Joanna Manganara of Greece was elected President of the International Alliance of Women at its 36th Congress, which took place in Lincoln’s Inn in London 9–13 September. Formerly IAW’s Vice President for Europe, she is the organization’s 14th President since its establishment in 1904.
The new action program for the next three years adopted by the congress calls for women’s safety, voice in decisions and choice over their lives, demanding that governments provide better infrastructure, including birth registration, schools, water, sanitation and health care, among other measures.
The hosting society All Pakistan Women’s Association in the UK had invited lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahandir to speak. She emphasized how women are given a secondary place in every religion. In Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia, violence against women is epidemic, and gender based impunity is not really recognize. Therefore the empowerment of women including putting women into decision power at all levels is vital.
In her intervention as keynote speaker on the panel “Gender and the Financial Crisis,” Professor Diane Elson, University of Essex, stated that austerity policies reinforce gender inequality and will make it harder to realize Post-2015 Women’s Development Goals. Fortunately women are challenging austerity measures e.g. in the European Women’s Lobby and the International Working Group on Gender and Macroeconomics. A panel on Women’s Human Rights, Gender Equality and the Post-2015 Development Agenda featured Clare Coffey, Policy Advisor to Action Aid, as key note speaker in the panel: Women’s Human Rights, Gender Equality and the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Rosy Weiss, past president of IAW, and Bettina Corke, IAW permanent representative to FAO, Rome, introduced a training and information sharing package on how to end hunger in times of crisis the idea being to start a campaign among IAW members.
Violence against women remains high on the member organizations’ agendas, as demonstrated by reports presented by each organization. Other key issues IAW’s member organizations are focusing on are education, reproductive rights, property rights and access to participation in decision-making. Consequently these issues are also at the core of the advocacy and lobbying carried out by IAW representatives to the UN and other international bodies.