ms Pramila Acharya Rijal,
South Asian Women Development Forum (SAWDF),
- Ms Sharada Rijal, President,
Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Nepal (F-WEAN),
- Mr Deepak Tamang,
Chief Executive Officer, SEARCH-Nepal,
- Ms Indira M Shrestha,
Former Hony Member National Planning Commission,
Founder and Chief Executive, Shtrii Shakti,
- Mr Om Prakash Ghimire
SODEC (Development Communication Society) Nepal,
- Ms Mano Alles,
Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WCIC),
- Dr Sujatha Samarakoon,
Trustee AIDS Foundation Lanka,
Public Health Specialist,
- Ms Nishani Dissanayake,
Foreign News Editor, Lakbima,
- Mr Wijayananda Rupasinghe
Department of Mass Communication,
University of Kelaniya,
- Ms Sehu Allawdeen Fathima Shanaz,
Faculty of Arts,University of Colombo,Colombo
THAILAND : Special Guest
- Boonsom Namsomboon
Chairperson and Founder,
Forward Foundation, Bangkok
Subject : Chronological Schedule of SWAN Conferences and Meetings from March 2009 to January 2020
- SWAN’s ANNUAL CONFERENCES :
- SWAN’s Founding (First) Annual Conference : “Women of South Asia : Partners in Development”, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, India, 30-31 March 2009.
- SWAN’s Second Annual Conference : “Cooperative Development, Peace and Security : Women Guiding the Destiny of South Asia”, (i) Media Perspective by Women Journalists and (ii) Women as Partners in Development”, 13-15 March, 2010, CRRID, Chandigarh, India
- SWAN’s Third Annual Conference : “Women of South Asia and the Green Economy”, 2-3 July, 2011, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- SWAN’s Fourth Annual Conference : “Women of South Asia and Sustainable Development”, 17-18 July, 2012, Kathmandu, Nepal.
- SWAN’s Fifth Annual Conference : “Gender Equity for Peace and Sustainable Development for the Women of South Asia “, 23-24 August, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka, which adopted the “SWAN Roadmap for Sustainable Development for the Women of South Asia”.
- SWAN’s Sixth Annual Conference : “Gross National Happiness (GNH) and Sustainable Development for the Women of South Asia”, 2-3 September 2014, Thimphu, Bhutan.
- SWAN’s Seventh Annual Conference : “Empowering the Women of South Asia”, 6-7 October, 2015, Maldives.
- SWAN’s Eighth Annual Conference : “Gender Sensitive Governance for Empowering the Women of South Asia”, 25-26 October, 2016, Yangon, Myanmar.
- SWAN’s Ninth Annual Conference : “Changing Mindsets for Empowering the Women of South Asia”, 20-21 November 2017, Kathmandu, Nepal.
- SWAN’s Tenth Annual Conference : “Gender Empowerment for Sustainable Development : Issues and Challenges Facing the Women of South Asia”, 31st August to 2nd September 2019, New Delhi, India
- Related Activities and Conferences organized by SWAN in Collaboration with Partner Institutions
- South Asian Women’s Theatre Festival (LEELA), March 2010, organized in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Kolkata, in collaboration with ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations).
- Special Event on “Women in Media in South Asia” : Jamia Millia Islamia University (SWAN) participated in the VII Annual South Asia Media Summit, 22-24 November 2010, in Goa, organised by The International Centre, Goa in partnership with Jamia Millia Islamia University, with the support of Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs and FES-India. The theme of this Conference was ‘Women in Media in South Asia’. At this Conference, the First meeting of the sectoral SWAN on Women in Media took place.
- SWAN Special Conference in Partnership with the Development Alternatives TARAgram Yatra 2012 on “Sustainable Development in South Asia : Women Driving Change”, 22-25 November 2012, Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, India.
- SWAN’s Strategy Planning Workshop in collaboration with Maldivian Network on Women’s Rights (MNWR), 20-21 June 2013, Male, Maldives.
- SWAN Special Conference on “Democracy and Inclusive Good Governance for Gender Equality and Sustainable Development in South Asia”, 13-15 May 2014, Kathmandu, Nepal, in collaboration with Shtrii Shakti, Kathmandu, and SEARCH-Nepal.
- SWAN Special Workshop on “Ecotourism for Sustainable Development and Gender Empowerment in South Asia”, 31st August-1st September 2014, in Thimphu, Bhutan, in collaboration with Tourism Council of Bhutan, ICIMOD (Kathmandu), and the Ecotourism Society of India (ESOI).
- SWAN Special Conference : “Gender, Community and Violence : Changing Mindsets for Empowering the Women of South Asia”, 15-16 April 2015, New Delhi, India, in collaboration with Jamia Millia Islamia University.
- UNESCO SWAN Project on “Women for Change : Building a Gendered Media in South Asia” : Regional Consultations for Developing Gender Sensitive Guidelines for Women in Media in South Asia, 3-5 May, 2016, New Delhi.
- UNESCO SWAN Project on “Women for Change : Building a Gendered Media in South Asia” : Regional Training and Consultation Workshop, 1-5 May, 2018, ISID (Institute for Studies in Industrial Development), Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.
- Inception Workshop for SWAN’s Rural Tourism based Social Enterprise Project for Sustainable Development and Gender Empowerment in South Asia, New Delhi and Jaripani (Uttarakhand), November 25-28 2019.
 See Report on the Status of Women in Media in South Asia (Chapter I, Introduction, page 3) for full citation.