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Social Development

Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Women fruit and vegetable vendors at the floating market of Lok Baintan in South-Kalimantan, Indonesia

Advancing gender equality and women’s economic empowerment: UNESCAP’s ongoing mission


When guaranteed through equal opportunity, choice and access to resources, women’s full participation in society and the economy multiplies the capacity of all for sustainable economic growth and social development.

Yet, despite regional advances to ensure gender equality and promote women’s empowerment, women in Asia and the Pacific continue to face discriminatory policies, social and cultural barriers, and threats to their security that violate their rights and limit their potential. The gender gaps in economic participation have barely changed in the last 20 years. In our region, only 50 per cent of the women in the working age population are economically active, compared to 84 per cent of the men. Around 64 per cent of the working women in Asia and the Pacific are in informal employment. 78 per cent of women workers in South and South-West Asia and 60 per cent in South-East Asia are concentrated in vulnerable employment (Source: Vanek, J. and others. (2014). Statistics on the Informal Economy: Definitions, Regional Estimates and Challenges. Cambridge, MA: WIEGO).

In terms of political participation, while the proportion of women in national parliaments has risen from 8 percent in 1990 to 18 per cent in 2018, the region falls behind the global average of 24 per cent. Across Asia and Pacific, between 17.3 and 68 percent of women (aged 15 to 49) face violence at the hands of an intimate partner, with severe consequences for women and girls and their families, and of significant economic and social cost to countries.

Our response

ESCAP provides an inclusive intergovernmental platform for governments and other stakeholders in the region to accelerate the implementation of global gender equality commitments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the outcomes of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The gender dimensions of regional priorities for economic and social development are integrated into programme planning and implementation across ESCAP’s work. ESCAP also dedicates focused analysis, targeted programming and technical support at the request of Member States to promote and protect the rights of women and girls. Particular emphasis is placed on enabling economic participation and enhancing women’s share in safe, formal and fully-remunerated employment across Asia and the Pacific.

Our work

ESCAP supports regional cooperation among policy makers and practitioners with regard to implementing international commitments in the field of gender equality and advancement of women.

Enhancing Women’s Economic Participation in Asia-Pacific

As one part of its strategy to enhance women’s economic empowerment, ESCAP is supporting efforts to foster enabling conditions for women’s entrepreneurship. Our works aims to: a) ensure the formulation and implementation of gender-responsive policies in SME development and promotion; b) engage financial institutions to increase women’s access to credit and financial services; and c) enhance women’s access to market information, networks and services, including through harnessing access to ICT. 

ESCAP’s new regional initiative on ’Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship’ deploys a multi-pronged approach, including an enabling environment for women to build and grow their businesses, improved access to financial services and capital, as well as increased use of ICT tools and innovative technology in their business operations. Funded by the Government of Canada, this regional initiative brings together Governments, civil society organizations, the private sector and development partners to galvanize support for scaling up investments toward closing gender gaps in economic participation, and unleashing women’s creative potential. [Learn More]

ESCAP produced a study on “Enabling Entrepreneurship for Women's Economic Empowerment in Asia and the Pacific”. Building on this foundation, a publication identifying critical challenges facing ASEAN women entrepreneurs and key drivers for change entitled “Fostering Women’s Entrepreneurship: Transforming Prospects, Transforming Societies” was also launched in 2017.

Progressing Gender-Responsive Budgeting in Asia–Pacific

With the support of the Government of China, the project on “Progressing Gender-Responsive Budgeting in Asia-Pacific” has engaged government officials from national women’s machineries, ministries of finance, national planning bodies, as well as line ministries, in developing their capacity to advocate for and implement gender-responsive budgeting in their countries. Through training workshops, access to a gender-responsive budgeting guide and provision of tailored technical assistance, this project seeks to advance the adoption and implementation of gender-responsive budgeting in the Asia-Pacific region. [Learn More]

Woman carrying her baby

Woman carrying her child

E-Government for Women’s Empowerment

ESCAP, in partnership with the United Nations Project Office on Governance (UNPOG) of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and together with IT for Change have launched the eGov4Women Online Toolkit , an innovative public resource related to the design and implementation of gender-responsive e-Government in the Asia-Pacific region. The toolkit represents the first region-wide toolbox to support the gender-mainstreaming of digitalized public service delivery and participation. Through a set of 5 comprehensive modules, it provides key pointers for policymakers on gender-responsive design of e-service delivery, e-participation and connectivity, and introduces a capabilities-based approach to tracking progress on E-Government for women’s empowerment.. The toolkit draws on case studies and findings from a study on “e-Government for Women’s Empowerment in Asia and the Pacific” that examines how e-Government can address the needs of women in their service delivery systems. [Learn More]

Woman smiling in a rural environment

Woman in a rural environment

Regional Coordination Mechanism Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women

Through co-chairing the Regional Coordination Mechanism Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women with UN Women, ESCAP plays a key inter-agency coordinating role for the UN system in the Asia-Pacific region, contributing analysis and supporting joint action on regional priorities to advance the global agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Women smiling

Women smiling

Other Knowledge Products on the Gender Dimensions of Sustainable Development

Towards supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, ESCAP is developing a series of knowledge products on the gender dimensions of sustainable development, including examining the gender-environment nexus as well as harnessing the potential women’s transformative leadership.

Asia-Pacific Gender Equality Portal

ESCAP has developed an online gender resource facility to support ESCAP member States in implementation of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The online resource facility supports evidence-based policy formulation, governance practices, service delivery and practical initiatives that foster gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Women and young children

Women and young children