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Asian Women Parliamentarian Caucus Meeting

by Megha Sarmah, Mr Muslim Dokho

Substantive Representation of women in Asian Parliaments: A Comparative Study”.

This year, continuing the discussion on The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the AWPC caucus met to discuss the findings of our of our recent publication “Substantive Representation of women in Asian Parliaments: A Comparative Study”.

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With the support of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a network of Asian women parliamentarians has been meeting annually since 2011 to promote, strengthen and develop female political leadership in the region through policy discussions and capacity building workshops.

This year, continuing the discussion on The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the AWPC caucus met to discuss the findings of our of our recent publication “Substantive Representation of women in Asian Parliaments: A Comparative Study”. As it was a closed door dialogue only the main common  findings will be shared in this report.

As delegates shared legislative advocacy based on their respective countries, they discussed strategies for strengthening women's participation. There was unanimous agreement among the authors and our parliamentarians that critical actors must take on challenges, overcome obstacles, implement measures, introduce measures, and work towards positive changes to achieve gender equality. It was also agreed that numerical representation of women is a minimum requirement of substantive representation, and gender quotas are one way to accomplish this. Quotas have helped not just numerical and descriptive representation, but also substantive representation. There are many countries in the world today that have already adopted gender quotas, and it is becoming a global trend. More research should be done as many countries still require further reformation of quotas.

It was noted that culture is also important when it comes to ensuring substantive representation of women.  Few case studies were highlighted by our delegates. One of the study quoted was the Harvard Business School study which states that women tend to choose the second category during job fairs. They stated that they are not very ambitious to choose a higher position. When asked if they are certain that they will perform that job, they replied, "No". Despite preferring the first category, they answered that they would publicly choose the second category to avoid showing their ambition. According to the findings of this study, women do not wish to show off too much because they desire the best male partner by not showing off too much. Therefore, this cultural norm still prevails in many parts of the world, whether in Asia or the West. What can be done to eliminate this structural problem? Gender neutrality should be promoted by institutions, whereas it should be facilitated by states.

This story about institutions and cultures reinforces one another. Therefore, the quota could change the political culture. To change culture, one must create institutions. To change culture, one needs institutions. In essence, it is like a chicken and an egg, whichever comes first should be grabbed. Then they will just change it because the other thing will follow shortly after.


How to increase Substantive Representation of Women in Parliaments - Ground Level Best Practices

Despite the difficulties of the political process, women should have equal access to it. According to a participant whose first impression was of the book, quantifying different representations of women is difficult due to the complexity of the stages involved. As each law and bill must be reverted one by one, the question is what can be done to quantify how many women are represented in each area or law? Many individuals are not sure whether this issue pertains to women or not. As an example, reducing maternal mortality requires discussion of multiple issues (e.g. infrastructure, budget, etc..

In order to learn about politics and their political party, women members should receive training and the training programmes can improve child development, increase political literacy, and promote women's involvement


The Way forward for Achieving Gender Equality in Asia

The delegates expressed the desire to give more opportunities to women who can bring in more meaningful involvement in politics by virtue of their ideology, knowledge, competence, understanding and courage. Several issues must be addressed to further develop. The first step is to enhance the personal capacities of women politicians by continuing to build on the work.  The AWPC Dialogue was highlighted as an example where parliamentarians get opportunities to network,  share their experiences, receive inputs from experts and other fellow parliamentarians , and enhance their skills through the program. Secondly, training, or mentoring programs should be implemented and programs that have been implemented in countries should be replicated to increase women's participation in politics.

In addition, the delegates acknowledged shared that comparative studies and books addressing women entering politics are imperative to strengthen gender quality policies to increase the representation of women. Moreover, quota policies and electoral systems capable of guaranteeing substantive representation of women need to be studied. Additionally, one participant suggested that activities to educate the public should be organized in Asian countries. In the absence of community support, even highly qualified women will be unable to win the election.

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Contact Person

Megha Sarmah

Megha Sarmah

Programme Manager, Agenda 2030 +65 6603 6165


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