ISLAMABAD - The three days meeting of women parliamentarians from South Asia, which was held in Kathmandu, concluded with the note to improve leadership and political opportunities for women in their respective countries.
The South Asian regional exchange meeting hosted by Pakistan Women's Parliamentary Caucus, Pakistan National Commission on the Status of Women, and Nepal National Women's Commission with support from UN Women and UNDP and more than 100 participants from Nepal and 45 delegates from Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka took part in the meeting. Participants shared good practices and lessons learned in their countries, agreed on recommendations and a common South Asian regional approach to improving women's political participation and leadership.
The meeting focused on technical sessions addressing mechanisms to enhance women's political participation; challenges and opportunities for national women's commissions; and possible legal and institutional provisions to end violence against women and girls. The meeting concluded with a consensus on key recommendations to enhance women's representation and leadership in public decision-making, national parliaments and local councils, media and civil society.
Sophie Kemkhadze, UNDP Nepal Deputy Representative, observed, "Political empowerment goes hand in hand with economic empowerment. We at UNDP commit to supporting gender equality for the equal participation of men and women in society".
Shaista Parvez Malik, General Secretary of the Pakistan Women's Parliamentary Caucus, lit a lamp to inaugurate the meeting, saying, "While a lot is being done in all of our countries and we acknowledge that we have come a long way, there is a need to do a lot more. Empowerment is not restricted to one sphere, we need to bring women forth in education, equal economic opportunities and also decision-making. We need to bring about a change in attitude and bring women forward from the grassroots to give them a 10 percent quota on winnable seats in political parties. Nations win if women win, let us hold hands and become one voice and one face for the voiceless and faceless women."
Khawer Mumtaz, Chairperson of the Pakistan National Commission on the Status of Women, stated, "It is time for us to establish mechanisms and institutions at a regional level". She added, "Violence against women and girls is the most potent barrier to women's development, equality and opportunities". She highlighted the need to bring these recommendations to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Other participants from Pakistan included Syeda Shehla Raza, Convener Provincial Caucus Sindh Assembly, Amina Sardar, member Provincial Caucus KP Assembly, Spozmai Achakzai, member Provincial Caucus Balochistan Assembly and Syed Sher Afgan, Additional Secretary ECP.
The assembly agreed to develop standardised indicators to measure the extent of violence against women and to ensure the availability of comparable data in the region.  The group also agreed to set up a regional portal to facilitate information sharing and peer learning, and to establish regional alliances of women parliamentarians, national women's empowerment mechanisms and election monitoring bodies.