Speech of HS at the Session on 'Women Political Leaders: Climate Change, Women Land Rights and Sustainable Development' during the World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia on 7 September 2017
Hon’ble Chairperson; Distinguished Delegates: and Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to express my views at this discussion on an important theme namely Women Political Leaders: Climate Change, Women Land Rights and Sustainable Developments.
At the outset, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the House of Representatives of Indonesia and the Inter-Parliamentary Union for the laudable initiative they have taken in organising this World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development so as to provide a full range of comprehensive perspectives to the parliaments around the world in terms of implementation of SDGs. This Forum is indeed a welcome initiative that will provide us an extremely useful platform to facilitate the sharing of policy analysis, experiences, best practices with respect to the SDGs across the world parliaments. I am happy that this first World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development has also made special emphasis on the true meaning of SDGs: for the people.
Distinguished Delegates, coming to the topic of our discussion, we all know that climate change, women land rights and sustainable developments are all inter-related and there is a need to address the issues and challenges associated with them. It is a great cause for concern today that women are a vulnerable lot in the society. They are more at risk to the effects of climate change than men, primarily because women and men have unequal access to resources and opportunities. Often, their needs are different and competitive. Men, most often being in control of budgets, may not value women’s concerns, and cultural barriers may prevent women from asserting their demands effectively.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the overarching international Agreement aimed at stabilisation of climate change, acknowledges and promotes gender balance and gender equality in the context of climate change policies. Since social, economic and political barriers limit women to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change, consultation and participation of women in climate change initiatives is imperative and the role of women’s groups and networks need to be strengthened.
Distinguished Delegates, women’s land rights are also critical to secure them access to land and other natural resources which is imperative for sustainable livelihoods and a key factor in assuring food security. It is a cause for concern that while many countries have gender equality in their constitutions, laws relating to property rights often do not give equal status to women, or, where they do, women’s property rights may not be respected in practice. This calls for a broader conceptualization of land rights and access to productive resources which is pro-poor, gender inclusive and responsive to human rights.
With respect to sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda and its actionable core of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted on 25 September 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly provides ambitious SDGs, envisaging the eradication of poverty as the overarching goal, and laying a balanced emphasis on the three pillars of sustainable development viz. social development, economic growth, and environmental protection. The Agenda, unlike the MDGs, has a stand-alone Goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In addition, there are gender equality targets in other Goals, and there is a need for collection of sex disaggregation data across many indicators. Since gender equality is central to all of the SDGs women need to be given a more meaningful role to play in the attainment of these goals. In India, the 2030 Agenda and its actionable core of 17 SDGs resemble our own vision of development. The Government of India’s initiatives such as Smart Cities, Make in India, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save girl child, educate girl child), Swachh Bharat (Clean India), Jan Dhan Yojana (National Mission for Financial Inclusion), Digital India, Skill India, Startup India etc., closely relate to several targets under the SDGs.
Friends, in recent times the Parliament of India has been making consistent efforts to mainstream the role of women legislators in policy formation and programme implementation, particularly in the development sphere. Last year in August, our Parliament hosted the first meeting of BRICS Women Parliamentarians Forum in Jaipur in the State of Rajasthan. The Forum was initiated by us to bring women parliamentarians of BRICS countries under one roof to discuss ways and means of realising the targets of Sustainable Development Goals. During the two days' meeting, we deliberated on the theme 'Women Parliamentarians: Enablers for Achieving SDGs'. The meeting ended with the Jaipur Declaration which inter alia underscored the need to address climate change in all its manifestations, and work out integrated solutions to preserve and protect ecological systems and forests and ensure food security. The Declaration also underlined the significance of expeditious parliamentary approval of SDG related legislation and adequate budgetary resources, oversight and monitoring of implementation through procedural devices and Parliamentary Committees. Prior to this Meeting, as a first step in this direction, we had also organised a two-day National Women Legislators Conference in March 2016 on the theme 'Women Legislators: Building a Resurgent India'. The Conference was attended by over 350 Delegates comprising State Legislators, Members of Parliament, Union Ministers and Chief Minister of a State. The Conference dwelt on many important issues and challenges concerning women with a special thrust on how women legislators could proactively and productively contribute towards national welfare and development.
More recently, from 18 to 19 February this year, our Parliament, along with the IPU, jointly hosted the South Asian Speakers’ Summit on Achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The Summit, among others, held Sessions on Gender equality as a critical factor for sustainable development and Dealing Effectively with the Challenge of Climate Change and Natural Disasters: Opportunities for Regional Parliamentary Cooperation. At the end of the Summit the Indore Declaration was adopted which, inter alia, emphasized the important role of Parliaments and Parliamentarians in achieving the SDGs and the need for Cooperation among the countries of the Region.
Besides, these initiatives our Parliament had also held discussions on the SDGs on 3 August 2016 in the Monsoon Session, and again on 30 March 2017 during the Budget Session. Both the Government and the Parliament have taken keen interest in the proper implementation of the SDGs, and are committed to set aside one day of every session of Parliament for a thorough discussion on the progress on SDGs, focusing on one particular goal at a time. This is intended to serve as an opportunity for stocktaking and course correction, while ensuring a broader participation of parliamentarians in achievement of the SDGs. Additionally, the Speaker’s Research Initiative (SRI) has been launched for providing, among other things, SDG-related insights to Members of Parliament. The SDGs and their implementation have been constantly on the parliamentary agenda as shown by the events and activities that the Parliament of India has organized from time to time.
Distinguished Delegates, as people's representatives, we have onerous responsibilities to highlight the concerns of the people as well as mobilize the participation of the people in issues of governance and sustainable development. As women parliamentarians, we also have special responsibilities as well as advantages in providing leadership to women and grassroots organizations which are engaged in addressing issues like climate change that have disproportionate impact on women. As parliamentarians, we also need to highlight these issues in appropriate forums at the international level and call for greater cooperation in addressing them.
With our respective Parliaments responsible for legislating, policy oversight and budget approval, parliamentarians are central to the development agenda. We are in a unique position to influence the shape and content of our respective national development agenda and ensure the implementation of the SDGs through legislation, oversight of government’s work and achievements, annual parliamentary reviews of proposed government expenditures and budgetary allocation. We can initiate debates that can catalyze a wider public discussion or debate on the SDGs, ensure scrutiny through parliamentary committees, and develop and strengthen innovative partnership with civil society organizations to scrutinize and assess various government programmes concerning SDGs. As parliamentarians can help in strengthening the effort of the government in building infrastructure such as roads, transport, power, healthcare facilities, etc., which support growth and facilitate development in their constituencies through their personal initiatives and involvement.
As women parliamentarians, we have a pivotal role in ensuring that all these happen in our respective countries. We must recognize that, as women, we all are concerned with policy issues that affect life at the level of family and community and other larger social concerns, especially in areas like education, infrastructure and health. The desired goals and objectives in areas of climate change, land rights and SDGs can only be achieved if women are able to play an active role in the decision making process in the legislation, governance and policy formulation. Though women constitute about 50% of the population, but we do not see much presence of women in decision making bodies. Unless the views of women are heard and they are made part of the policy making bodies, it may be difficult to achieve the desired lofty ideals and goals with respect to many targets we are supposed to achieve.
Let us hope that the deliberations like this happening here would go a long way in sensitizing the Parliament and policy makers to have a more responsive, equitable society where women are becoming equal partners in progress.