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International Women's Day

Stand-alone development goal on gender equality needed: UN

From left, Roberta Clarke, Gita Sen, and Sivananthi Thanenthiran

From left, Roberta Clarke, Gita Sen, and Sivananthi Thanenthiran

To ensure gender equality and women's empowerment receive sufficient priority as necessary conditions for meaningful, inclusive and sustainable development, any post-2015 development framework should contain a stand-alone goal on gender equality, the United Nations underscored at a Bangkok forum.

In commemoration of International Women's Day 2014, UN Women and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) held the joint event to discuss the progress made for women's rights, women's empowerment and gender equality under the global theme: Equality for Women is Progress for All.

The forum highlighted gender inequality and gender-based discrimination as impeding progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are set to expire in 2015 and women's rights experts across the globe have underlined urgent actions are needed to ensure gender equality.

Despite important gains in areas such as girls' access to primary education, less headway has been made in addressing high levels of maternal mortality, women's access to decent work and women's and girls' access to safe, reliable and hygienic sanitation facilities.

In addressing the forum, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar said: "Fourteen years since the Millennium Declaration, it is clearer than ever that 'progress and prosperity for all' requires us to tackle the structural, root causes of inequality between women and men, girls and boys, in Asia-Pacific and across the globe."

The commemoration featured an interactive dialogue that reflected on the impact of the MDGs on the achievement of women's rights and discussed how gender equality can be achieved in the region amid rising inequality.

"International Women’s Day is therefore also a day to recommit ourselves to working harder for gender equality, together as women, men, youth and leaders of nations, communities, religion and commerce," said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women in her message for International Women's Day.

"We also acknowledge that progress has been slow, uneven and in some cases women and girls face new and more complex challenges."

Women in the Asia-Pacific region in particular, continue to face severe deficits in health and education, and in their access to power, voice and rights. The skewed male-female child sex ratio is just one example; there are 115.4 boys under the age of 15 for every 100 girls of the same age in East and North-East Asia, and 109.3 in South and South-West Asia. Women are

less likely to own assets, and women's participation in non-agricultural wage employment increased only marginally from 28 to 31 per cent, between 1990 and 2009. The region has seen slow progress in terms of women's participation in decision making, with the second lowest percentage of parliamentarians who are women.

The event featured a panel discussion with Roberta Clarke, Regional Director of UN Women Asia and the Pacific and Representative in Thailand, Dr. Gita Sen, Founder and member of the Executive Committee of the Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), India and Sivananthi Thanenthiran, Executive Director of the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Malaysia.

The Asia-Pacific Commemoration of International Women's Day was organised by the United Nations Asia-Pacific Regional Coordination Mechanism Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.


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