ASEAN urged to put women empowerment top on agenda
Despite the country’s having topped in the Gender Equality Index in the region, Trade and Industry Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya said more work still need to be done to continue to advance meaningful participation of women in all spheres of the society.
In a keynote speech at the Philippines-Australia ASEAN Forum on "Women’s Economic Empowerment: The Next Driver of ASEAN’s Success" at the Philippine International Convention Center, Maglaya noted of the Philippines’ achievement having ranked 7th among 144 countries in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index in 2016.
The Philippines has the highest gender equality among ASEAN countries since the survey started in 2007, she said. Likewise, she cited ASEAN members for making significant strides in pursuing gender equality over the years.
There have been positive trends, she said, but she also noted of significant barriers to growth in terms of administrative and financial aspects that affect women disproportionately in their participation in business and international trade.
“But more work still needs to be done,” said Maglaya as she urged to put women economic empowerment at the heart of the ASEAN Agenda. ASEAN has already come up with economic initiatives for women. This includes the SME Development 2016-2025 as part of the ASEAN Economic Community blueprint
Other initiatives for women include the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurship Network and Great Women in ASEAN, a platform for product sourcing and design.
The Philippine economy is composed of 99.5 SME enterprises and majority of these small enterprises are owned by women, reflecting the huge potential of women. There is also the Magna Carta for Women Act, which seeks to eliminate discrimination of women and promote their rights especially those in the marginalized sector.
“There will be hurdles, but together we have the capability to ride out these challenges before us,” she concluded.
The Australian government and the Philippines DTI co-hosted the event that brought together over 200 business leaders and senior government representatives to support women’s economic empowerment as a driver for growth in the region. The event was co-chaired by Dr. Sharman Stone, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, and Undersecretary Maglaya.
The Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum is an Australian contribution to ASEAN’s 50th Anniversary, and was announced by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the 2016 ASEAN-Australia Summit. It will focus on practical ways to increase women’s participation in the workforce and encourage stronger economic growth across ASEAN.
The Forum was part of Australia’s AUD46 million (R1.8 billion) Investing in Women Initiative for the four ASEAN countries Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.