Notes from the Field

Amb. Verveer Meets Experts from Asia Foundation Panel on Women’s Changing Roles in Asia

March 14, 2012

To mark International Women’s Day and broaden understanding of the importance of increasing women’s rights and creating political and economic opportunities for women, The Asia Foundation yesterday hosted a discussion on “Women’s Changing Roles in Asia,” as part of its Asian Perspectives Series.

Prominent panelists from Asia included a member of the Indonesian Parliament, Dr. Hetifah Syaifudian Siswanda; the president of the Cambodian Women’s Entrepreneurship Association, Ms. Seng Takakneary; and a member of Parliament and Gender Advisor to the Prime Minister in Nepal, the Honorable Sapana Pradhan Malla. They discussed critical issues facing women including gender equality and local governance, women in conflict resolution, women’s entrepreneurship, and women and Islam. The panelists also met with Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. In her capacity as director of the Department of State’s office on Global Women’s Issues, Amb. Verveer coordinates foreign policy issues and activities relating to the political, economic, and social advancement of women around the world.

Amb. Melanne Verveer meets with panelists at the Asian Perspectives event in D.C.

Ambassador Verveer (second from left) met with, from left to right, Dr. Hetifah Syaifudian Siswanda, member of Parliament in Indonesia; Ms. Seng Takakneary, president of the Cambodian Women's Entrepreneurship Association; and The Honorable Sapana Pradhan Malla, member of Parliament in Nepal and Gender Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Dr. Hetifah, aside from her role in Parliament, is chairperson of the Standing Committee on Education, Science and Technology in the National Council of Women’s Organization of Indonesia, and a Board Member of the Indonesian Women in Parliament Caucus, where she actively promotes Indonesian women’s participation in politics and building the capacity of other women across Indonesia.

Ms. Seng is founder and managing director of Sentosa Silk, a Cambodian company that employs disabled artisans to produce export-quality handcrafted silk products. Founded in 2004, the company creates luxury Khmer silk goods while providing employment opportunities for disabled craftsmen and women, who are experts in traditional forms of silk weaving. In addition, Ms. Seng works to help other women and artists succeed in Cambodia’s growing economy. She is president of the Artisans Association of Cambodia. In a recent interview with Cambodia Daily, Ms. Seng said, “The role of Cambodian women needs to change.” The toughest challenge that she faced opening her business was the isolation from the knowledge and networks that every nascent entrepreneur needs to get started. “There was a lack of information, networking, [business] associations and a feeling of solidarity,” she said.

Ms. Malla is a cabinet-appointed Gender Advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal and was instrumental in the establishment of the Gender-Based Violence Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. As a member of the technical subcommittee of the constitution drafting committee, she is dedicated to ensuring a comprehensive women’s rights agenda within Nepal’s constitutional framework. She was a driving force behind the passage of legislation to criminalize marital rape, as well in drafting the Gender Equality Amendment Act, Gender-Based Violence Act, and a model Human Trafficking Act.

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