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A Gender Agenda: Asia-Europe Dialogue
Transformational Approaches to the Roles of Women and Men in Political Decision-Making and Economic Life

Tampere, Finland
September 15–18, 2002

Held on September 15–18, 2002, in Tampere, Finland, this second conference in the A Gender Agenda: Asia-Europe Dialogue program was co-organized by the Asia-Europe Foundation, the Japan Center for International Exchange, and the Finnish Women's Associations for Joint Action. The conference focused on women and men as agents of change in political decision-making and in economic life. A plenary session addressing these themes was followed by working group sessions in the two areas of concern, a closing session on transformational approaches to the roles of women and men, and a symposium with presentations addressing (1) the findings and recommendations of the Tampere conference and (2) challenges for gender mainstreaming in Asia and Europe, and followed by a panel discussion by members of the Finnish delegation at Johannesburg 2002: The World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Today women's participation in politics is still limited because of various obstacles such as gender stereotyping, the traditionally male-dominated power systems and authority structures, electoral systems, and the double burden of work and family responsibilities. Awareness of gender issues has been heightened by various women's groups and promoted through partnerships among international organizations, governments, local governments, and women's groups. Such groups continue to seek ways to awaken public awareness of the current gender issues and to promote integration of marginalized perspectives into the decision-making process. Female politicians or candidates often state that they could be actors in changing the established power structure that has so far not been wholly successful in addressing gender issues. Conference sessions devoted to this theme looked at such questions as, What structure and process can be proposed for women's and men's participation in addressing gender issues in the political arena? What systems are most effective in achieving balanced representation in politics or power structures? How can we empower women as representatives in decision-making places?

Economics tends to be a gender-blind subject, in which labor is seen as a tool for achieving individual and social well-being. Productive activities within the household have directly contributed to social well-being, yet they are not recognized as part of the market economy, nor are such activities considered to be employment despite the fact that they require a significant workload. Both in Asia and Europe, the household burden mainly rests on women, and tends to hinder them from working full-time or from rejoining the market after temporary withdrawal from it to address household needs. Meanwhile, some men are forced to work as the sole bread-winners although they may not find their job meaningful, and companies have traditionally seen this model as efficient and profitable. However, in a global age, structural adjustments often result in increased unemployment and generally women suffer most from reduced economic growth. To address these issues, "work" must be reexamined from the standpoint of social protection and viewed as a tool for improving quality of life amidst globalization. With the aim of considering how to restructure the market systems as more human-centered systems where women and men can be agents of change, this session focused on alternative work models that allow men and women to balance work with family and have flexibility in their choices. Also discussed was the need for reconsideration of the relationship between labor and social protection, and the roles of all the sectors in providing women and men with social protection.

A full report on the conference and the findings of the two working groups is scheduled for publication in spring 2003.