May 1, 2012 — To mark International Women’s Day in March, The Asia Foundation brought prominent speakers from Asia to Washington, DC, to discuss “Women’s Changing Roles in Asia,” as part of our Asian Perspectives Series. Panelists included Dr. Hetifah Syaifudian Siswanda, a member of the Indonesian Parliament; Ms. Seng Takakneary, the President of the Cambodian Women’s Entrepreneurship Association; and the Honorable Sapana Pradhan Malla, Gender Advisor to the Prime Minister in Nepal. The discussion covered gender equality and local governance, conflict resolution, entrepreneurship, and women and Islam. They also then met with Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. 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.
Ms. Malla is a member of the technical subcommittee of Nepal’s constitution drafting committee, where she is dedicated to ensuring a comprehensive women’s rights agenda within Nepal’s constitutional framework. She was a driving force behind passage of legislation to criminalize marital rape, as well as in drafting the Gender Equality Amendment Act, Gender-Based Violence Act, and a model Human Trafficking Act. Dr. Hetifah chairs the Standing Committee on Education, Science and Technology in the National Council of Women’s Organization of Indonesia, and is a Board Member of the Indonesian Women in Parliament Caucus, where she 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, which employs disabled artisans to produce export-quality handcrafted silks. She is also President of the Artisans Association of Cambodia and works to help women and artists succeed in Cambodia’s growing economy. In a recent interview with Cambodia Daily, Ms. Seng said, “The role of Cambodian women needs to change.”