Civil Society Debate on “Inclusive Democracy”, organised by the Conference of INGOs in connection with the World Forum of Democracy on 7 October 2012

Round table on “Building Inclusive Democracy with Women”

Moderator: Karin Nordmeyer (Germany) Zonta International
Speakers: Corinne Kumar (India) Asian Women's Human Rights Council, Sima Samar (Afghanistan) Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Sophia Spiliotopoulos (Greece) Lawyer, member of the Board of the Association of Women of Southern Europe (AFEM)
Rapporteur: Lorraine Spiteri (Malta) Member of the Executive Council, Malta Confederation of Women's Organisations.

The discussion dealt with issues related to the full participation of women in political and public life, the importance for women to be economically independent and empowered. As President of the Conference of INGOs, Jean-Marie Heydt claimed at the beginning of the discussion, we need a paradigm shift.

Karin Nordmeyer stated that although it was true that various legislations and conventions at national and international levels have addressed gender equality and human rights, women continue to be under represented in economic and social areas and especially at decision making levels. Women suffer discrimination not only in employment but also in access to education and health care with the worst expression of violation of human rights being that of violence against women.

Sima Samar mentioned the huge difficulties women are facing with Taliban control and authority on women’s emancipation, movements and suffrage also due to lack of awareness but also lack of structures and access to information. She stressed that human rights are also human needs.

Sophia Spiliotopoulos focused on the stark reality that women are suffering worst from the current economic crisis since human rights are not being taken into consideration when placing austerity measures. Those hit hardest are single mothers, and single earner households which have to face exhorbitant taxes and cost of living increases. She also spoke about violence against women through female genital mutilation, and early and arranged marriages. Further instances were mentioned from the floor: femicide, poligamy, forced marriages.

Corinne Kumar talked at length about the new realities and challenges that women are facing today in a new economic and world market system especially in a world of poverty and injustices, wars and intensified violence. She provided a philosophical perspective to finding new knowledges and new possibilities to discern better for future human potential and new recognition that all people must be included that respects diversity. Her plea is that we need another dream.

To conclude, Lorraine Spiteri said that women are continually sacrificing their human rights due to unequal power relations but also emphasised that the discussion should also have included the inclusion of men in the domestic sphere and to redress the historical imbalance of men’s participation in the sharing of familial responsibilities. Women find difficulties in reconciling family and work commitments and women and men should work together at all levels towards gender equality.

There will be no true democracy without women’s full inclusion.