Usa Lerdsrisuntad is the Executive Director of the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW) in Bangkok, Thailand. She has been a women’s rights activist for over 30 years and a past Director of the Foundation for Women, Thailand.
Usa is also an alumna of DTP (1995). This year she returned as a trainer on DTP’s 30th Annual Regional Human Rights and Peoples Diplomacy Training Program in Bangkok.
“I trained in a DTP program after participating in a DTP training program over 25 years ago. It felt terrific to train for DTP, and the transition from an alumna to a trainer made me happy. In training, it was good to talk about the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the issues of women’s rights to human rights advocates from different backgrounds.”
Usa said that training for DTP allowed her to engage with human rights advocates, many of whom, do not generally work on women’s rights issues.
“I strongly believe that learning about women’s rights issues is important for all human rights advocates, even if they don’t directly work on women’s rights issues, because there is an universal application of women rights issues in most campaigns. For example, advocates working on environmental rights issues or those who work on Indigenous rights issues would be able to frame better campaigns and advocacy around the impact of the environment on women and gender roles in Indigenous societies if they are better informed about women’s rights issues. So DTP training was a good opportunity for me to inform and influence and also learn from the participants.”
Usa was born in Thailand and became involved with advocacy for women’s rights in her university years. She studied economics at university and worked for a finance company after graduation. She found the experience of working there was less empowering or fulfilling than her involvement in women’s rights groups at the university. She quit her job and joined the Home for Battered Women and Women’s Information Centre which were projects of the Foundation for Women.
Usa has seen and been part of many positive changes advancing women’s rights and gender equality. Thailand ratified CEDAW in 1985 and advocates have used the CEDAW reporting process to press reforms and build awareness. Thailand’s commitment to the SDGs has also helped emphasise the importance of gender and gender equality to sustainable development. The Thai Constitution also says ‘men and women shall enjoy equal rights’. Despite this, Usa said many challenges remain for women. To address systematic discrimination against women in Thailand, Usa continues to campaign and advocate – and provides trainings not only to women’s leaders but also to leaders of various sectors including members of Local Administrative Organisations, schools and youth groups.
Usa values DTP’s training highly, as she said when she was a participant, she came to know other human rights advocates working in different fields and this was valuable in expanding her own horizon of knowledge about the struggles of people in the region.
“DTP training offers space for networking and peer-to-peer learning opportunity for the human rights advocates and this is important.”