"Where's the Power in Women's Empowerment?" A Forum

8 Aug 2008
Bangkok, Thailand

ESCAP presented the Research Programme Consortium on Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts (WEMC) at a Forum entitled, “Where’s the Power in Women’s Empowerment?” that tool place on 4 August from 10.00 to 12.00 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok.

The Forum critically examined the power structures within which women’s empowerment must necessarily occur. Discussions focused on how women’s empowerment can be achieved only by addressing the existing power relations that constitute their lived realities. The Forum aimed to deepen understanding of women’s empowerment, particularly among policymakers, development practitioners, and other stakeholders, so as enable a re-examination of concepts of empowerment in development policymaking, discourses and practices. Strategies for supporting women’s empowerment initiatives at different levels of governance were examined. The Forum thus contributed significantly to advancing the analysis and strategies necessary for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, chaired a panel of speakers that included:

  1. Ms. Yakin Ertürk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Professor of Sociology at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. She has previously served as Director of the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women and Director of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women. Ms. Ertürk’s work has focused on international human rights regimes, identity politics, conflict and violence against women, globalization and population movements, household labour use patterns and women in development. Ms. Ertürk is an Advisor to the WEMC Consortium.

  2. Ms. Vivienne Wee, Director of the Research Programme Consortium on Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts. She is also Associate Professor at the Department of Asian and International Studies, Associate Director of the Southeast Asia Research Centre and Programme Leader of the Master of Social Sciences in Development Studies Programme, City University of Hong Kong, China. Ms. Wee has published widely in journals and edited volumes. Her research focuses on demands for social equality based on gender, class and ethnicity in relation to the structures and processes of State, culture and development.

  3. Ms. Bina Agarwal, Professor of Economics at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi University, member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy, the Prime Minister’s National Council for Land Reforms and founding member of the Indian Society for Ecological Economics. Her publications on land, livelihoods and property rights, environment and development, the political economy of gender, poverty and inequality, law and agriculture and technological change include, A Field of One's Own: Gender and Land Rights in South Asia, which was awarded the A.K. Coomaraswamy Book Prize, the Edgar Graham Book Prize and the K. H. Batheja Award. Recently, Ms. Agarwal catalyzed a successful campaign for gender equality in Hindu inheritance law in India. Ms. Agarwal is an Advisor to the WEMC Consortium.

  4. Ms. Farida Shaheed, Deputy Director of the Research Programme Consortium on Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts, Adviser and former Coordinator of Shirkat Gah Women's Resource Centre in Pakistan, and Member of the Government’s Punjab Task Force on Women’s Development. She has served on several Government-non-governmental organization committees, including the editorial committees for the National Plan of Action for Women and the 2001 National Policy on Women. Ms. Shaheed’s recent work has explored the forces at play in the interface of women, culture, identity and governance/State, with a particular focus on Islam and Muslim contexts.