UN affirms need for stand-alone development goal on gender equality at International Women’s Day commemoration

UN ESCAP: Celebrating International Women's Day 2012

To ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment receive sufficient priority as necessary conditions for meaningful, inclusive and sustainable development, any post-2015 development framework should contain a stand-alone goal on gender equality, the United Nations underscored at a forum here today.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day 2014, UN Women and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) held the joint event to discuss the progress made for women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality under the global theme: Equality for Women is Progress for All.

The forum highlighted gender inequality and gender-based discrimination as impeding progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are set to expire in 2015 and women’s rights experts across the globe have underlined urgent actions are needed to ensure gender equality. Despite important gains in areas such as girls’ access to primary education, less headway has been made in addressing high levels of maternal mortality, women’s access to decent work and women’s and girls’ access to safe, reliable and hygienic sanitation facilities.

In addressing the forum, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said: “Fourteen years since the Millennium Declaration, it is clearer than ever that ‘progress and prosperity for all’ requires us to tackle the structural, root causes of inequality between women and men, girls and boys, in Asia-Pacific and across the globe.”

The commemoration, webcast live from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, featured an interactive dialogue that reflected on the impact of the MDGs on the achievement of women’s rights and discussed how gender equality can be achieved in the region amid rising inequality.

“International Women's Day is therefore also a day to recommit ourselves to working harder for gender equality, together as women, men, youth and leaders of nations, communities, religion and commerce,” said Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women in her message for International Women’s Day. “We also acknowledge that progress has been slow, uneven and in some cases women and girls face new and more complex challenges.”

Women in the Asia-Pacific region in particular, continue to face severe deficits in health and education, and in their access to power, voice and rights. The skewed male-female child sex ratio is just one example; there are 115.4 boys under the age of 15 for every 100 girls of the same age in East and North-East Asia, and 109.3 in South and South-West Asia. Women are less likely to own assets, and women’s participation in non-agricultural wage employment increased only marginally from 28 to 31 per cent, between 1990 and 2009. The region has seen slow progress in terms of women’s participation in decision making, with the second lowest percentage of parliamentarians who are women.

The event featured a panel discussion with Ms. Roberta Clarke, Regional Director of UN Women Asia and the Pacific and Representative in Thailand, Dr. Gita Sen, Founder and member of the Executive Committee of the Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), India and Ms. Sivananthi Thanenthiran, Executive Director of the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Malaysia.

The Asia-Pacific Commemoration of International Women’s Day was organized by the United Nations Asia-Pacific Regional Coordination Mechanism Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.


Note to editor:

- While gender parity at all levels of education is close to being reached, there are concerns that the focus on enrollment comes at the cost of educational quality and learning outcomes which remain a significant concern, along with girls’ safety and security in the school environment.

- Women’s share of paid employment outside the agricultural sector has increased slowly from 35 to 40 per cent between 1990 and 2010. In Southern Asia, on average less than one in five non-agricultural wage jobs were performed by women in 2011. Even when women are in wage employment, they tend to work on terms that are unequal to men, including being over represented in low paid jobs.

- Globally women continue to be under represented in decision-making. As of October 2013, women were 21.8 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses and 19.4 per cent of Senate or upper houses, up from 12 per cent and 10.1 per cent in January 1997, respectively. · The MDG on gender equality omitted important issues such as violence against women, significant inequalities in the division of unpaid care work, women’s limited control over assets and property, and their unequal participation in private and public decision-making beyond national parliaments.

- For countries where data is available, women spend on average roughly twice as much or more time than men on unpaid domestic and care work. According to a 2013 global review of available data, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.