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Empowering women is smart approach to sustainable development

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Change is in the air: today, women have better access to education, health services and jobs, as well as a greater voice in parliaments. Progress, however, in women’s empowerment has been slow and uneven. Growth and development gains have not been shared equally, both across the globe and within regions, with development gaps wider for poor and ethnic groups and those at the lower end of the income strata. Violence, conflicts and climate adversities have disproportionately impacted women, magnifying gender injustice and vulnerabilities.

Greater integration of women in the labor market – at all levels and in all sectors – is key to equitable, inclusive and sustainable development and is a legitimate right of women. Even though women constitute 50% of Asia-Pacific’s total working age population, their participation in formal employment is uniformly lower than that of men. In many countries in the region, the national female employment-to-population ratios are below 50%, which is not the case for men. And in some countries, the female employment-to-population ratio drops below 30%. Moreover, the contribution of women to the economies of Asia and the Pacific, through household and informal sector labor, is recognized but unrecorded in the national accounts.

Gender-based discrimination is pervasive and goes beyond labor force participation, as social and cultural taboos perpetuate discriminatory and restrictive traditional gender roles in different aspects of women’s and men’s lives. There is a cost to gender discrimination and inequality. U.N. estimates reveal that low participation by Asia-Pacific women in the labor market bears an opportunity cost of more than $89 billion each year. In South Asia and Central Asia, for example, the lower employment rates of women result in an average national income loss of nearly 19% and 16%, respectively. A World Bank analysis illustrates that if women’s economic activity were on par with men’s, economic growth in many Asia-Pacific countries could increase by as much as 18%.

Equally disconcerting are trends in key Asia-Pacific social indicators. For instance, the region accounts for close to 40% of the world’s maternal deaths, up to 70% of women experience violence during their lifetimes, female literacy levels in some pockets of South and South West Asia are below 50%, and women’s participation in national legislatures is, in too many instances, below 10%.

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is the global agenda for achieving gender equality and advancing the status of women and girls. As part of the 20-year review, governments in Asia and the Pacific have identified women’s economic empowerment, political participation and the elimination of violence as fundamental to our future, and a priority for achieving gender equality in the region.

Policy makers, undoubtedly, need to wrestle with a host of issues in order for women and men, girls and boys, to have equal opportunities, to fully and freely exercise their rights and to be able to exercise choice and self-determination, without being discriminated against on the basis of their sex. Strategic measures for enhancing women’s economic empowerment range from strengthening and enforcing legislation to initiatives that promote decent work and work-life balance for both women and men by, among other measures, broadening the base of financial inclusion and delivering targeted programs and services that improve social indicators.

Next week, at the “Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review”, ministers and other policy-makers from across the region will have the opportunity to renew their political commitment to empower women and advance their status in all sectors. Integral to the discussions will be adopting, strengthening and enforcing policies and legislation that mandate equality of rights and opportunities for women and men. Measures for addressing the elimination of violence against women, promoting women’s leadership and political participation, mainstreaming gender across the government sector (including gender-responsive budgeting), and advancing effective and coordinated institutional mechanisms for greater gender equality are just some of the specific issues that will be addressed next week in Bangkok.

Providing an impetus to the debate, the G20, which includes eight countries from the Asia-Pacific region, has called for reducing the gap between female and male labor force participation in their countries by 25%. Realization of this goal by 2025 – no small feat – would add 100 million more women to the labor force. Asia and the Pacific could lead the way in this area. Facilitating women’s integration in formal employment, governments and the private sector need to, for instance, embrace flexible working hours and telework; tailor tax systems based on personal income (rather than family incomes); and provide high-quality affordable child and elderly care services. Such measures reflect a growing global and regional commitment to increasing the rates and quality of women’s participation in the workforce.

Equally important is challenging the underlying stereotypes and assumptions about childbearing, parenting and the roles of women and men in the home and in the workplace. In particular, the needs and interests of vulnerable groups of women workers – such as domestic workers, migrant workers, informal sector workers and rural workers – need to be addressed. Traditional gender roles that confine women to caring, cashiering, cleaning, catering and clerical work must be revisited, if the ‘glass ceiling’ is ever to be fully dismantled and the "sticky floor" cleaned.

Significant and substantive gains for women’s economic empowerment, and for gender equality more generally, require more resources, greater accountability, stronger partnerships and institutions, and better regional cooperation. The Asia-Pacific Beijing+20 Conference offers a valuable opportunity for our region to celebrate women and to recognize their value, both as a matter of human rights and for our shared prosperity.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

5 Comments
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Meanwhile, just yesterday the female staff at my g/f's company were ordered to go and buy the lunches of the male staff - who were all "too busy in a meeting".

Nomikai? The female staff are obliged to attend to serve and entertain the all-male management.

Other examples of this kind of treatment as log as your arm.

The UN may be pushing for change Japan will never change...

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I think that empowering women is a smart approach to reversing the testosterone fuelled human race to destroy each other, the animals and plants, and the planetary environment that sustains all life. Sustainable development is just one part of the bigger picture of future survival.

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@Jim Poushinsky you are so naive; destruccion is not about people, is about interests, necessity and human nature. Look at the story in all the world and you wont find many women with much power, but between them you ll see the same coldness, cruelty, lies and power desire, that you can find among the men with equivalent power. If men are more agressive is because men always have had more power and you cannot have power if you not have the features associated with masculinity no matter your gender. I see many times in conflicts, that men stay calm while women act violent (other thing is that women have less strenght and it minimize the damages) and I ve seen women fight between them in ways of incredible dishonest and ruthless.

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It is a horrible plan, its not about what women or men feel or want, neither about what is better for family. In the deep its all about capital wants to profit the womens work no matter the consequences. They need to make sound their objective like a rights issue, but women wont be more free in the labor market, where they will have to submit to a boss, give up their child care rol, tolarate many things and maybe for a very low income.

In the deep it is all about transfer the work, devotion and self-sacrifice of women from family to the market. I want to make it clear: “all what capital want to capitalize from women will be taken from family” therefore its not strange the weakening of it. In other hand the differentiation, specialization, interdependence, complementation and concordance with nature and traditions of the gender roles, not only make stronger, deeper, senseful and necessary the ties men-women, but makes easier that people work harder and bear more, more happily in order to fulfill their roles.

Its not surprising that in the countries where more have been taken the feminist ideas, is where you can find more familiar breakdowm, single mothers and curiously more gender hate and violence. I dont want that the culture of the whole world turn in in it, destroying between other things the innocence and the trust in the marriage.

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For me feminism is destroy cultures, its destroy big part of womens appeal through making men more feminine and vice versa; its destroy the mystery, the exclusivity and the value of be a woman or be a man, its destroy the interest in form a family, its construct a world where men and women dont need to each other.

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