Sunday, June 23, 2013

Strategic Regional Conversation: The Changing Context for Women’s Rights in Southeast Asia Agenda

I was invited by JASS SEA, the network of feminist movement building in Southeast Asia to have conversation relating to current context of women’s rights in Southeast Asia Agenda. The uniqueness about this network is to nurture organic movement of grass root people, which I have been seeking for the last 2 years after my short course on Non Violent Civil Resistance at Tufts University Boston. The two days workshop on 17-18 June 2013 that held in Anantara Resort and Hotel in Bangkok brought women regional networks such as Musawah, APWLD, ISIS, ASBE, AMAN, ARROW, The third world network, and national based organization such as Gabriela, Bina Desa, Komunitas Pelangi, Silaka, Pusat Koma, etc.

The first day of workshop was to explore the changing context of women’s rights in Southeast Asia, in which participants shared their source of anger as well as inspiration happen in the national and international context. Recently, a group of monk in Burma proposed a bill on restriction of inter-marriage for women because this could dilute the original culture and religion of Buddhism. Burmese government has passed the regulation on "2 child policy for Rohingya". Just remind me to “state of fatherhood” in Singapore where Malay could not have more children because they are not qualified. In Thailand, recently the government erased practice of discrimination on "hair" in public services (government officer of Thailand often bother with hair model of people coming to get services. this caused strong reaction from civil society because this more targeted to "ketoy" (transgender). They replaced with finger print, so to identify each person. In one of small island of Indonesia, a single woman used to be abandoned by community because of her status and her activities in organizing the women of head household, after 11 years, when she came back to her village, people accepted her and celebrate her success as she is a hero. 

However, we also still facing big challenge on land grappling, fundamentalism, discrimination against LGBT, migration, social activism using technology, ASEAN, the post 2015 agenda, militarization and global economic and financing. In cyber world, the discrimination and violence against LGBT likely happens by accusing them as pornography icon. The black campaign against LGBT on the cyber world brought politician to redefine meaning of national morality in narrow perspective. Similarly, the situation of religious minority groups in Indonesia has shaken the freedom for religions that recognized on the amended 1945 constitution. This because some of group have been trying to institutionalize faith, which no more as private and sacred space for everyone who belief on God. How we could JASS and other social movement response this? What would be innovative strategies and tactics to use? How do we synergy between local, national and global movement? What would be the best common message that we could use? 

The second day of meeting elaborated on the framework of relationship between state, market and civil societies, which supposed to have equal role, but in reality, the form has shifted into domination of market over state and CSO. Look at below diagram:
The second picture is the real relationship that we have right now, which market has big portion in influencing state and also CSO through corporate, financial sector, privatization, and public private partnership. The impact of domination of market is repression of police and policy. The role of state and CSO has been paralyzed, so democracy in crisis in which though we have democracy infrastructure to fix the world, however the state could not do many things because it trapped into legal binding with the giant economic institutions like ADB, World Bank and IMF. 

On the other hand, we are facing crisis of democracy and financial, which brought us to rethink a new paradigm and framework of development. People has been discussing about Aid Effectiveness, where emphasizes on resilient-oriented intervention, rights based approach and strong transparency and accountability. There is also serious effort from the UN to open consultation to develop a new framework of post MDG8 development, which the process has involved thousand CSO and private sectors to contribute. The transformation on the system is also taking place in ASEAN through AICHR and ACWC. However, the process was so much driven by market, so radical change seems not really happening, because the paradigm of development is using the old fashion concept of growth, which only measure with number not well-being. The fragile of institution like AICHR and ACWC have to contest the power over state. AICHR and ACWC are trying to expand their roles to protect public space goods from privatization and monopoly of private sector. On the other hand state thinks that survive is only possible by involving private sectors in the development through free-trade, financing development and privatization. As a result, increasing cases of land grabs, migration, militarization, fundamentalism, the use of technology etc. The impact is to the vulnerable and marginalized people like women, children, disabilities, LGBT, farmer, fishermen, small trader, religious or faith minority, etc. 

Some of strategies offered during the meeting to deal with land grabs are building strong coalition in national, regional and international level to have effective movement building. There are two possible strategy to use to encounter fundamentalism is by creating doubt to individual follower of fundamentalist group about the principles of justice, non violence, equality in Islam from text to context, to have internal self critics to religion as well as feminism, to approach connectors inside fundamentalist group by doing mapping of key actors of connector and divider. To eliminate the role of private sectors, we need to have clear parameter on how far private could intervene in the development. It is also important to always encouraging people to have critical question on the role of private sectors, and to increase literacy on private sectors’ role and financing for development, so people will be aware and be very careful in taking decision. On the technology side, there is strong recommendation on the strategy to use technology with strong values because technology is a mean which need to insert with good values, so improvement of skill and capacity of human being will be possible. Literacy of technology is important for feminist because contestation discourses of women’s rights are also happening in the cyber world, which conservative groups are much advance in promoting and provoking their perspective to public. 

There is no exact follow up agenda, but conversation among feminist are important to share update and create possible a window to work together to advocate urgent agenda. *** 

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