> > Who We Are
Who We Are2020-12-10T16:14:48+07:00

Who We Are

APWLD is the leading network of feminist organisations and individual activists in Asia Pacific. Our 252 members represent groups of diverse women from 27 countries in Asia Pacific. Over the past 34 years, APWLD has actively worked towards advancing women’s human rights and Development Justice. We are an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation and hold consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

APWLD fosters feminist movements in Asia Pacific to influence laws, policies and practices at the local, national, regional and international levels. We develop capacities, produce and disseminate feminist analyses, conduct advocacy and foster networks and spaces for movement building to claim and strengthen women’s human rights. APWLD empowers women in the region to use law as an instrument of change for equality, justice, peace and Development Justice.

We believe that advances in women’s human rights are achieved and sustained when autonomous feminist movements exist and have an enabling environment to work. We believe that law can be repressive as well as transformative. We use feminist analysis to dissect, engage with and transform laws, legal practices and the systems that shape and inform them. We believe that the nexus of patriarchy with militarism, fundamentalisms and neo-liberal economic globalisation is responsible for gross violations of women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. We believe that equality, Development Justice and the realisation of human rights can only happen when women, particularly marginalised women, are empowered to lead policy and legal debates and determine solutions. We believe, to achieve lasting and sustainable change, engagement with women themselves, both at the grassroots and policy making levels, is needed to bring a feminist approach and perspective to their advocacy.

Our Herstory

APWLD developed from dialogues among women lawyers, social scientists and activists from Asia Pacific, which began at the 1985 Third World Forum on Women, held in Nairobi, Kenya. Participants in these dialogues recognised that gaining the capacity to mobilise people to understand social, economic and political dimensions of women’s oppression and take collective action for change required a clear focus and strong organisation. In 1986, women lawyers and activists in the region formally launched APWLD and set up a Secretariat in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Secretariat relocated to Chiang Mai, Thailand in 1997; with a satellite Secretariat in Penang, Malaysia opened in 2017 to support the growing work of APWLD.

The first APWLD steering committee members in 1986, Tagaytay, Philippines. From L-R: Emelina Quintillan, Asma Jahangir, Farida Ariffin, Rani Jethmalani, Virada Somswasdi and Mere Pulea

1st Wave: 1986 - 1997

The Birth of APWLD in the post-colonial era
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi in July


A 10-member Regional Planning Committee meeting held in Delhi in July in preparation for the Asia Pacific Regional Conference in December

Founding of The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development at the regional conference in Tagaytay in December. A seven-member steering committee formed. 1st Steering Committee meeting held


2nd Steering Committee meeting held in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in July. Creation of the Programme & Management Committee and the position of the Regional Coordinator

Emelina Quintillan joined as Regional Coordinator in Kuala Lumpur in October


APWLD officially registered as a non-stock, non-profit company under the Malaysian Companies Act on 9 January. Secretary began work in Kuala Lumpur

The first issue of the quarterly newsletter ‘Forum News’ published


Nimalka Fernando appointed as the Regional Coordinator in January


APWLD jointly published its first major framework document with the Overseas Education Fund International (OEF) in March - The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development: Its Origins, Issues and Vision


Creation of Four Task Forces by a working committee

The Regional Council added to the institutional framework. The first proposed Regional Council met in August for one day in Colombo


The Regional Council formalised at a meeting held in Kuala Lumpur

Human Rights/ Emergency Mobilisation Desk established in July in Colombo, Sri Lanka


Adoption of 1993 APWLD Constitution and By-Laws by Regional Council

Nimalka Fernando appointed as the Coordinator for the Human Rights Mobilisation Project in Colombo Sri Lanka by the Steering Committee in December


APWLD Founding Member Radhika Coomaraswamy appointed as the UNSRVAW

Nimalka Fernando assumed her new post in Colombo in February. Salbiah Ahmad appointed as an Acting Regional Coordinator

A fifth Task Force on Rural and Indigenous Women’s Rights created at working group meeting on 18-19 June. Fatima Burnad took the position of the convener2

An 18-member APWLD Working Committee for Beijing formed and partnership with Asia Pacific Women’s Action Network (APWAN) established


Task forces were consolidated into five areas:

Violence Against Women

Rural and Indigenous Women

Women’s Participation in Political Processes

Labour and Migration

Women’s Rights Human Rights


Adoption of 1997 APWLD Constitution and By-Laws (amendment of 1993 Constitution and By-Laws) by Regional Council on 23 July

2nd Wave: 1997 - 2007

The rise of neo-liberal globalisation
Chiang Mai, Thailand (2nd Secretariat)


APWLD Secretariat relocated to Chiang Mai, Thailand (1 October 1997)

Virada Somswasdi was appointed as the Interim Regional Coordinator

1998 APWLD was granted

APWLD was granted consultative status (roster) in UN ECOSOC as an NGO in May

The Office of National Commission on Culture in Bangkok, Thailand approved the registration of APWLD as an association in Thailand on 29 June


A sixth Task Force on Women and Environment was created

Jennifer S. Thambayah was appointed as Regional Coordinator

The domain www.apwld.org was registered as APWLD’s website and was launched in November 1999


Mary Jane N. Real appointed as Regional Coordinator


APWLD’s second external evaluation covering 1997-2000


Strategic Planning Meeting 27-28 January

ReC decided on six programmes for 2003- 2005

Programmes were reduced to six areas2 [2]
1) Women’s Human Rights (WHR)
2) Violence against Women (VAW)
3) Women’s Participation in Political Processes (WPPP)
4) Labour & Migration (L&M)
5) Rural and Indigenous Women (RIW)
6) Women and Environment (WEN) [3]


1997 APWLD Constitution and ByLaws amended

The Administrative and Financial Guidelines developed


First General Assembly (GA) held in February in Chiang Mai

The Regional Council was adopted as the highest policy making body. The Steering Committee (Steering Committee) was dissolved and the Steering Committee members became part of the Regional Council

The Regional Council decided to convene a General Assembly every three years


Lynnsay Rongokea Francis appointed as the interim Regional Coordinator until July

Titi Soentoro assumed her post as Regional Coordinator

APWLD’s third external evaluation 2003-2005


APWLD ran out of funding

Lynnsay Rongokea Francis joined as the Regional Coordinator with no funds available and successfully raised funds until the next funding crisis in Aug 2008


APWLD celebrated its 20 years of existence in November 2007 with the International Consultation on Women Law and Development (WLD) attended by 76 women from 36 countries coming from the regions of Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean/Latin America

First General Assembly and Strategic Planning meeting took place in December and a Strategic Plan for 2009- 2011 was developed

The Regional Council set up a Fundraising Working Group to discuss APWLD’s fundraising strategy and long-term sustainability

3rd Wave: 2008 - 2017

The Era of authoritarian, patriarchal and late capitalism
Chiang Mai, Thailand and Penang, Malaysia


APWLD in financial crisis in August 2008

Critical P&M meeting held in November 2008

Azra Talat Syed (Pakistan) and Tita Elisa Lubi (Philippines) appointed as the interim Regional Coordinators until the position of the Regional Coordinator was filled.

First combined Working Group and Task Forces meeting was held to address interlinkages between globalisation, fundamentalisms, and militarisation

The Operations Manual outlining management, administrative and financial guidelines and procedures was completed

APWLD external evaluation 2006-2008


A Regional Council plus meeting held in August 2008 to address APWLD’s internal and external issues. Major restructuring of APWLD’s governance structure – the Task Forces were replaced by Organising Committees

Kate Lappin appointed as the Regional Coordinator in October

APWLD membership grew to 180 members from 25 countries
Four programmes established
• Breaking out of Marginalisation – to increase activism and advocacy of rural and
indigenous women around the impacts of development projects
• Feminist Law and Practice – to continue to deliver and grow the FLTP training
• Grounding the Global – to continue engaging with UN SRs, ASEAN and the SEA
Women’s Caucus
• Women in Power – to increase women’s participation in politics


Secretariat grew from 8 to 16 members at the end of 2010

APWLD began to systematise its Monitoring and Evaluation. The concept of Feminist M&E emerged

APWLD introduced participatory approach to trainings and focused on diversifying participation in activities (and membership)


1st APFF held in December 2011 back to back with the GA. 130 women’s rights activists gathered

2011 APWLD Constitution and By-Laws amended

APWLD’s Theory of Change was adapted and trialed as a planning, monitoring and evaluation framework


APWLD Constitution and By-Laws amended


Feminist Development Justice and Climate Justice added as standalone programme


2nd APFF in May 2014 held. Over 300 women’s rights activists attended

Climate Justice became the seventh programme


APWLD Constitution and By-Laws amended

Labour and Migration became the seventh programme


Women Interrogating Corporate Hegemony (WITCH) added as the eighth programme


3rd APFF held in September 2017