Archive for the ‘Women/Gender’ Category

Report delivered by Erika Forster-Vannini, Speaker, Council of States, Switzerland

The women Speakers of parliament concluded their Sixth meeting held on 16 and 17 July in the Swiss Parliament by adopting the Bern Initiative for Global Parliamentary Action on Maternal and Child Health, an eight-point plan for action to:

  1. Advocate the development or strengthening of gender-equitable national health action plans addressing family planning, skilled care during delivery, and emergency care;
  2. Review and, where required, enact legislation ensuring that the national legislative framework is aligned with international treaties, does not discriminate against women and girls, ensures their effective access to care, protects women from all forms of gender-based violence and children from abuse, violence and neglect;
  3. Hold debates and dialogues in parliament on women’s and children’s health alongside the discussions on the budget;
  4. Commission reports on the impact the budget will have on the achievement of MDGs 4 and 5 and introduce gender-sensitive budgeting;
  5. Advocate fulfillment of international official development aid commitments and ensure that all official international aid is provided through the national budget adopted by parliament;
  6. Monitor the implementation of the budget from the perspective of MDGs 4 and 5;
  7. Undertake visits to facilities in the country and hold public hearings in parliament with the participation of women and children to assess the impact of health legislation, policies and budgets; and
  8. Promote women’s empowerment by all means.

I strongly encourage all of you to join me and all the women Speakers in taking action for women’s and children’s health and in implementing the Bern initiative in its 8 points of action.

Full text of the Bern Initiative for Global Parliamentary Action on Maternal and Child Health [PDF]

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The parliamentary role could also be strengthened through the promotion of the concept of democracy as a lifestyle and not merely a procedural process, through the promotion of education for democracy in every country…  and by enabling women to participate fully in political, economic, social and cultural life.

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The Women Speakers have continued the debate on maternal, child and newborn health for the second day.  The debate has shifted to focus on the societal context in which care must be provided.

How do we achieve “women-friendly” societies?  Where do we start?  At school, say some.  We must have a gender-sensitive school curriculum.

Don’t underestimate the importance of political leaders and political parties, say others.  They are powerful opinion makers; we have to work on them. And with them.

In fact, much of the debate refers to partnership.  Women have put the issues on the agenda, demanded respect for their rights; but they cannot guarantee them on their own.  Men have to join in.  Society has to be supportive.

Nowhere is this more obvious than when seeking to eliminate violence against women.  Getting rid of gender based violence in all its manifestations – and particularly the insidious violence that takes place in the home, behind closed doors – needs support from everyone in society.

Women’s participation in politics and public life is of fundamental importance.  But women do not want to be forced to participate in politics on terms set by men.  Male-dominated politics don’t appeal to women.  We face a double challenge: not only must we attain political office, we must also change the political process.

One of the Speakers concludes with passion.  In the last sixty years we have adopted so many good laws.  Why do we still have these problems? Because those who should implement the laws are locked into old mindsets, larded with prejudices from the past.  What we have to do is change their mindset, change people’s attitudes, change the society in which we live.

It is early Saturday afternoon.  The sun is beating down outside.  People are in the streets.  But the National Council Chamber remains full.  We are taking part in a wonderfully rich discussion and the women Speakers have much to tell each other.

They conclude by adopting the Bern Initiative for Global Parliamentarian Action on Maternal and Child Health, an eight-point plan for action they can promote in and through parliament to achieve MDGs 4 and 5 by 2015.

On Monday they will join their male colleagues at the opening of the 3rd World Speakers Conference in Geneva.  Then begins the task of enlisting them as partners.

Anders B. Johnsson

Secretary General

Inter-Parliamentary Union

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Good legislation could end up not producing any changes if its effective implementation does not comprise the sensitization and training of competent human resources, the provision of adequate funds and the establishment of transparent and effective procedures that involve a variety of actors, and in particular women as individual persons to whom rights apply.

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Progress [in achieving MDGs 4 and 5] would not be possible without the many initiatives that come from outside political circles. They are of enormous value to us as parliamentary presidents. They open our eyes and we should give them every encouragement. I am confident that the UN Secretary General’s joint plan of action will create a partnership that includes all the different players in the healthcare field. Public-private partnerships are essential to speed up access to advanced technology.

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Participation and education must be viewed not only as an emancipation indicator or a goal but also as an instrument in fighting stereotypes.

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Of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), MDG 4 on child mortality and MDG 5 on maternal health are making the slowest progress. With only five years until the 2015 deadline, women Speakers of Parliament are joining forces to combat child mortality and protect maternal health.

In their first day of discussions, the 23 women Speakers meeting in Bern at the Swiss Parliament explored the links between gender equality and women’s health. They also highlighted the impact that MDGs 4 and 5 have on the achievement of the other MDGs, saying that the main challenges are the need to enforce the law, beef up poor resources and weak political will, and grapple with discriminatory stereotypes and mentalities.

Video interviews: Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament

00″12 – Fehmida Mirza: Speaker of the National Assembly, Pakistan (in English)

01″36 – Alejandra Sepulveda: President of the Chamber of Deputies, Chile (in Spanish)

03″26 – Rose Mukantabana: Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda (in French)

05″22 – Baroness Hayman: Lord Speaker, House of Lords, United Kingdom (in English)

07″21 – Jozefina Topalli: Speaker of Parliament, Albania (in English)

09″47 – Ivonne Passada: President of the Chamber of Representatives, Uruguay (in Spanish)

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