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CARAM eNews April 2008
CARAM Made Co-Chair of a UNAIDS Task Team
CARAM Asia received great support on its position of “discriminatory nature of mandatory testing” at the UNAIDS International Task Team on HIV-related Travel Restrictions meeting in Geneva, from 25 to 16 Feb, 2008. The task team is broken into two working groups – one for long-term restrictions and one for short-term restrictions. CARAM Asia was invited by UNAIDS to participate in the working group on long-term restrictions to represent the voice of migrant workers on the issue of HIV. Brahm Press, Convenor of the CARAM Asia State of Health (SoH) taskforce presented findings from the SoH 2007 report on Mandatory Testing. Many participants, including the chair from UNAIDS, remarked on the powerful work that CARAM Asia is doing. As a result, it was suggested that CARAM Asia co-chair the working group on long-term travel restrictions.

The working group will formulate recommendations in the context of the HIV-related rights and needs of asylum-seekers, refugees, students and migrants from the points of view of those affected, sending countries, receiving countries and the international community.

Long Live Rural Women’s Power!
More than 700 rural women leaders and representatives all over Asia took part in the 1st Rural Women’s Conference (ARWC) in Arakonam, Tamil Nadu India. The Rights, Empowerment and Liberation: Asian Rural Women’s Conference took place from March 6-8, 2008 and was hosted by the Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum (TNWF), the Tamil Nadu Dalit Women’s Forum (TNDWF) and the Society of Rural Development (SRED). CARAM Asia participated in the capacity as Steering Committee member of the ARWC to address issues of labour migration and neo-liberal globalisation.

The conference did not only provide a venue for building perspectives, it also encouraged a process towards creating unity and solidarity among rural women and other movements.  It was an attempt to develop new visions and new thinking about feminism, liberation, emancipation and the rural women’s perspective on globalisation, fundamentalism, militarisation and democratisation. It provided a venue for various regional groups to engage rural women, discuss, debate, to brainstorm and to strengthen perspectives, strategies and collective action.  Read...


Map: Campaign for FDWs
Migrant Assistance Programme (MAP) Foundation, a member organisation of CARAM Asia’s Foreign Domestic Worker Taskforce (FDW TF), launched its national level campaign on “One-paid-day-off- a –week” at the Women’s Exchange Conference. The campaign has the overarching goal of “Recognise Domestic Work as Work” for FDWs.

The Women’s Exchange Conference was held from 5 to 9 March 2008 in Chiang Mai, Thailand in conjunction with the International Women’s Day. The annual Women Exchange Conference gathered around 100 women participants, representing various women’s organisations based in Thailand, Thai-Burma borders, India, and other countries for a street walk. This year was the 7th year anniversary of the Women’s Exchange Conference. The theme of the conference was “Walking for Working Women” in tribute to women workers in informal sector.

CARAM Pushed for Minimum Standards for CS Participation
CARAM Asia joined thirty two participants at the “Minimum Standards For Civil Society Participation Workshop” held on 13th March and 14th March 2008 in Kuala Lumpur. The workshop was a joint initiative between Seven Sisters, APCASO, CARAM Asia and the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC), with the support of UNAIDS.

This workshop was initially drafted to arm civil societies in Malaysia with a tool to encourage a minimum standard of civil society participation in Universal Access Initiatives. Thus, the document published and drafted by the Seven Sisters titled Minimum Standards for Civil Society Participation in the Universal Access Initiative was used as the base for the workshop. However, it was then highlighted that Malaysia has yet to set its universal access targets and the minimum standard exercise could not be effectively applied. Read


Spotlight on Thai Migrant Policy
The Thailand’s national conference on “Migrant Policy: Balancing Economy, Health and Well Being” held on March 21, 2008 in Bangkok, was organised by partners of the PHAMIT (Prevention of HIV/AIDS among Migrants in Thailand) Project. Raks Thai Foundation, a CARAM Asia member is also a PHAMIT project partner. The conference was attended by over 400 participants coming from diverse backgrounds related to the issue, including civil society, migrant workers, government officials, the private sector and academia. Click here for details.
Bangladeshi Migrant Workers Victories

Seventy seven Bangladeshi migrant workers (MWs) repatriated from Malaysian agent’s captivity under the outsourcing scheme finally won their battle for compensation. The case of these workers who had fought battles in both Malaysia and in Bangladesh exposed the fact that the outsourcing scheme for hiring workers in Malaysia were merely a human trading business opportunities for outsourcing agents and corrupt government officials. Read full report by CARAM Asia’s partner in Bangladesh…


Commission on AIDS in Asia’s Report

High-impact interventions, such as HIV prevention programmes focused on key populations and antiretroviral treatment, should constitute the core of the HIV response across Asia recommends independent Commission on AIDS in Asia. Their new report, entitled Redefining AIDS in Asia – Crafting an effective response, was launched on 26 March.

The independent Commission on AIDS in Asia was created in June 2006 to give an opportunity to look at the unfolding realities of the HIV epidemic in Asia from a wide socioeconomic perspective reaching beyond the public health context.

While recognising that epidemics vary considerably from country to country across Asia, the report highlights certain shared characteristics. Epidemics centre mainly around behaviours of unprotected paid sex, use of contaminated needles and syringes by people who inject drugs, and unprotected sex between men. The Commission observes that the current classification of the epidemic as “low, concentrated and generalised” is inducing a sense of complacency among Asian Governments. The Commission urges UNAIDS and WHO to recommend a new classification based on the risk factors and burden of disease for low and concentrated epidemic countries. Read


Undocumented Migrants and Refugees in Malaysia

There are no publicly available statistics on the number of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. Estimates refer to 1,8 million registered (or documented) migrant workers and about 5 million undocumented migrant workers. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), its member organisation in Malaysia, launched a report entitled Undocumented migrants and refugees in Malaysia: Raids, Detention and Discrimination.

The report documents the poor conditions of detention, particularly in the immigration depots. Overcrowded facilities are leading to breaches of basic standards of hygiene; insufficient diet and health care, ill treatment of detainees and a failure to adequately protect women and children in detention are of particular concern. FIDH urges the Malaysian authorities to amend the immigration Act with a view that violations of provisions relating to migration are treated in the criminal justice system. Meanwhile and as a minimum, the sentence of whipping should be abolished as corporal punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, and the maximum term of imprisonment provided for immigration offences should be reduced. Read


Employment Trends for Women
More women are working than ever before, but they are also more likely than men to get low-productivity, low-paid and vulnerable jobs, with no social protection, basic rights nor voice at work according to a new report by the International Labour Office (ILO). Global Employment Trends for Women 2008 state that the number of employed women grew by almost 200 million over the last decade, to reach 1.2 billion in 2007 compared to 1.8 billion men. However, the number of unemployed women also grew from 70.2 to 81.6 million over the same period.

The report shows that improvements in the status of women in labour markets throughout the world have not substantially narrowed gender gaps in the workplace. The share of women in vulnerable employment – either unpaid contributing family workers or own-account workers, rather than wage and salaried work – decreased from 56.1 to 51.7 per cent since 1997. However the burden of vulnerability is still greater for women than men, especially in the world’s poorest regions. Read...