Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 2 News List

228 seminar recognizes top women

CELEBRATION The seminar highlighted the contributions of several of the nation's top female leaders to Taiwan's democratic development

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

As part of a series of 228 commemorative events, the Northern Taiwan Society (北社) yesterday held a seminar to highlight the contributions of women to Taiwan's democracy and to contrast the freedoms women enjoy on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

"How women are treated, in particular, is a measurement of how civilized and how free a country is," said secretary general of the Northern Taiwan Society Michelle Wang (王美琇).

Participants in the seminar included outstanding female figures in several professional fields, including Annie Lee (李安妮), deputy chairman of the Taiwan Research Institute, Chien Fu-yu (簡扶育), chief executive officer of the National Union of Taiwan Women Association, romance novelist Liao Hui-ying (廖輝英), and women's rights activist and adviser to the president Lee Yuan-chen (李元貞).

Lee Yuan-chen said the seminar also aimed to contrast the degree of freedom enjoyed by women in Taiwan with that in China.

"China's society is marked by an extreme form of patriarchy, while Taiwan's society is marked by a minor form of patriarchy. In China, women are totally unable to have a voice in politics," Lee Yuan-chen said.

According to Annie Lee, China's proposed anti-secession law is a tactic by Beijing to threaten Taiwan.

"The people of Taiwan need to stand up against China in light of such a threat," Lee said.

Lee Yuan-chen, founder of the well-known women's rights organization the Awakening Foundation, said that in the late 1970s, China's government launched a women's liberalization program, which, on the surface, seemed to give Chinese more freedom.

"The program seemed so appealing, even to me, as many laws passed during that time in China, such as divorce laws, aimed to safeguard the rights of women," Lee said.

However, it was just a red herring, she said, as since then, China's journey toward democracy has regressed, leading up to the recent proposal to pass an anti-secession law.

The Kaohsiung Incident (美麗島事件) of 1979 was the trigger that eventually inspired Lee to found the first women's organization in Taiwan.

"After [Vice President] Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) was put into prison, I became very downcast, as she was the frontrunner of the women's movement back then. Then, I thought of starting up a monthly women's magazine," Lee said.

Short in manpower and financial resources, the magazine had a rocky start, as it was difficult to sell. Later, building on this experience, Lee established the Awakening Foundation. The foundation now provides a comprehensive range of services to women of all ages.

Its legal counseling department trains female volunteers to help answer the legal questions of other needy women.

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