Walking Together: Women, Development and the Non- Aligned Movement

‘Most women in Afghanistan don’t get a chance to grow old, many of them are dead before they reach old age’, Massouda Jalal, Minister for Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan affirmed at the 2005 inaugural of Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Women and Empowerment in Cuba. This declaration was not only shocking and disheartening at the same moment but it had also got the aligned forces concerned as well. Causing a new development where NAM took the initiative to engage with the theme of “women empowerment”.
Women and their condition has always been a matter of major concern for societies and leaders, and more so has been the case in modern times. With the increasing threat towards this gender and the upsurge in inequality towards them NAM involved itself to make a change and better the deteriorating situation. As women pay a crucial role in economic and social development of a family and on a larger level a nation, managing around 70-80% of food production, processing and marketing and managing small businesses and the lives of the ones related to her, NAM endeavours to not only examine the issues of women and what is holding them back by organising global conferences on women’s issues, also plays a lead role worldwide in inflating the process of “empowering women”.

NAM has till date held three ministerial meetings on the advancement of women discussing vital issues related to women and their further development. In this context the ‘Doha Declaration on the Family’ is termed as the first step towards the subject matter as it set fundamental principles regarding family interests and rights.

Then came the first Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting held in Malaysia, 2005, titled “Empowering women in the face of the challenges of globalization”, it concentrated on matters like protecting women against wars and diseases, giving them better education, while granting them equal political, social and economic rights, also enforcing laws to protect them against domestic abuse. It also focused on issues such as ways to increase their capacity and achieving gender equality in addition to eliminating all forms of discrimination against them, ensuring measures to strengthen the role of women in decision making politically and also in the field of technology. This very first meeting was also the origin of the NAM Institute for the Empowerment of Women (NIEW), which has since its conception been a standard-bearer for women and their causes.

The second Ministerial Meeting took place at Guatemala City, 2009, acknowledged and applauded all its previous resolutions in the view of women’s advancement while discussing all the achieved progress and other objectives which needed attention and care from the NAM countries. However, along with the second Ministerial Meeting, NAM also held its first summit of ‘First Ladies’ in Sharm el Sheikh – Egypt, 2009, which again stressed on critical issues of how vital women are for a nation to fight crisis, the need to cease any sort of violence against them, increasing their power and involvement in public as well as political scenarios, while emphasising on education for women. Hence proving NAM’s serious commitment to the cause of women and their development worldwide.

NAM held its third Ministerial Meeting on the advancement of women in Doha, 2012, which affirmed its declaration a continuation of its previous meetings and also in line with the Purtrajaya Declaration and Guatemala Declaration while reiterating the pledge and dedication of NAM member countries in exercising all possible efforts for the development and improvement of women condition while enhancing their participation in all fields.

The meeting also highlighted the achieved progress, addressing challenges and taking necessary action to make certain the complete implementation of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that was endorsed in the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. This meeting also realised that in addition to encouraging global participation for women welfare development one needs to understand completely and correctly how these implementations are to be done and what is particularly obstructing this progress. It realised that the problem doesn’t lie in the existence of laws and legislations that help promote women empowerment instead in the ability to implement them along with the existence of political will that put laws and legislations into effect.

Carved out objectives for “women empowerment” in NAM countries:
1. Increase the awareness of the public and obtain their commitment to facilitate the process of women’s empowerment.
2. Increase the number of empowered women.
3. Increase the commitment of the target groups, people who are involved and can contribute to the empowerment of women.
4. Increase the number of countries, government agencies, organisations, corporations and individuals willing to finance women’s empowerment programmes.

1. Conducts training courses and workshops in the areas of women and gender for the benefit of NAM Member Countries;
2. Organises luncheon talks and lecture series related to gender and women to government agencies, public organizations and NAM Member Countries to promote gender awareness;
3. Conducts international seminars and other programmes on current and pressing issues relating to gender and women of NAM Member Countries;
4. Coordinates and carries out research studies on women and gender-related issues of priority to NAM Member Countries;
5. Compiles and publishes articles and source reference materials on women and gender-related issues;
6. Develops skills for government officials, NGOs, private sector representatives and individuals to enable them to formulate, implement and monitor gender sensitive and gender responsive legislation;
7. Supports and provides consultation service to NAM Member Countries in their own effort to train and develop their women;
8. Strategise, plan and implement programmes to generally support the mission and vision of NIEW; and
9. Actively seeks funding and sponsorship from other corporations and organizations in order to help increase the participation of women from the poorer countries of NAM.

NAM has been ardent in bringing a radical change in the condition of women calling on countries to end discriminatory laws, also asking nations to commit themselves to take series of actions to empower women. It won’t be wrong to say that this endeavour has brought a certain change in various countries bringing governments together in the discrimination against women unacceptable agenda and allowing them to grow free, with countries like Qatar, Gabon, Madagascar, Vietnam, and Egypt reaching to their women, resulting in 96 girls being enrolled in primary and in secondary school for every 100 boys in 2009, which is a significant improvement since 1999, when the ratios were 91 and 88, respectively in developing regions. Also the global share of women in parliament continues to rise slowly, reaching 19% in 2010, which is 8% more than 1995.

With NAM and its initiative there has been a gradual appreciative comprehension of the strategic significance of the status of women for growth, this has also led to recognition that discrimination against women is not a women’s question and to be fought by women alone but a nation’s need.

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