When the right people come together at the right time to do the right thing, then very little can go wrong. That was the general feeling at the first Asian Conference of Women's Shelters, held in Taipei on September 3-5, 2012. Jointly organized by the two main women's shelter NGOs in Taiwan, the Garden of Hope Foundation and Good Shepherd Social Welfare Services, and sponsored by Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior, Public Welfare Lottery, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Conference was attended by 103 delegates from 14 countries around the region.

The participants discussed ....building partnerships and strengthening services, law and policy-making, planning and organizational management, and strategies for advocacy and social change. 

The vision of the African Network of Women's Shelters is:

"A just world in which communities and families live free from all forms of violence"; its values are: "Loving, warm, harmonious, equitable and inclusive families and societies; its purpose is to: "Unite, promote and strengthen the women's shelter movement in Asia to end all forms of gender-based violence"; and its four objectives are: (1) platform creation, (2) capacity building, (3) advocacy, and (4) representation.

The Steering Committee has ?? members, including representatives from each of the ??sub-regions. 

The Network secretariat will be hosted by the Garden of Hope for the first year. During that time, the Network will work on its four main objectives to expand its platform by reaching out to other women's shelter organizations, build the capacity of Asian women's shelters by facilitating exchange programs and conferences, advocate for the rights of Asian women who are victims of violence, and build the governance structure of the Network so that it can represent the region globally and locally.

The momentum to launch the Asian Network of Women's Shelters started a little over six months ago, in February 2012, at the 2nd World Conference of Women's Shelters in Washington DC, when over 50 representatives from Asian women's shelters gathered at a regional roundtable. The good faith and goodwill built at that meeting helped set the stage for the formal foundation of the Network at the Asian Conference in Taipei.

Bandana Rana, who has been involved in the process from the start, said the key to creating an Asian Network is "speaking heart-to-heart", adding that, "The main concern is to strengthen advocacy and awareness of legal support, and lobby for domestic violence laws, and their implementation." Sister Therese Thong said, "We know that united together we can make a strong and positive impact on the lives of women who are victims of domestic violence." And Chi Hui-jung said, "When women are empowered, everyone benefits. So let's continue our work and strengthen our network until Asian women can live in a region that is free from violence."

By Anthony Carlisle and Lilian Yap Hsu, Asian Network of Women's Shelters Secretariat, Taipei, TAIWAN, September 18, 2012.