Female parliamentarians and women's rights activists from Myanmar and Pakistan attend the first ever international congress on women's parliamentary caucuses in Dublin.
Hundreds of women parliamentarians have gathered in Dublin Castle for the first ever International Congress of Women’s Caucuses. Delegates are discussing how to increase women’s participation in politics around the world.
The congress began with a gala dinner hosted by President Michael D. Higgins, and the conference was formally opened by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. President Higgins remarked that it was fitting that the congress coincides with the 100 year anniversary of women achieving the right to vote in Ireland.
Catherine Martin, Green Party TD, is chair of the Irish Women's Parliamentary Caucus which organised the congress. The caucus is a parliamentary group with female members from across all political parties, and its aim is to advance women's issues. In her opening speech Catherine Martin said that 'we must ensure the voice of women is not just heard but echoed forcefully across the world'.
4 delegates from Pakistan and Myanmar, including parliamentarians and civil society activists are attending the congress, with Trócaire's support.
In both of these countries, gender inequality is a significant challenge, and traditional norms prevent most women from becoming leaders.
Trócaire works on women's empowerment and women's leadership in Myanmar and Pakistan. Trócaire also supports female parliamentarians to build their skills and to push for policies and laws which advance women's rights.
Shaista Pervaiz is a parliamentarian from Pakistan. She was secretary of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus for the last four years.
Nearly 20% of elected representatives in the 2018 general elections in Pakistan were women. This was the first election in Pakistan where a gender quota was put in place. Every party had to provide at least 5% women candidates in the General Election.
Shaista sees this progress as a result of pressure generated by the Women's Caucus. She is also proud of other successes influenced by the Caucus, such as the outlawing of 'honour' killings in 2016, and stronger sentences on rape cases.
Shaista says that one of the reasons the Women's Caucus is effective in Pakistan is because it overcomes party politics. She says 'I believe that we should all work together. When we are together our voices can be heard'.
Nafeesa Inyatullah Khattak is also a parliamentarian from Pakistan, and her party recently won the 2018 election. She hopes the Women's Caucus can advance the empowerment of divorcees and widows in Pakistan.
Nafeesa from Pakistan says that she has 'learned a lot' from representatives of other countries at the congress in Dublin. Her colleague Shaista says that the congress has 'given me more strength, and I feel I can face more challenges'.
The congress concluded with the 'Dublin Castle Declaration'. This declaration calls for the establishment of a Women’s Caucus in every parliament by 2020.
Women's rights activist Khin Ma Ma Myo has come all the way from #Myanmar to Dublin Castle for #ICPWC18 and hopes Myanmar can follow Ireland in setting up a women's caucus to raise women's voices in the parliament. #womenhavepower pic.twitter.com/UaQ9voZ2eF
— Trócaire (@trocaire) September 10, 2018
Khin Ma Ma Myo, a civil society representative attending from Myanmar, said that only 13% of representatives in their parliament are women and this is 'not enough'. She hopes that within 3 or 4 years they could establish a women's caucus to 'represent our women's voices'.
Shaista from Pakistan says that the message she will bring back from the congress in Dublin is that 'we should get united with one voice. If you feel you are right, stick to it, fight for it and don't rest until you get it'.
Read more about the strong women that Trócaire is supporting across the world, in our new report "Against the Odds: Women Leading the Struggle for Global Justice".