Creating an Enabling Environment for Women's Participation

February 27, 2006 - UN HQ, New York
At-the-UN/CSW-Conferences/CSW50-Parallel-Event-2006
By: Bonnie Berry

WFWPI Parallel Event

Moderator, Ms. Sugiyama began her introduction of the panel; the meeting room was completely full, with standing room only. The four panelists provided varying perspectives on the theme, Creating and Enabling Environment for Women's Participation. This topic corresponded to one of the focuses of the CSW, which was Creating an Enabling Environment for Women's Participation in Development.

Dr. Lan Young Moon Park was the first to speak. Her very relevant topic was "An Enabling Environment, with Balance". Dr. Park outlined a brief history of WFWPI and informed the audience of our mission of strengthening families centered on the role of women as mother and educator. She also briefly discussed our reconciliation work and humanitarian aid and service activities in developing nations. Dr. Park stressed the importance of these activities as aiding in the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals. She went on to acknowledge and praise the sacrificial efforts of the many WFWP volunteers who have left their homes and families to bring hope and help facilitate the attainment of the dreams of women in poverty. She testified that although this sacrifice weighed heavily on her heart at times, she knows that this effort and the parental love of these volunteers is the very energy for realizing peace in the true sense, starting from the foundation of society.

Dr. Park continued by illuminating advances in the numbers of women in leadership roles around the world. She also stressed the importance of educating women to become experts in the fields of economy, media, law, science, education and others, in order that they qualify to take part in policy formation and decision making on the highest levels. She noted that there are women presidents in 6 nations, 2 women prime ministers and other women in high level posts in government including growing numbers of women parliamentarians.

In conclusion, Dr. Park emphasized the importance of women as a nation's economic power source. But she also stressed the important leadership role of parenthood and the essential contribution to society of homemaking and childrearing that women make. "After all," she stated, "raising children and forming loving families creates the essential unit of a peaceful world."

Dr. Wang reminded us of the many statistical disparities between men and women in the work force. A significantly higher percentage of men than women are in the workforce in all developed nations. Far more men than women are in management. Salaries of women tend to be approximately 70% of those of men in similar jobs. To combat these realities, Dr. Wang recommended policy changes that allow for positive changes and practices. These good practices include the importance of balancing work and home life, eliminating disparity between genders, promoting women to managerial levels and enhancing access to opportunities and resources. Government policies that allow for these good practices, many of which have been implemented in Dr. Wang's home country of Taiwan , are Gender Equality Employment Act, Minimum Wage Protection Act, Female Employment Promotion Policy, setting up machinery to monitor Gender Equality achievements, and Gender Equality Education programs. Work place policies that encourage balance include parental and family leave, corporate/public childcare, flexible working hours/ work place, and compressed work hours. Some programs to help in advancement of women in the work place are capacity building, career counseling, role models and gender sensitivity training for employers. In addition, Dr. Wang stressed the need for local employment services, special programs for minority and disadvantaged women as well as a clear system for handling reporting of discriminatory situations.

Ms. Mei-NuYu has been pioneering women's rights in Taiwan for over 20 years. She was one of the lawyers who initiated the drafting of the Gender Equality in Employment Act in Taiwan . The focus of her presentation was the process of legislative change in support of women's rights in the workplace in Taiwan . Indeed, before the mid 70s, discrimination against women was legal in Taiwan . Starting in 1987, women's groups began lobbying and demonstrating for equality in the work place. In 1990, the draft resolution of the Gender Equality in Employment Bill was signed by legislators, and in 1999 it was ratified. At the end of 2001 it was passed into Law. Meanwhile women's groups continued to speak out and demonstrate about inequalities and sexual harassment. In addition to law change, monitoring mechanisms have been put into place. Other programs to help women have been instigated jointly between government and nongovernmental organizations including human resource pools to provide employees while women are on maternity leave and child care worker training programs. Also, programs to enhance employment rates of women and train women in entrepreneurship, (strategic planning, writing business plans, acquiring loans, business registration, management, technology, etc.) mentor and networking programs have been instigated to help women business owners and workers with a support system. This public and civil society partnership has created a multi faceted effort to advance women in the workplace and business world in Taiwan .

Final panelist, WFWPI UN Representative, Ms. Bonnie Berry gave an overview of the work of several international nongovernmental organizations that have projects that enhance and empower women and poor people with economic development and political participation and leadership, including the projects of WFWPI. She informed us about two projects in Afghanistan . One empowers women with cottage businesses, the other educated women candidates and voters in the recent parliamentary elections. Finally she shared about Peace X Peace's Global Network. Common threads in all these projects are that they began with a woman or women with a desire to serve and help others create peace. Efforts were made to identify the needs of those to be served, Plans were formulated. Partners and resources were sought among personal networks to implement the plans. Plans were implemented on a nonbureaucratic, grassroots scale. The outcome was that the women served gained power, were empowered by the gift of knowledge, resources, opportunity and support, sustainable economic means, education for their children, healthcare for themselves or children. These are simple steps that each one of us can take to make a difference in the lives of others.

Dr. Park encouraged us as women to contribute our potential in all levels of the public realm, while still providing leadership in our homes and with our children and families. Ms. Yu and Dr. Wang informed us about policy and procedure changes that stemmed from grassroots activism that has helped to create an enabling and empowering environment for women. Ms. Berry reminded us that each one of us can assist in the creation of an enabling environment for women by finding a heart to serve and by using our resources to create opportunities for others.