Ministers and senior government representatives from Asia and the Pacific on Friday committed to ensuring greater empowerment of rural women and girls to improve their standard of living, food security and livelihoods.
The pledge was made at the regional consultation for the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) held in Bangkok.
Rural women and girls continue to face structural barriers that impact their human rights and prevent them from achieving their full potential. Achieving adequate living standards, women’s economic empowerment, land rights, food security, health care, quality education, resilience and preparedness to deal with disasters and conflicts are among the main challenges faced by rural women and girls in Asia-Pacific.
The ‘Asia-Pacific Regional High-Level Meeting for CSW62: Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls’ adopted a set of recommendations that will feed into CSW62 – the leading intergovernmental body dedicated exclusively to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women worldwide – to be held at the UN Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018.
The recommendations reflect the urgent need to strengthen normative and legal frameworks, and ensure coordinated action for the social and economic empowerment and meaningful participation of rural women and girls in society. Delegates further highlighted the importance of establishing innovative financing models and enhancing access to ICT and other technologies. They also stressed the need for improved availability of data and gender statistics to enhance evidence-based policy making.
In her opening statement, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Dr. Shamshad Akhtar stressed “if we do not take concrete actions we risk leaving rural women and girls behind.”
“Development which does not empower rural women and girls is antithetical to a rights-based approach enshrined in the 2030 Agenda,” said Dr. Akhtar. “We must work together to create an enabling environment which supports women and girls in rural areas of Asia and the Pacific to unfold their full potential as powerful agents of change.”
Dr. Miwa Kato, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific for the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), underscored that “the 2030 Agenda is a commitment to leaving no-one behind.”
“We know rural women and girls face more difficulties than men in accessing productive resources, public services and social protection, as well as paid employment and markets for trade,” said Dr. Kato. “This is partly due to negative gender stereotypes, harmful practices and structural inequalities that must be addressed.”
Dr. Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), added, “Evidence shows that if rural women had access to, and control of, the same resources as men, their contributions would increase food production by as much as four per cent. Most importantly, this would have benefits for the entire family – with greater food and nutrition security as well as improved health and well-being of children.”
The meeting was organized by ESCAP, the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific and other members of the Asia-Pacific UN Regional Coordination Mechanism Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (TWG-GEEW).