As many Southeast Asian countries gear up for elections in 2012, governments and development organizations have turned to quotas to expand women’s political participation and representation. Though important, more women in legislatures doesn’t necessarily translate into improvements in women’s rights and livelihoods, particularly those of marginalized women. That is why JASS women from across the region are organizing young, indigenous, LBT and grassroots women activists to challenge and engage with the power structures that limit their participation – demanding that all leaders hear their agendas.
In Malaysia, where indigenous groups are often excluded from the women’s rights movement, approximately 200 indigenous women will join the national 10,000 Women for Change rally on March 8 to spotlight indigenous women’s distinct issues. In Cambodia, the Young Women’s Empowerment Network (CYWEN) has organized an “illegal” march through Phnom Penh to draw attention to the high rate of violence against women. Groups in Cambodia are required get permission from authorities before engaging in demonstrations, but CYWEN member Sam Ath Oak says: “We didn’t ask for permission because we feel it is our right to speak up about the issues affecting our lives”.