Archive for January, 2011
Monday, January 24th, 2011
The obscure 1799 law – which is still in force – states any woman in the French capital that wishes to ‘dress like a man’ must obtain special permission from the police.
In May, a group of French MPs submitted a draft bill to parliament to remove the law, which has survived repeated attempts to repeal it. Now the Paris council has this week asked the city’s chief of police to officially declare the law defunct.
The rule, which technically makes Paris’s clothing laws stricter than many hardline Islamic states, was relaxed in 1892 by an amendment which said trousers were permitted “as long as the woman is holding the reins of a horse”.
The decree was watered down again in 1909 by a clause allowing women to wear trousers while ;on a bicycle or holding it by the handlebars’.
In 1969, the mayor of paris asked the city’s police chief to scrap the law but was told: “It is unwise to change texts which forseen or unforseen variations in fashion can return to the fore.”
The law is also contradicted by legislation which has made men and women equal in the eyes of the French constitution since 1946.
Another law makes trouser-wearing compulsory for Parisian policewomen.
Left-wing MP Gerard Charasse is leading the campaign to have the ‘trousers’ law removed.
“It is fundamentally outdated and clearly wrong that this odd rule is still in place,” he said.
“We would be baffled by the motivation of any MP who voted to keep it in place.”
Source: Daily Telegraph September 2010
Friday, January 21st, 2011
In December 2010, provincial elections were held in the Solomon Islands. There were 183 wards and six out of nine provinces took part in the polls. The provinces were Temotu, Guadalcanal, Renell Bellona, Malaita, Isabel and Central. Unlike the previous election four years ago, this election saw an increase in the number of women candidates, with a total of 23 women contesting against a staggering figure of 622 men.
One of those women was Iilene (Eileen) Sulukonina [pictured], who successfully became the first woman from the province of Guadalcanal to be elected to the Provincial Government. Mrs Sulukonina won the seat for Birao ward and was one of only three women contesting for seats within the Guadalcanal provinice against a total of 27 men.
Her plans as an elected member of the Provincial Government will include attending to the needs of women, youth and children of Guadalcanal; an issue that she feels has for many years been neglected by former male representatives. In addition to this, Mrs Sulukonina hopes to address the need for equal decision making by men and women at provincial level.
Meanwhile, two women from the province of Isabel, Rhoda Sihilabu and Beverley Dick were also successful in retaining their seats. In Isabel, five women contested against 75 men for seats in their district.
Thursday, January 20th, 2011
‘Women as Agents of Change’ is the theme for Commonwealth Day 2011.
The theme is celebrated throughout the year, with special events taking place during the week of Commonwealth Day (14-20 March).
By investing in women and girls, we can accelerate social, economic and political progress.
Women and girls make up over half of the world’s population. In the Commonwealth, that’s over one billion people. By educating them, giving them accessible health care and making sure they are treated fairly and have the same opportunities and protection as men and boys, we can go a long way towards addressing the many problems of the world.
Women and girls need to be included at all levels of decision making to ensure that their needs are properly met. This will benefit us all.
Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
Story by: Aisha Siddika and M. Mizanur Rahman
The role of women in leadership situations has been the subject to debate in the last two decades. At the international level, the United Nations conferences on women have, in particular, advocated the need to increase the number of women in decision-making positions. In the Asia and Pacific region the initiatives to encourage women’s political participation have focused mainly on women’s leadership at central government level. However, women have always been an integral part of their communities and they take a very active role in village life, community organizations in towns and cities. Local government is much closer to this level of participation and is often a first step into a political decision making arena.
Women in Bangladesh live in a social system where the socialisation process plays an influential role in pushing them into an inferior and subordinate position in society. This socialisation process starts almost with the birth of a child. Through different treatment in their everyday lives, a sex identity is acquired. This socialisation process associates girls with the home and boys with a wider environment. This results in an unfavourable attitude of women towards politics.
Women’s equal participation in political life plays a pivotal role in the general process of the advancement of women. It is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women’s interests to be taken into account. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.
Unequal access to education and training to develop their skills, and also to employment, will make women more economically dependent on men. All these factors reinforce each other to keep women’s political participation low, which makes them unable to keep control over the community’s resources.
McCormark, in Bambewala (1983), mentions three factors that are responsible for women’s non-participation in politics. Political participation may include activities such as picketing and convincing and influencing public authorities, to which women in Bangladesh are generally not habituated. That is why they keep themselves far from politics.
Conventionally, in a patriarchal society like ours, women are always identified with domestic life while politics is viewed as a male-dominated public activity. Even after the completion of the UN declared Women’s Decade (1976-85), politics in Bangladesh remains male-dominated with respect to number, position in the party hierarchy, presence and effectiveness in the national legislature and other political structures, or whatever other criteria are set for measuring the extent of participation in this particular activity.
Presence of women in the national parliament does not really reflect the level of political consciousness of the women of the country. The condition of women’s participation in local level politics is sometimes worse than it is national politics. Women’s involvement in the political process at the local level is needed to make them familiar with the problems of the local community in general and women’s needs and issues in particular. The activities of the local level women politicians, and their constant contact and interaction with the women of the local community go a long way in raising the political consciousness of women around them.
Local government plays an influential role in grassroot level development through responding to local needs. Local government means an intra-sovereign governmental unit dealing mainly with local affairs, administered by local authorities and subordinate to the state government (Jahan, 1997:92). According to Article 59(1) of the Constitution of Bangladesh: “Local government in every administrative unit of the Republic shall be entrusted to bodies composed of persons elected in accordance with law (Salam, 2006).”
Local government at the union level was first introduced by the British in 1870, and was called “Chowkidary Panchayet.” It consisted of five persons, all of whom were nominated by the district magistrate. The only function of the “Chowkidary Panchayet” was to maintain law and order in the villages, and maintenance tax was imposed on villagers for running it.
The Local Government (Union Porishad) Second Amendment Act 1997 of Bangladesh can be seen as a milestone towards ensuring women’s equal access and increased participation in political power structures. This amendment provided direct elections to reserved seats for women in local level elections. It gave the structural framework for women’s participation in political decision-making and provided an opportunity to bring women to the centre of local development and develop new grassroots level leadership.
But the number of women in elective positions of chairperson and member in the Union Parishads was abysmally low even after 3 seats were reserved for women candidates, because women elected from reserved seats do not get institutional support and are often not included in mainstream activities, and their responsibilities are sometimes not stated clearly. Even those who are elected as chairperson or general member are often ignored during decision-making only because they are women.
The world has just celebrated 100 years of International Women’s Day, with the theme “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All.” Without mainstreaming women in the development process and integrating them equally in local level and central government, it will be quite impossible to think about sound development of any developing country like Bangladesh. Local government is considered as the linchpin of any country’s central government.
A truly democratic and representative government cannot be established without women’s participation in the political processes. Political participation is a means of gaining access to the power structure, where decisions with regard to the allocation of resources amongst people and other issues of the community’s concern are made. Participation in local level government is a critical issue for women mainly because it is one of the most effective instruments to improve the condition of grassroot level women of the country.
Though Amendment 1997 provided direct elections to reserved seats for women in local level elections, there are some serious lacunas in gender balancing both in terms of governance policy and in reform agenda. The Union Parishad is the most popular democratic institution at the grassroots level. Therefore, the state of women’s participation at this level is crucial and deserves special attention to empower them, as participation and empowerment are closely related.
The culture of local government needs to be changed to ensure that women are treated fairly and equally and to make sure that discrimination against women is not acceptable. At the same time, gender awareness programmes for men and women need to be developed so that they can have a more effective role in the development process of the country.
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