Gender and economic and social development ministers and high-level representatives from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies are pushing for greater progress in women and girls’ economic empowerment, highlighting that it is important for sustainable recovery.
At the APEC Women and the Economy Forum convened in Bangkok on Wednesday, APEC members reiterated their commitment to pursuing policies and initiatives that promote inclusive, equitable, and sustainable recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, and which contribute decisively to the advancement of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, according to a statement received here on Wednesday.
“We underline the importance of embedding the empowerment and advancement of women and gender equality in the Asia-Pacific region in line with APEC’s vision, road map, implementation plan and other relevant instruments agreed upon within the forum,” Thailand’s Minister of Social Development and Human Security, Chuti Krairiksh, said.
At the forum, Thailand’s APEC sustainability priority took center stage, with participants exploring how the forum can provide more opportunities to women and how they can contribute to sustainability, including through the bio-circular-green (BCG) economy model.
“All challenges should be and can be transformed into opportunities. Gender perspectives must be mainstreamed into our respective policies, action plans, and budgets,” Minister Chuti said.
“Importantly, all these policies, plans and budgets must be approved and implemented so that the needs of women and girls of diverse backgrounds will be addressed, and (ensure) that women and girls will have equal opportunity and equitable access to capital and markets, labor force participation, leadership positions, education and digital skills training in a changing world,” he added.
Minister Chuti also reiterated that the strengthening of collaboration and networks is vital to provide a supportive environment and that member economies need to create “an enabling environment that promotes inclusive development and empowerment of all women.”
Addressing the forum, former Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva highlighted how women are the drivers of the economies of Thailand and many economies across the Asia-Pacific, but they are still not fairly represented in key political roles.
He also reiterated the importance of sex-disaggregated data as member economies work to integrate women’s empowerment and new economic opportunities.
“We need to do much more in terms of adopting policies that would support families,” he said. “Women often have that difficult choice of advancing their career and balancing it with what they see as family duties, and that continues to be the greatest barrier to advancement.”
Vejjajiva said policies that cover child benefits, paid or unpaid leave, and also getting men to shoulder their share of responsibilities in unpaid and domestic work should thus be prioritized.
“When it comes to women, we are talking about roughly half the population; there is simply no excuse why this inequity or this dimension of unfairness should continue,” he said.
“Women deserve better, the Asia-Pacific region deserves better, and the world deserves better,” he added.
Meanwhile, executive director of the APEC Secretariat, Rebecca Sta. Maria, said as a forum, APEC is required by leaders, through the Aotearoa Plan of Action, to ensure growth that is high quality and inclusive, brings palpable benefits and greater health and well-being to owners and employees of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as women and others with untapped economic potential.
“At the individual economy level, we need to adopt and strengthen regulatory approaches, sound public sector governance, and take other measures that support economic inclusion and well-being,” Sta. Maria said.
“While at the collective level, we will build on APEC’s agenda on advancing economic, financial, and social inclusion by advancing inclusive policies, gender equality, and the economic empowerment of women, and building on APEC’s work on supporting women’s economic empowerment,” she added.
Sta. Maria echoed the need for strong and reliable monitoring mechanisms to ensure that all plans and policies are implemented strategically across various sectors and levels.
At the forum, ministers and senior officials shared strategies and policies to strengthen women’s economic empowerment, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, and ways to ensure women’s well-being while building a more resilient future. (PNA)