Every October, Parliamentarians from all over the world meet in Geneva for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference. I am currently the President of the Women Parliamentarians and our committee of women meets here once a year to take stock of our work and to prepare for the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians the next year (2010 will be in Bangkok).
In the Women’s Committee, we discussed the gender dimension on the topics pending in the IPU’s standing committees:
– On the topic of Cooperation and shared responsibility in the fight against organized crime, in particular human trafficking. it was underscored that human trafficking was often under-acknowledged and that the first step was for parliaments to call on governments to recognize the full extent of the problem and develop strategies to address it. This in fact is a big problem in the Philippines and much needs to be done.
– On the Role of Parliament in developing cooperation in order to accelerate achievement of the MDGs, the women emphasized the need to focus on MDGs 4 and 5, on child and maternal mortality. This has been my campaign in the country for the last two years. We need more midwives to the barrios, more birthing facilities and access to information and support re family planning.
– On Youth Participation in the Democratic Process, it was suggested that different strategies be considered to include young people in parliamentary debates and hearings, parliamentary youth forums and political party work. The need for gender-sensitive training was also emphasized. I met with the representative of UNICEF to brainstorm on this item later in the week. This would be a good project to implement back home.
The Secretary General Anders Johnson briefed us on IPU’s campaign “Parliaments Take Action on Violence Against Women.” IPU is urging parliaments to take part in this campaign and organize activities to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. This has also been my campaign for the past few years (my related blogs on violence).
Our Gender Partnership Group met twice. We looked at the IPU budget and noted that due to budgetary support for gender issues, the IPU has been able to focus on many gender related activities. As for participation in the IPU, the Group noted that there are still 6 countries without women parliamentarians from the Gulf States and the Pacific Islands.
At the second meeting, we met with the Senator from Palau who briefed us about the recent election of two women in the Palau Senate. He explained that Palau is actually a matriarchal society. Women are king makers in the communities but do not themselves run for office. I opined that there may be a need for re-orienting society to support women in leadership positions.
At the General Council Meeting on the last day, the body approved the resolution on the emergency item on Global Food Security. I supported an amendment to this resolution, urging governments to make microfinance funds available, guaranteeing that at least 50% would go to women.
Finally, I presented the report of the women parliamentarians to the body. Although the IPU meeting formally closed on Wednesday, there were still events going on, including the seminar on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which I would chair the next day.
Over the years, I have made friends with parliamentarians from different countries. It is always a pleasure to see them during the IPU meetings. Many of them are seasoned parliamentarians, and I always go home inspired by the people I meet and the lessons I learned.