Thursday, March 23, 2006

Human rights of widows launched

Kathmandu, March 23-Women for Human Rights (WHR) on Wednesday launched a south-Asian network to uphold the human rights of widows.

South Asian Network for Widows’ Empowerment in Development (SANWED) with its secretariat in Kathmandu is set to encourage consortiums of widow’s groups to be set up in the other regions of the world where widows face problems.

“SANWED is a Network for Widows’ we have initiated which we believe should include all the countries of the world,” said Lily Thapa, Chairperson of WHR and Convener of SANWED.

With a mission to enable widows to become collective agents of change in the South Asian region by bringing together different National Chapters of SANWED, the programme brought together representatives of lone women groups from around south Asia.

On the occasion, various speakers spoke on the dramatic increase of widows in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East over the last decade and called for a world where all widows enjoy their full human rights and live with dignity.

“Widows are wrongly considered to be feeble and week, there is a lot they can do when they unite and are conscious about their status and rights,” Margaret Owen of the Widows for Peace through Democracy said.

Owen also highlighted on the difficulties faced by the widows and on the importance of this movement to take care of various conflicts raised by the ill treatment received by the widows around the world.

Mainwhile ,Violence Against Women (VAW) is the human rights issue, which needs to be addressed through legislation and overcoming the deep-seated attitude towards VAW, said speakers at the talk programme on ‘Women and Conflict’ organised by Amnesty International (AI) .

Speaking at the programme Purna Sen, director of Asia-Pacific Programme, AI International Secretariat, said: “Apart from usual concerns of killings during the conflict, the issues of sexual violence should also be addressed.”

Sexual violence during the war and armed conflict is not a new phenomenon, she said. “The AI launched a global campaign in 2004 against VAW. Long-term plans are needed to change, challenge and stop violence against women. Change in attitude, social transformation and change in law is also required,” she said.

Kate Allen, director of the AI UK Section, said: “VAW is not something that is happening only in Nepal.”

“The AI, which will soon come up with a report on the situation of women in Nepal, will help find the way to tackle the issue,” she said, adding that women, who have been fighting the battle against VAW for many years, need the support of men.

Dr Shanta Thapaliya, president of the Legal Aid and Consultancy Centre, said: “Though the constitution guarantees the right to equality, and laws provides security to women, women still do not have access to justice.”

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