Speaker offers solutions to fix limited role of women in South Asian governments

Ed Swaray

Women need to be politically empowered if they want to help make decisions in their communities, said Mohini Giri, an international women’s rights advocate from India.

Giri will speak at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at 9 a.m. today.

Despite India’s patriarchal system, Giri said women were able to influence the country’s parliament to pass an act in 1974 that reserves one-third of grassroots positions in local governments for women.

Today, Giri said, more than 1 million women help formulate laws in their communities to protect them and their families.

But Giri said women’s success in local governments is not reflected in India’s national government.

Only 35 of India’s 435 parliament members are women, she said.

Giri, an author proficient in nine languages, said female empowerment in South Asian patriarchal societies could be achieved by implementing three strategies.

They include educating men and changing their mindset about women’s roles in the society, expanding literacy programs for women and making women equal partners in property rights.

“If we want to move forward, we have to be together,” she said. “All South Asian women must stand in solidarity.”

Jaideep Srivastava, a University professor who invited Giri to speak, said people from different countries can learn from one another by exchanging strategies for achieving common goals.

Barbara Frey, director of the Human Rights Program at the University, said women need to make coalitions and partnerships with one another to advance their cause.

Frey said women should decide how to achieve certain goals in their own societies.

“There should be a balance between protection of women’s rights and dignity and cultural practices imposed in a male-dominated society,” she said.

But Frey also said some issues – such as violence – plague women of all nationalities and must be addressed by international women’s groups.