Despite a number of positive changes in the status of women and their increasing contribution to socio-economic development, women and girls in Asia and the Pacific continue to face discrimination and institutionalized, legal and structural barriers to gender equality. In many countries of the region, societal and cultural attitudes and beliefs among both women and men continue to subordinate, disadvantage and endanger women. The region has made impressive economic gains over the past decades. Yet, poverty continues to disproportionately affect women who still comprise the majority of vulnerable workers in the region. Also, violence against women remains pervasive throughout the region, manifesting itself in many forms, including domestic violence, female foeticide, dowry-related killings, “honour” killings, harmful traditional and customary practices, trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls. Maternal mortality continues to be a serious concern, especially in South and South-West Asia, which accounts for one third of the world’s total maternal deaths. Additionally, the increasing number of women becoming infected by HIV from their spouses and intimate partners is alarming. With the ongoing demographic transition towards an ageing society, women will increasingly constitute the majority of older persons.
ESCAP provides a critical intergovernmental platform for Governments and other stakeholders in the region to discuss and reach agreement on gender policies, programmes and mechanisms to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Millennium Development Goals. The promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment stands at the core of the ESCAP development agenda. Our priorities with regard to gender issues are:
ESCAP provides technical support to Governments and partners in civil society through capacity-building and training, research and analysis, policy formulation, and advocacy. As part of its coordinating role, ESCAP co-chairs the Regional Coordination Mechanism Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). The Working Group, comprising 22 United Nations regional entities, works together to ensure a coherent response on gender issues.