ASEAN urged to put women em­pow­er­ment top on agenda

Manila Bulletin - - Busi­ness News - By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT

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.

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