CALD has always recognized the role women play in the organization and elsewhere, but now there's the CALD Women's Caucus that is putting even more focus on women's abilities and skills. In October, it held a workshop on grassroots organizing in Phnom Penh that had among its discussion topics assisting women in organizing themselves, attracting them to join political parties, and encouraging them to seek leadership positions.
"Empowerment cannot be enforced from outside or 'the top,'" observes Mu Sochua, current head of the Caucus, as well as a human-rights activist and Cambodian opposition MP. "Only through education programs, awareness-raising, and continuous discussions can we push for a world in which both men and women actually truly believe in and respect the equality of all. This must take place at all levels of society, within elite circles, as well as at the grassroots level."
"Today, all of the world's countries still hold a strong culture of disregard toward women's qualifications," she adds. "However, the paradigm is shifting slowly in almost all countries in Asia, and even drastically in some as we have seen women emerging to take the top office of their own government."
The CALD Women's Caucus, in fact, was formed in June 2006, in recognition of the women's ability to contribute greatly to CALD's thrusts of promoting democracy and human rights; justice; rule of law; and free and fair elections. It aims to broaden women's participation in CALD member parties; to open and strengthen more avenues for women in CALD parties to assume greater leadership roles; and to identify and mainstream gender issues and gender-related policies and initiatives within CALD organizations and activities. It also calls upon CALD member parties to develop their respective women's wings. And just to help ensure everyone is up to date with whatever the Caucus is up to, it recently put up the website www.caldwomen.org
A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Mu Sochua herself has been doing more than her bit to bring international attention to women's political participation in Asia. In December, for instance, she addressed the Alliance of Liberal Democrats for Europe at the European Parliament during the staging of 'Seven,' a play about human-rights activists that included her story. During a visit to the United States in that same month as SRP women's wing head, she joined a panel discussion organized by the Economist in New York.
Mu Sochua is also the acting vice president for Asia of the International Network of Liberal Women (INLW), which includes the Caucus among its members. Says the Cambodian politician: "We as political representatives of CALD are the fortunate observers of exciting and important times in Asia, as well as direct responsible participants. As greater space is being available to women on the political scene, we hold the ability to push for further and faster changes."
"Across the world," she says, "with the Asian region certainly leading, women are speaking out, becoming public figures, but also demanding yet more equality and respect. And as representatives of all the people, we cannot but respect these requests. To ignore them would only erode our legitimacy and relevance."