“Women’s engagement in residents’ councils will lead to community restoration”
“Residents’ councils are the first step to grass-root democracy. It will serve as a strong stepping-stone for women to enter into politics. Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) and women’s organizations must file official requests and put pressure on Ministry of Safety and Public Administration (MOSPA) to mandate 50% women representation in residents’ councils.”
President Lee Yun-sook of Korean Central Residents’ Council, which was established in July 15, emphasized that women’s participation in residents’ councils, a pilot program run by MOSPA, must be mandated by law. As the previous residents’ committees were failing to fulfill its purpose, MOSPA decided to introduce “residents’ councils,” beginning with 31 municipalities for a pilot run and expanding it nationwide from 2015. Residents’ councils will be granted more roles and authorities related to local welfare and safety compared to the previous residents’ committees. Local governments will receive candidates from the public, and appointment committees will decide 20 to 30 people who will comprise the residents’ council.
“Women are very active in doing local chores, but they are rarely seen in committee works. Most members of parents associations are women, but it’s hard to find women in community activities. Seoul city alone has 423 municipalities. 25 residents’ council members for each municipality would add up to at least 10,000, but currently less than 10% are women. We need not just women, who account for half of the population, but residents of various ages and occupations to participate in order to realize practical resident autonomy.”
President Lee stressed that women’s engagement in residents’ councils will not only help solve local issues but also serve as a gateway for women to enter into politics.
“After accumulating experience in analyzing local budgets and programs as a residents’ council member, women can run for local assembly member or even become a member of the National Assembly. The experience in residents’ council will help them devise institutions and laws that closely relate to people’s lives, thus stabilizing politics itself. Women’s organizations should empower women by training them to become residents’ council members.”
The newly founded Korean Central Residents’ Council is a private residents’ council. President Lee said she would strive to develop research and training programs in order to transform the council from “government-led” to “residents-led.” President Lee, who has been at the forefront of local community school movement for around 40 years, predicted that when women take the lead in resident autonomy, communities will be restored, revitalizing villages.
“Children are raised by the community. If we want to break free from apartment-style living with no awareness of neighbors and, instead, restore local communities, women must participate in realizing resident autonomy. Beginning with cooking and eating together, once communities are restored, blocking harmful businesses from opening or preventing crimes would become much easier. There are a lot to be done by residents.”
President Lee is a respected elder among women’s rights activists. She served as a minister of political affairs, the first chairperson of the Special Committee on Women’s Affairs of the National Assembly, and president of Korean National Council of Women. In 1995, she founded Korean Women’s Committee of NGOs and encouraged participation in Beijing World Women’s Conference. When she was a member of the 16th National Assembly, she became the first woman to be in the National Defense Committee and introduced gender quota system. Also among the many achievements is a surprising experience of hosting current affairs TV program.