Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
A very warm welcome to the commemoration of International Women’s Day.
It is my distinct pleasure to join you today to discuss the theme for this year, which is “Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.”
While women and girls are making remarkable contributions towards building a more sustainable future, numerous barriers remain toward achieving equality.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to some of these barriers. Within Asia and the Pacific, COVID-19 has increased women’s vulnerability to economic shocks, amplifying the livelihoods crisis and pushing more women into informal and underpaid work.
Furthermore, COVID-19 has left millions of children and care-dependent adults without the support they need, putting an enormous strain on women and girls and exacerbating the care crisis.
There are parallels between the aggravating impact of the pandemic on existing inequalities and the effects of the imminent environmental and climate crisis. Climate change has also erased many hard-fought gains made towards gender equality.
These interlinking crises have to be tackled through coordinated efforts to enhance gender justice and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The Asia-Pacific region’s response to climate change has significant implications globally and locally. The region is responsible for over 50 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and has one of the highest rates of per-capita solid waste production.
As the most disaster-prone region in the world, our communities are already contending with rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and food and water scarcities.
The consequences of climate change and environmental degradation are severe and unevenly distributed, with those who are least responsible most often bearing the greatest burden.
Pre-existing gender-based discrimination has limited the capacity of women and girls to adapt and recover from climate-related shocks and long-term environmental changes.
In the context of disasters, women face higher rates of mortality, morbidity and loss of livelihood.
The disproportionate impact of climate change is felt most acutely by women in rural areas. Like the ones at the centre of managing resources for their families, rural women often depend on natural resources for food, shelter, water and fuel.
Ecosystem degradation is disrupting their capacity to sustain their families and communities, as many of these tasks now require longer hours and more physically demanding labour.
Women in the region are already spending on average up to 11 hours a day on unpaid care and domestic work. Without redistributing these responsibilities, their workload will become insurmountable.
According to the Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report, our region is not on track or not on target to meet Goal 5 on Gender Equality and has fallen further behind on Goal 13 on Climate Action.
Due to gender biases in norms and systems, women and girls still lag in many areas, including education, labour force participation and political representation.
To achieve equality, unpaid care and domestic work must be recognized, reduced and redistributed. At ESCAP, we have created policy guidelines in partnership with relevant stakeholders, including ASEAN, to support member States in addressing these inequalities.
Despite the discrimination women and girls face, they should not be viewed as victims without agency. Having managed the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity for generations, women and girls hold essential knowledge and skills.
Their potential, however, remains untapped or under-utilized. Women are underrepresented in parliaments and as environment-related ministers and policymakers.
I hope that the panel discussion later this morning will highlight the role that young people can play in addressing these challenges.
Governments in the our region committed to “promoting the active role of women as holders of knowledge and agents of change” and the “full and equal leadership and participation of women” in the Asia-Pacific Declaration on Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the Beijing +25 Review.
If we are to achieve a sustainable future, we must live up to these existing commitments and give women the voice and power to make decisions on climate change and disaster risk reduction.
Achieving equality will require a holistic and collaborative response. We must continue to bring together gender, climate, environment and disaster policymakers, experts and partitioners with those who have lived experiences of the devastating effects of climate change and disasters and learn from one another.
We stand ready to continue fostering policy discussions and supporting member States in mainstreaming gender across all sectors.
On this International Women’s Day, let us strive for equality toward building a more equitable, sustainable and climate-resilient world.
Thank you very much.