Background and Rationale
The Thai Constitution of 1997 consists of clauses which serve to guarantee and protect the rights of all human beings, and that determine the role that the state must play in respecting human dignity and promoting gender equality. There is also a call for further development of the unity and strength of families and communities. It sets up through political and legislative processes, measures that aim to eradicate the various obstacles that arise from discrimination. In essence, the Constitution promotes the ideas of human rights, freedom, and equality for all.
The Thai Constitution reflects the problems and status of male/female relationships in Thai society. Gender is an important dimension of the social relations that can be observed at every level, from the family unit to the nation as a whole.
Though attempts have been made to identify and change procedures in the spheres of law, politics, and administration which factor into the problem of gender inequality, the goal of equality is still far from being reached. The existing various methods that have been used in trying to urge the public to fight for gender equality are usually dependent upon specific situations, but they often fail to take into account social, economic, political, cultural and technological changes. In the past there has not been a concrete system and/or way of organization that we could successfully analyze in order to evaluate and do a follow-up of the successes and failures, so it has been hard to come to a conclusion regarding how to solve gender inequality. Without this, we do not have the necessary knowledge that will help us to make a more direct analysis of the problem, and hence, come to a more effective solution.
A necessary facet of achieving equality is to look at issues of gender. It is important to stimulate sensitivity and awareness with regards to women’s human rights in the academic arena. It is significant to support the women studies efforts; feminist research; strengthen and expand networking at the local, national, and international level. As equally important, the areas of work have to include the issues of disadvantaged minorities such as children, the elderly, and the handicapped.
To support and attain the various principles stipulated in the Constitution regarding gender equality, and in order to push for changes towards democracy, there needs to be an adjustment and revision of laws, and a building up of knowledge and understanding surrounding gender and basic human rights issues.
We need to consider various structures of organizations so that there is a strong foundation with which to conduct meaningful activities. There also needs to be a consideration of the advantages, disadvantages, and possibilities with regards to future trends of societal development. Above all, recognition in the importance of creating a civil society where women’s presence is felt and their participation is equal, substantial and constructive.
Goal and Objectives
The objectives of the Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development are as follows:
- To stimulate sensitivity and awareness with regards to substantive gender equality and women’s human rights in the academic arena, women in power, rural and ethnic women and youth;
- To support the Women Studies Center’s efforts; feminist research; strengthen and expand networking at the local, national, and international levels.
- To support and attain the various human rights principles and gender equality as stipulated in the Constitution and other relevant international documents.
- To support needs towards an adjustment and revision of laws, and a building up of knowledge and understanding surrounding gender and basic human rights issues.
The FORWARD Foundation espouses activities including:
a. engaging in study and research of issues of gender equality with regard to economic, political, cultural, and legal spheres, and to realize the value of sustainable rural development;
b. empowering women by equipping them with valuable legal knowledge that will encourage and enable them to work towards a more just and equal world; following the basic concept of human rights according to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and other relevant international mechanisms;
c. encouraging the founding of women’s organizations at all levels in order to further develop gender relations according to the Thai Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international and regional documents;
d. promoting the creation of civil society where women’s presence is felt and their participation is equal, substantial and constructive.
e. strengthening and expanding networking at the local, national, and international level.
The Foundation’s logo represents the female body. The black section in the middle is meant to symbolize stability and strength. The outer lines illustrate the sensitivity of women. The overlapping of the lines signifies diverse groups of people trying to live in harmony. With this in mind, the logo represents steps towards progress and development. The logo in its entirety is reminiscence of the annual rings that can be found on a tree. This correlation with nature refers to women as life givers, and the large role that they play in the continuity of the human race. They are at the same time capable to grow healthy as a foundation for sustainable development with dignity and strength.
FORWARD’s Main Activities
The main activities organized by the Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development the in collaboration with Women’s Studies Center share the common goal of providing academic and financial support on community, university, regional, national, and international levels. Following is a summary of the Foundation’s main activities:
The Paralegal Training for Rural Women Project
Since 1990, the Paralegal Training for Rural Women Project has attempted to empower the trainees with knowledge about new legislations on human trafficking, domestic violence, human rights and women’s rights as well as strategies for advocacy of gender equality and human rights through trainings, workshops and study visits. The project provides for them an opportunity to strengthen the network of grassroots and ethnic women through the “Paralegal Coalition for Rural Women” established by the paralegal alumnae.
Colloquium on Gender Justice of the Judicial Personnel
The workshop seminars on Gender Justice aim at raising gender sensitivity and understanding of gender concepts among the participants who are academics from various universities, human right activists, judicial personnel including judges and public prosecutors. Moreover, the network of academics, human right activists as well as judicial personnel can be strengthened in order to advocate for gender justice in judicial process.
Research Training Project on Feminist Research Methods
The Research Training Project on Feminist Research Methods has been undertaken since 1989 and targeted at researchers as well as activists mainly from academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, governmental organizations interested in conducting research and collecting information on women’s issues. The goal of the project is to utilize research as a tool for social change and women’s empowerment. The training provides knowledge and skills on researching with feminist research methods for the participants.
Gender Camps has been set up by M.A students of Women’s Studies Center with financial support of FORWARD and the Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University in order to raise understanding of gender and advocate for gender equality among the youth. The participants were students from high schools or universities.
Campaigning for women’s human rights and gender equality with the networks
In collaboration with the networks of women’s organizations, particularly grassroots women’s organization, FORWARD has been taking part in women’s movement at all levels so as to campaign for women’s human rights protection as well as gender equality and to push for changes towards democracy.
FORWARD supported financially the construction of the Cultural House of the Women’s Studies Center, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University in 2009. It was designed to be used for art exhibitions for women, exhibitions and cultural performances of ethnic and rural women as well as extending the Women’s Studies Information Center area.
The Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development is located at the Paralegal Training for Rural Women Project Building in Women’s Studies Center area, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University. This building consists of the offices of Rural Women’s Paralegal Training Project, the center for women's development activities, office of education officer, research officer, Graduate Students and Women’s Students Center Committee.