UN highlights need for action to empower women and girls in Asia-Pacific on International Women’s Day

Governments in Asia and the Pacific must take urgent action to ensure greater empowerment of women and girls to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations underscored at a forum in Bangkok today.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day 2018, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), UN Women and the UN RCM Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women held a joint event to discuss the progress made for women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality under the global theme: ‘Time is Now: rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.’

Against the backdrop of an unprecedented global outcry for women’s rights, the commemoration sought to transform this momentum into action, to advance women’s voice, participation and leadership towards the achievement of gender equality and the 2030 Agenda.

Addressing the forum, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP stressed that responding to the call of the 2030 Agenda to ‘leave no one behind’ requires urgent action to ensure women in all settings are empowered in society and the economy - through equal opportunity, choice and access to resources.

“It is incumbent on policy makers to respond to legitimate demands for greater equality and justice with concrete actions,” she said. “The sustainable approach is to empower women across Asia and the Pacific, in towns and the countryside. This would not only protect their human rights, but also bring considerable economic benefits. Let’s make 2018 the year when gender equality, inclusive growth and sustainable development were all given a shot in the arm across our region.”

Dr. Miwa Kato, Regional Director of the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific added that UN Women’s recently launched global flagship report ‘Turning Promises into Action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ highlights stark gender inequalities.

“Globally, women do 2.6 times the unpaid care and domestic work that men do,” explained Dr. Kato. “In Central and Southern Asia, the figure is higher at 3 times, with a huge variation across countries within the Asia- Pacific region. In Cambodia, women do as much as 10 times the unpaid care and domestic work as men while the corresponding figure for Bhutan is 1.8. This highlights the dilemma so many women face of reconciling income with care, for which context specific policy change and action is so needed.”

Dr. Kato also underscored the importance of moving from promise to action, with innovative financing models to support the advancement of gender equality and the further production of data to support gender-responsive policy-making and programming.

Women and girls continue to face structural barriers that impact their human rights and prevent them from achieving their full potential. Achieving adequate living standards, women’s economic empowerment, land rights, food security, health care, quality education, resilience and preparedness to deal with disasters and conflicts are among the main challenges faced by rural women and girls in Asia-Pacific. In addition, urban poor women face heightened inequalities in access to infrastructure and services; as well as suffer high rates of violence which restrict their mobility and use of public spaces.

The event featured a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Fiza Farhan, member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment and Chairperson to the Chief Minister of Punjab’s Task Force on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

The panel members included Ms. Raushan Yesbulatova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Thailand and Permanent Representative to ESCAP, Ms. Mary Jane N. Real, Co-Director, Urgent Action Fund - Asia Pacific, Ms. Mahmuda Begum Shelly, Executive Director, Manob Progoti Shongho, and Ms. Ho Tran Thanh Huyen, Youth Programme Officer, Da Nang Youth Union.

The commemoration also echoed the priority theme of this year’s sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women: ‘Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls,’ which will take place at the UN Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Ms. Katie Elles, Public Information Officer, Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP, M: (66) 9481 525 36 / E: elles@un.org

Montira Narkvichien, Regional Communications Specialist, UN Women Asia and the Pacific,
M: (66) 816 688 900 | E: montira.narkvichien@unwomen.org