Investing in women crucial to bridge gender gap in political leadership in Asia and the Pacific

Investing in women crucial to bridge gender gap in political leadership in Asia and the Pacific

In a democratically decisive year, in which 1.3 billion women will have the right to vote in more than 60 countries, discussants at a regional UN event today underscored the need to strengthen national institutions and governance, reform the financial architecture and commit to new means of investing in gender equality.

Themed ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’, the annual International Women’s Day commemoration hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UN Women further drew attention to the point that when women have a seat at the table, policies are more gender-responsive and inclusive.

While significant strides in women’s education and health have been made across Asia and the Pacific in recent decades, progress towards the realisation of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment continues to stagnate and even regress in certain areas.

Despite the increasing proportion of women in political leadership, with an average of 20.8 per cent of parliamentarians being women, Asia and the Pacific is still below the global average of 26.5 per cent and very far from achieving parity.

“We need to scale up investment to address the existing and widening disparities that prevent women and girls from realising their full potential. And we need to take immediate action to provide robust policy support and innovative solutions,” said Lin Yang, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP delivering the opening remarks on behalf of ESCAP Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana. 

Female labour force participation in the region has also been on the decline since 2005 and dropped to 43.6 per cent in 2023, making the rate of Asia and the Pacific below the world average.

“Investing in women is not merely a choice, but an imperative for sustainable development. Imagine a world where closing the gender employment gap could increase GDP per capita by 20 per cent across all regions. Picture the impact of investing in care services, not only reducing the burden of unpaid care work but also creating millions of jobs. This is not a distant dream, but an achievable reality,” said Sarah Knibbs, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Collaborative dialogues were encouraged at the one-day session, with participants from governments, the corporate sector, civil society and youth networks sharing best practices and formulating action plans to enhance women’s empowerment. They further explored and proposed actionable strategies, including policy reforms, investment in education, support for female entrepreneurship, and improved healthcare and social services for women and girls.

The discussions set the stage for the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action on the occasion of its 30th anniversary later in November. This conference aims to accelerate actions toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, emphasising the critical importance of investing in women as a pathway to progress.

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