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Women Parliamentary Caucuses to ensure gender equality

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13th-Apr-2018       
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Md Osman Ali :
(From previous issue)
Involvement of Civil society and stakeholder in Legislative action  
The WPCs   build bridges between parliaments, women's movements and civil societies.  All citizens - men and women accordingly can involve themselves in legislative activities. The WPCs   act as a watchdog for gender issues by ensuring that all citizen, civil society, concerned   stakeholders are aware and involved when relevant legislation is up for review. Thus the WPCs unite stakeholders, citizens, parliamentarians and politicians and assist them so that they can identify problems of gender equality and the human rights of women and recommend viable solutions for legislative action.
Information and advocacy on gender issues: The WPCs   are able to influence the government and political process by helping to shape the gender agenda and by providing information and advocacy. Caucus can create awareness about certain gender issue, by acting as catalyst for communication between government and civil society, and by providing information and advocacy. The WPCs   organize   brainstorming session to publicize their work and communicate with other parliamentarians and parliamentary authorities. The experience in Bosnia and Uganda shows, however, that they cannot in themselves overcome problems of inter-regional cleavages and might even cement these differences .
Capacity Development of Women parliamentarians: The WPCs organize workshops to help make women parliamentarian' better legislators on speech making, constituency building, coalition building, parliamentary procedures, conflict resolution and negotiation skills and other related topics. The development partners like UNDP,USAID, NDI or any other development organization  assist the WPC to arrange workshop  to strengthen the skills of women legislators. The WPCs as in Finland, organizes informative luncheons intended to rouse debate in parliament on important current affairs. In addition the WPCs create a leadership development opportunities for women legislators to design objectives, activities and mechanisms for measuring achievements
Other activities:  The WPCs activities   include raising the visibility of specific issues and visibility of "Women's Caucus Package" by organizing press conferences, interviews, and speeches; raising money   for cause's activities; and hosting networking with other organizations both inside and outside country     in activities for promoting women empowerment and the advancement of the gender agenda as well as for effective advocacy, greater public awareness on parliamentary action and gender issues.
Action Plan: The Caucus formalizes its activities by adopting a strategic action plan and elaborating an annual action plan. The plans are drafted with the active involvement of the civil society and international organizations, in order to identify priorities and the most effective ways to achieve them.  The action plans are developed through a multi-level approach: input is provided at the local level, at the national level through the parliament and the Government, and at the international level through the involvement of international organizations .
The WPC is fairly new in Bangladesh. The WPC in Bangladesh had finalized a charter of activity which is translated into   country action plan on issue/ priority area, 2013  Each priority area elaborates steps to be taken, person/position responsible (who), time frame(when), resources  available   and needed, potential barriers and how will this be done/ process. Action plan on the issues / priority areas are as follows
Target/ Goal 1: Promote Gender Budgeting
Target/ Goal 2: Violence against women (policy and law; review and implementation 21)
Target/ Goal 3: Building Women's leadership, education and empowerment. In addition, the WPC has carried out several activities which include investigation of climate change impact on women; capacity building and strategic planning workshop .
  Gender Budgeting:  The WPCs with the help of Committee on women and children had carried out a gender-based   analysis of national budget (2010-11) and prioritized issues of women interest in budget in consultation with Caucus members and line ministries. The WPC, in consultation with committee on health, education, and civil society, determined priorities for gender responsive budgeting to enhance gender equitable budget allocations in national budget for promoting women reproductive and child health, women educational facilities   in remote areas. The caucus attempted to make parliamentarian to play "proactive roles in ensuring adequate resource mobilization.  In this respect the WPC's responsibility include to take up matter in the parliament to specify ways for efficient and optimum utilization of budget to improve women's health and education and to make parliament more 'accountable for it. The WPC could also emphasis, according to charter of activities, gender responsive budget for women employment and skill development which carries importance in income generating activities and creation of employment within the country or overseas and which lead women to be economically empowered
There is often lack of coordination between the different ministries and development partner in terms of budgeting. There are programs that may be budgeted by Ministry of women and children affairs but by other ministries  and often budgeted again by donor agencies, The WPC network, in this case, can help to provide Ministry finance,  other relevant ministries and donors  with information about  items budgeted  for avoiding duplication. The WPC with technical assistance from civil society and research institute can help committee on women and children to   monitor to what extent gender budget goes to benefit women
Violence against women: In the case of action to be taken regarding violence against women (VAW), Committee on women and children hold a special meeting on status of implementation of laws on VAW. The Parliamentarian, Law enforcement agencies, Women political leaders need to take effective steps to review, revise and implement laws for protection of women against violence.  In this context the experiences at the Regional conference in Colombo held in 2013 regarding formulation of legislation on VAW is essential. There is also need adequate coordination between Ministry of women and children Affairs and Ministry of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs to identify what they can do to ensure women's access to justice and protection against violence. The WPC, in consultation with Committee on women and children, take up the coordination issues with Women's Development, Implementation and Evaluation Committee headed by the Minister in Charge Ministry of women and children and represented by relevant ministries
Women's Caucus has a positive influence, giving proper input, on women MPs in discussion of laws especially on VAW   that have positive impacts for protection of women rights and interest.   Several laws have been enacted and measures introduced to prevent and prosecute violence, but their weak enforcement allows perpetuation of these violations.   Hence the  WPC  can  encourage committee on women and children to  take  specific steps  to review  and amend  all laws  for  protection  of   women against different dimension of VAW such as sexual harassment at the workplace and educational institution ,  prevalence of  rape , eve teasing, harassment through the use of social media, abandonment, dowry, acid crimes, domestic violence,  women trafficking and abuse of  women  migrant at overseers  and   establish women's rights against every kind of discrimination.
 In fact, for  protection  of women  from  different dimension of violence and guaranteeing their rights ,  the WPC  needs  to highlight a wide range of women's issues with regard to VAW on the floors of the parliament and  provide  input or other forms of advocacy in drafting bill, reviewing  and process of enactment of law.. The WPC, like women caucus in Namibia , may carry out work on the legislative implications of CEDAW to make    people understand their rights and ensure all acts are enforced. The caucus may also come up with motions and issue collective statements on behalf of women where necessary
Women's Leadership, Education and Empowerment: The WPC's responsibility includes building Women's leadership and political empowerment which is one of the priority areas. In this respect WPC's members organize consultation or roundtable discussion meeting with women's organizations, civil society, community leaders, political parties, progressive religious leaders and media to develop formal relations with the committees or other organs of parliament responsible for  gender equality issues.
Consultation or roundtable meeting includes discussion how to increase women's political participation in general and enhance the role of women parliamentarians in particular. Hence the WPC's members can encourage parliamentarian to raise gender-sensitive policies and issues , such as    increase of women's reserved seat, direct election of  the reserved seat in the parliament,  increase of  women position in the central committee of political parties, political party's 33 percent nomination of women candidate in parliament election, etc. in the parliamentary debate, discussion and speeches
The WPC can propose gender sensitive legislation, review and makes amendment of constitution for electoral reform. In this respect the experiences and inputs from the participating countries in South Asian Regional Secretariat for women parliament (SARSWP) is utilized. Nominated focal points in Bangladesh launches a regional and international network among WPC's to facilitate exchange of views and information sharing on critical areas of concern for strengthening caucus's role to lead representational democracies.
 (To be continued)

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