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Dr Anamah Tan, 'Future Directions of International Council of Women'  ICW, August 2003



Highlights of Dr Anamah Tan's views on women's issues in her Papers:

1. Affirmative Actions

While the idea of affirmative action may outrage some people's notion of justice, I think that it is a necessary evil. That is why I believe strongly that we should institute safeguards. One can hardly refute that society has long discriminated against women through exclusion. What affirmative action seeks to do is right this imbalance through conscious efforts at inclusion, by bringing women to the same starting point as men. Only in this way can there be real democracy and equality between the two sexes.

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2. Empowering Marginal Women

Women face discrimination, but some women are subjected to more unfair treatment than others. These women are referred to as marginal women; women who - because of their social and economic circumstances - are more vulnerable to unfair treatment, exploitation and degradation. Marginal women need to be empowered. Their human security is not negotiable - it is a basic right. Legislation must be in place to protect marginal women from abuse.  

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3. Stop Violence Against Women

Violence against women is still rampant today despite the existence of international agreements, declarations and goals aimed at reversing this social ill. Perpetrators still often go unpunished. In pockets of communities around the world, traditional attitudes that regard women as subordinate to men still turn a blind eye to the violence inflicted on women.

To stem violence against women more completely, varied initiatives are needed to attack the problem from all fronts. We need to take a holistic approach that uses legal strategies together with public education and support services. Only when such an all-round approach is taken, can we, for example, remove deep-seated traditional attitudes that perpetuate violence against women.

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4. Poverty Eradication - A Dream Becomes a Possibility and Results a    

By 2015, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, that is, those surviving on less than US$1 a day, should be halved from 29 per cent to 14.5 per cent. That is the very first aim spelt out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) also highlighted "the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women" as one of its 12 critical areas of concern.

There is no miracle cure for a problem as complex and mammoth as ridding the world of poverty. But with a clear, focused and sustained approach through proper growth strategies and empowering women through gender-inclusive plans, I believe we can at least make sure that we safeguard whatever gains we make every step of the way.

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Currently, Asia has  the second largest number of HIV-infected persons after Sub-Saharan Africa, with large conservative numbers of 3.97 million in India, 0.67 million in Thailand and nearly 0.5 million in Myanmar. The epidemic is now seriously threatening not just sex workers and drug users, but even what has previously been perceived as low-risk groups such as married women with single partners.

Making antiretroviral (ARV) treatment more accessible and running prevention and education strategies at the same time are what we need to do to fight this epidemic.  To get better and quicker results, we need concerted global efforts from governments, non-governmental organisations, the society in general and pharmaceutical companies, all acting together, to wipe out this deadly scourge.
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6. Bridging the Digital Divide

The World Economic Forum Global IT Report 2002-2003, identifies infocomm as the critical catalyst for social transformation and national progress. For poorer nations, the digital divide means that rural people do not get access to ICT that could educate them about health and medical care. Their children will be denied access to better educational and learning resources, businesses will not benefit from the global marketplace that has been opened up by the Internet. The benefits of economic progress that are synonymous with ICT will not reach them and this could lead to a grim vision of the future.

Realistically speaking, the digital divide, like the rich-poor divide, will never be closed totally, but it certainly can be narrowed through various initiatives.

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7. Lifelong learning - Enable Women to Participate in a Knowledge-Based Economy

It is vital for women to be informed about new technologies, and be shown how their lives can be improved.   ICT is important to women because information comes to them uncensored and unfiltered. Women who have been marginalised by traditional forms of communication are finding new voices with ICT.

The Internet is also fast proving to be a goldmine of educational resources. Women can self-study by looking up the wealth of free information available online. By improving their knowledge and skills, they can improve their employability. The Internet has also opened up new business and employment opportunities to women and can alsobe a powerful tool for advocacy and change.

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Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.