Chairperson of First Conference of Muslim Women Parliamentarians Dr. Nur Hayatty Aly Sakaf to “PUIC”:

Chairperson of First Conference of Muslim Women Parliamentarians Dr. Nur Hayatty Aly Sakaf to “PUIC”:

- Call for Great Role of Muslim Women
- Gaza Visit Raises Public and Political Awareness
- Parliaments Action to Save Women in Conflict Area

PUIC Bulletin No.12 Winter 2013

Dr. Nurhayati Assagaf is a loud voice and formidable activist on the world stage for the rights of women in all aspects of life. From her superior position in the House of Representatives of Indonesia she advocates such themes as the meaningful role of women, empowerment of women, gender equality … etc. The “PUIC” sounded the views of Dr. Assagaf on these issues ... and more.

Following are the excerpts:

1- Your Excellency chaired the First Conference of Muslim Women Parliamentarians, held in Palembang, Indonesia. How do you evaluate the outcome of that Conference?

The Outcome of the Conference, which is the Declaration of Women Parliamentarians, is an ambitious declaration for us, women parliamentarians. Although it was ambitious, it is a realistic and implementable one. The outcome was also in line with what our executive counterparts have done at the international level through the OIC Plan of Action on the Advancement of Women. The outcome, stresses our role and how to increase it in, first, the socio-cultural life.
Indonesia is committed, in fact our parliament is discussing, a bill on Fair Gender Equality as a commitment to implement the Declaration. Related to Gaza, the Indonesian Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr Marzuki Alie, who is also the President of PUIC, visited Gaza this December.

2- Participation of Muslim Women in Political and Parliamentary life in their respective countries is highly desirable. What action may be taken in your opinion to enhance this participation?

Our effort to increase women’s engagement in politics must be comprehensive. First, the obstacles against women’s effective participation in politics must be removed. Second, the difference between having a voice and participating actively in the public life needs to be recognized. Democracy is an incubator for gender equality, because it provides a public space for discussion on laws, human rights and constitutions. And third, democracies and institutions must be held accountable to women. A democracy cannot be worthy of its name if it does not promote and meet the challenge of gender equality.

In November 2012 at an International event of Gender and Politics in London, as the President of Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians of IPU, I emphasize that there are many ways in promoting women’s participation in politics that include quota policies or other policies in electoral fields. But, these steps must also be supported by empowering women and enhancing political parties’ capability and capacities so that they welcome women’s participation in politics.

3- How do you envisage the role, which Muslim Women Parliamentarians may play in poverty alleviation, education and the area of child and family welfare?

I would like to see more Muslim women parliamentarians speak and are actively involved in the campaign to fight poverty, enhance the quality of education and protect the rights of child, women and advance their welfare. I do believe that this is going to happen. We will see a lot of Muslim women parliamentarians struggle to be heard in issues that affect our lives the most.
 The OIC Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women that constitutes comprehensive strategy towards improving the situation of women in political, economic, cultural and social spheres would provide a strong foundation and could emphasize the importance role of Muslim Women Parliamentarians could play in future actions.

4- In some parts of the world, e.g., Palestine and Myanmar, Muslim women are victims of immense violence and persecution. In what way can help be extended to them to face their plight?

When dealing with violence against the most vulnerable groups such as women, children in conflict zones such as in Palestine, Syria and Myanmar and other areas, we need to have tangible measures to protect them. In international relations, we can lend our hand as parliaments by urging our governments respectively to take an active role in diplomacy regionally, internationally and bilaterally.
Our plan to have Speakers Visit to Gaza is ideal also to raise public and political awareness on what has happened in Gaza. And I think this could be a breakthrough path and a consolidation moment of the Muslim countries in taking part on a humanitarian issue of the most delicate situation in the Middle East. I do expect that this could be done in the near future.
 We could also promote a non-violence campaign for conflicting parties, through mass media, globally. We need to raise the awareness on the importance to save women and children from violence, without any distinction. We must put aside the main issue of conflict in our efforts to save women and children. It is a humanitarian matter.
In addition, parliament as a representative of the people can directly mobilize popular forces and NGOs to participate in rescuing women from violence in conflict areas. Indonesian Parliament itself has provided immediate relief to the people of Gaza with involving some of NGOs to take part in eliminating violence against Palestinian women.
On the Myanmar issue, we, parliaments and governments can promote concerted efforts to protect the life of innocent people there including women, through the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) through a Joint Statement of ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the Recent Development in Rakhine State, Myanmar, issued last August. Our Parliament also conducts a series of meeting with the Myanmar sides, on the sidelines of our regional parliamentary meeting. Those are some of the examples. I think, by promoting a quick and responsive action to solve the case, we can provide assistance in our most appropriate ways.  

5- In your view, what are the major challenges facing Muslim women today? And what are the reasons behind the modest level of their participation in the political and social fields? How can this situation be addressed?

We can concede that Muslim women across the world do not share identical political rights and that the involvement of women in decision-making process is fundamental to the advancement of mankind as a whole. I personally believe that women’s political participation will strengthen and accelerate the democratization process. However, there are strong traditional prejudices which continue to discourage women empowerment, such as the opinion that women are obliged to fulfill the demands of their families while men have the rights to “control”. There’s a lack of understanding on the noble teachings of Islam that women have similar rights to those of men, including taking control of them-selves. We have to also admit that until today, there is still resistance among men to accept the stronger roles of women. Some people still find it difficult to see women in strategic political position. Most importantly, traditional stigmas on the position of women as “second-class” citizens discourage women to have confidence in competing against men.
 I have my own visions in answering those challenges, including strongly encouraging the implementation of democratic principles in people’s daily life. What we must understand also, is that we need to empower women and involving men to create mutual understanding among different sexes. All stakeholders, in particular men of the families, must listen to women’s aspirations and recognize the need for women to be able to live and perform independently in their socio-economic and political life.   

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