Women’s empowerment initiatives - Highlight of Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship hinh anh 1

The ASEAN Women Leaders’ Summit, initiated by Vietnam, took the theme of “Women’s role in building a cohesive, dynamic, sustainable and inclusive ASEAN Community in a post COVID-19 world." (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - Vietnam’s initiatives regarding gender equality and women’s empowerment have been viewed as one of the hallmarks of its ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020.

Women’s issues were given comprehensive focus for the first time by ASEAN member countries at the ASEAN Women Leaders’ Summit in November, initiated by Vietnam.

With the theme “Women’s role in building a cohesive, dynamic, sustainable and inclusive ASEAN Community in a post COVID-19 world”, the summit formed part of major activities within the 37th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits.

It also marked the 25th anniversary of the UN adopting the Beijing Declaration on gender equality, the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council’s first resolution on women, peace, and security, and the fifth anniversary of the ASEAN Community and the realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to 2030.

Though women make up 45 percent of the workforce in Southeast Asia, which has a population in excess of 650 million, they are paid 25 percent less than their male counterparts in some countries.

Given this, it is necessary for regional countries to take joint action and adopt effective solutions to raise the position of women in the modern era.

Women at the centre of post-pandemic reconstruction, recovery

National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan told the summit that ASEAN should put women at the focus of reconstruction and recovery, enhance their leadership and voice in decision making, and increase their economic empowerment to narrow development gaps.

Pointing out complex developments regionally and globally, Ngan called on ASEAN to adopt new, creative, and effective approaches to upholding women’s role in every respect, especially by tapping into the benefits offered by digital technology.

Leaders at the summit acknowledged women’s indispensable role and contribution to ASEAN’s socio-economic development and the maintenance of peace and security regionally and throughout the world.

Their crucial role is vividly demonstrated in the fight against COVID-19, as women form the majority of frontline responders, social workers, health professionals, and community volunteers as well as caregivers at home and in the community.

Women’s empowerment initiatives - Highlight of Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship hinh anh 2National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan speaks at the summit. (Photo: VNA)

Leaders acknowledged the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, most notably the heightened risk of infection, loss of employment and livelihoods, lower availability of quality healthcare and essential services, and increases in the incidence of gender-based violence.

They also recognised that the pandemic threatens to reverse hard-fought gains in gender equality and empowerment for women and girls.

Moving forward with ASEAN’s comprehensive and sustainable recovery, leaders committed to placing women’s leadership and contributions at the heart of recovery efforts, particularly in the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its Implementation Plan.

In this regard, leaders reaffirmed ASEAN’s steadfast commitment and staunch efforts to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all respects, towards realising an inclusive, people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN Community, as reflected in the ASEAN Charter, the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, and the ASEAN Community Blueprints 2025.

In her opening remarks at the summit, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, who is also a Special Advocate to the UN Secretary-General for Inclusive Finance for Development, spoke highly of women’s increasingly important role in the development of the world, including the increasing economic empowerment of women from inclusive finance, digital transformation, and e-commerce.

World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific, Victoria Kwakwa, shared suggestions to protect women’s health as well as help them join socio-economic activities following the pandemic.

Enhancing women’s role in ASEAN Community building

Earlier, in June, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc chaired the ASEAN Leaders’ Special Session on Women’s Empowerment in the Digital Age, as part of the 36th ASEAN Summit.

This was also an initiative of Vietnam to affirm ASEAN leaders’ commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and to enhance the role of women in building the ASEAN Community.

In his remarks, the PM highlighted the role played by women and their contributions to humanity’s efforts to respond to challenges and to promote development in each ASEAN member country.

There remains inequality and discrimination against women, however, which inhibits their development and contributions to the community, he said.

The PM underlined the need for ASEAN to take action to utilise women’s potential and create conditions for them to use their strengths and contribute to development in regional countries in particular and the ASEAN Community in general, especially in the digital age.

According to the UN, women make up only 2 percent of the total number of negotiators and mediators in the world but are indispensable in cooperative processes that help create sustainable peace and security, he said.

The ASEAN Community has affirmed its goal of developing into a community in which everyone is treated equally and the rights of women are promoted and protected, Phuc stressed.

ASEAN members have effectively implemented plans and programmes as well as mechanisms regarding women, towards building a people-centred ASEAN Community, he said.

Ngan, who is also Chair of the 41st General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA 41), spoke highly of the initiatives from and strong commitment of ASEAN in promoting the role and rights of women and women’s empowerment in the digital age. She also proposed measures to make progress more effective in the future.

She expressed her belief that ASEAN will continue to take advantage of being the region with the world’s fastest internet growth to enhance the position of women, especially those in leadership positions, thus contributing to ensuring gender equality.

Women’s empowerment initiatives - Highlight of Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship hinh anh 3The ASEAN Leaders’ Special Session on Women’s Empowerment in the Digital Age formed part of the 36th ASEAN Summit. (Photo: VNA)

For his part, ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi underlined the significance and timing of the session, as it takes place amid challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The special session not only reaffirms ASEAN’s commitment to realising equality for all but also shines a light on the indispensable role of women as drivers of urgent change in the digital age, he said.

Participants discussed measures to promote and uphold the role and contributions of women as well as women’s empowerment in the digital age, and how to facilitate their participation in building an ASEAN Community based on the three pillars of politics-security, economy, and socio-culture.

Ways were also sought to promote ASEAN women’s effective contributions to efforts to maintain peace, security, stability, sustainable development, and multilateral cooperation in countries and the region./.

Thu Huong VNA