Opening remarks at International Women’s Day (2020)

Excellencies, Distinguished representatives,
Generation Equality change-makers,
Colleagues,
A very warm welcome to the 2020 Asia-Pacific commemoration of International Women’s Day.

Today, it my honour to host you along with the colleagues from UN Women for this important occasion. We are all gathered here to celebrate the achievements of women and girls across the region and beyond.

Asia and the Pacific region has made great achievement in raising women’s economic empowerment, political participation, leadership and decision-making power. We have also witnessed remarkable progress in education and health. Furthermore, 47 countries in the region have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and 33 countries now have strategies on gender equality.

Importantly, with the strengthening of strong legal and institutional foundations, the countries in our region have adopted progressive measures to ratify laws and regulations. Action is taken to prevent violence against women and to provide land rights.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
You may recall the Asia-Pacific Regional Review of Beijing+25 that took place in Bangkok last November adopted an ambitious forward-looking Declaration which strengthens the region’s commitment to action on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

This list of emerging factors slowing the progress of gender equality and women’s empowerment include:

First, substantial gender gaps continue to deprive women and girls of opportunities. We continue to remain off-target to achieve SDG 5 on gender equality. Worryingly, progress on some of the gender indicators has either stagnated or deteriorated over the past few years.

Second, better educational outcomes and economic growth have still not translated into more and better jobs for women. Women’s labour force participation rates have stagnated and even declined in some subregions over the past five years.

Third, women are being disproportionately impacted due to climate change and environmental depletion, which has reduced food security and increased threats to livelihood. The natural disaster events have further increased pressures on women’s time, income, health, nutrition and social support systems.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me highlight three areas of our engagement to strengthen our programme support for gender equality and women’s empowerment:

First, we promote women’s entrepreneurship as a catalyst for advancing women’s economic empowerment. Our initiatives contribute to enabling policy environments that increase women entrepreneurs’ access to finance and digital technologies.

Second, encouraging women’s active participation in leadership and decision-making is another of our priority. We at the UN have prepared a report that highlights key pathways to women’s transformative leadership. If we strengthen women’s capabilities and their access to resources, the prospect of leadership roles will be within reach for many more women in this region.

Finally, high-quality, timely, and sex-disaggregated data is very crucial for informed policymaking. We support countries to design and implement evidence-based, gender-sensitive policies and programmes through policy-data integration tools.

Going forward, UN ESCAP stands ready to work with UN Women and other UN agencies to realize our collective vision to leave no one behind at all levels to push the boundaries forward for women and girls.
I am also delighted to note that this year’s commemoration has been designed as an interactive dialogue with young change-makers. I am pleased to see our younger generations picking up the baton so confidently, to galvanize our collective efforts for realizing women’s rights.

On this International Women’s Day, let us rejuvenate our efforts for a better world - realizing equal rights for women and men, girls and boys everywhere.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you a successful commemorative event.