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SAARC Gender Database launched

Jan 21, 2008

A comprehensive data pool on gender issues was launched by the SAARC Secretary General at the inaugural of the recent Sixth South Asian Regional Ministerial Conference by UNIFEM at New Delhi. The Gender Database will provide records on violence against women and trafficking in the South Asia region, and on women’s health and HIV/AIDS.

New Delhi: The recent Sixth South Asian Regional Ministerial Conference, organised by the UNIFEM South Asia regional office was formally inaugurated by the President Pratibha Patil last week on January 17.

Co-hosted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, the highlight of the event was the launch of the SAARC Gender Database by Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji, the SAARC Secretary-General.

A single data pool on gender issues of the region, it has records on trafficking and violence against women, and women’s health, including HIV/AIDS and feminization of poverty.

While lauding SAARC for its effort, the President Smt Patil said there is a need to implement more legislative and policy measures for the empowerment of women.

There is also the need to make women aware of various schemes and development initiatives, she added.

“Empowering women is the most effective tool for development as well as for poverty reduction… Educated and enlightened women can look after families better, make societies compassionate and make nations progressive.”

In her speech, the President made a tribute to the women of India who had fought along with men in the freedom struggle. In the words of Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, she quoted: "Most of us men folk were in prison. And then a remarkable thing happened. Our women came to the front and took charge of the struggle…which took not only the British Government but their own men folk by surprise."

“Such is the strength of our women and all that is needed is to give them the opportunities and options for realising their potential,” she added.

Renuka Chowdhury, Minister of Women and Child Development, said “It is undeniable that the goals of development are essentially entwined with those of women.”

Chandni Joshi, Regional Programme Director, UNIFEM, admitted that gender inequalities continue to persist and perpetuate in the region.

“Women are still on the fringes of social, economic and political developments, and key processes in participation and decision-making.”

According to UNESCAP (2007), gender discrimination has cost the Asia Pacific region nearly US$ 80 billion per year, she added.

At the same time, she was emphatic that gender equality was “doable”, when backed by political commitments and resources.

Keeping the spirit alive

The recent Sixth South Asian Regional Ministerial Conference was a commemoration of the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action.

More than a decade back, world leaders from 189 countries had gathered at Beijing at the Fourth World Conference on Women, to make a commitment of gender justice and equality to the women of the world, and develop a global action plan – the Beijing Platform of Action.

In an effort to keep the spirit of Beijing alive, the UNIFEM South Asia regional office has been organising the ministerial conferences along with host governments since 1996.

These meetings are a collective journey by the governments of the region and women's groups to assess progress on gender justice and empowerment, fill in the gaps and strategise the future.

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