ISLAMABAD: The Regional Conference on South Asian Women Alliance (Sawa) of Community Leaders concluded on Wednesday without a final resolution or charter of demands, which will be issued by the alliance at a later date.
The closing ceremony was attended by acclaimed poet Kishwar Naheed, MNAs Aasiya Nasir and Shazia Pervaiz Malik and Balochistan Assembly Speaker Raheela Durrani, as well as community leaders from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) member states.
The moderator of the conference, Salman Asif said the conference has been a consensus building effort on how to deal with the challenges and opportunities identified by the alliance’s participants.
He discussed the priorities and consensus which surfaced during the group work, dialogues and presentations held during the last two days and said the resolutions will based on these thematic areas.
One of the more important areas which surfaced during the last two days, he said, is of knowledge management, in terms of learning, sharing, harbouring and participating.
“We wish to create an osmosis of knowledge rather than a dissemination; we wish to reach out and engage, rather than outreach,” he added.
Mr Asif said advocacy, “based on evidence and awareness raising” is another priority.
“The recommendations reminded us that we need to know what we are demanding; we need to be very deeply cognisant of our demands, both longitudinally and latitudinally.” The next key area, according to Mr Asif, is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“While the first two areas are for ensuring our voices are heard, the third recommendation is for our agency, to determine what the goals and targets are for the SDGs. Not only localising the SDGs, but also influencing them. Not just receiving international frameworks for human development, but also enriching them with our wisdom and knowledge,” he said.
He added that the empowerment of grassroots women should be a permanent part of the Saarc agenda, and called for forging alliances with all other marginalised groups.
“Whether they are people living with disabilities, displaced populations, transgenders, gender or sexual minorities – it is Sawa’s constituency to create and nurture safe spaces and an enabling environment for all the work that we are doing.”
Mr Asif also noted the need for community leaders to be included in conflict resolution. “Pre-emption is the key word that we have heard, and in that sense there is a clarion call for capacity building and capacity development.”
Speaking at the closing ceremony, MNA Nasir said: “Today we are living in an era of cooperation. No nation can claim to progress in isolation; a nation will progress if a region will progress, so we want regional cooperation.”
Referencing Mr Asif’s speech, Ms Nasir said it is her responsibility as a parliamentarian to “take [Sawa’s aspirations] to parliament for legislation”.
She added that the implementation of legislation passed to empower women has been weak, and strong networks and alliances are needed in this regard.
She said she and other parliamentarians will do their best to take the alliance’s final resolutions to parliament and urge the government to take it to the Saarc level.
During her speech, Ms Durrani said: “I hope all of us, in our diverse and distant parts of the world, continue to struggle [for] all the unheard voices.” She praised the government and prime minister for focusing on the empowerment of women and their commitment to achieving and localising the SDGs.
“I hope you have learnt a lot in these two days,” she told the participating community leaders. “And I hope you share what you have learnt with your region, with your people and with each other.”
The ceremony ended with the recitation of Ms Naheed’s Hum Gunahgar Aurtein and its translation.
Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2017