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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

15 October 2021


Your Excellency Mr. Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),

Your Excellency Ibu I Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia and Incoming Chair of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women,

Your Excellency Dao Ngoc Dung, Minister of Labour, Invalids, Social Affairs of Viet Nam (as the outgoing AMMW Chair 2018 – 2021),

Your Excellency Inlavanh Keobounphanh, Minister of Women, Family and Community Development of Lao PDR, as the incoming AMMW Vice-Chair 2021-2024,

Excellencies, Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my distinct pleasure to join you today at the 4th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women to talk about the critical importance of women’s economic empowerment, financial inclusion and digital economy.

Today’s conversation is building on the momentum produced by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals to emphasize the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a development goal of its own, but also as a driver of the achievement of all other SDGs.

Economic empowerment enables women to make a living, be independent, manage their own finances, build financial security and stability, and increase their influence over the household budget.

Women tend to invest a higher proportion of their income in the health and well-being of their families and communities. Therefore, women's economic empowerment is also about ensuring better development outcomes, increased economic productivity, and making institutions and policies more representative.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Today, women increasingly contribute to economic growth, and political and social transformation as educators, carers, entrepreneurs and political leaders. Nevertheless, gaps remain, and women's contributions are too often overlooked and undervalued. Moreover, a large majority of women work in the informal sector, with low wages, precarious employment, no social protection and increased vulnerability.

The disproportionate distribution of unpaid care and domestic work is one of the key root causes of the persistent inequalities between women and men, girls and boys.

Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, women and girls in the Asia-Pacific region already performed more than four times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men and boys, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this further.

From educational prospects to decent work opportunities, women and girls are at a disadvantage when the large bulk of the unpaid care and domestic work falls on their shoulders.

Yesterday we launched the ASEAN-UN ESCAP Joint Report on Addressing Unpaid Care and Domestic Work in ASEAN. The report takes stock of the situation of unpaid care and domestic work performed by women in the ASEAN region. It suggests concrete care policy actions to support the accelerated action needed to “build back equal.”

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We must invest in women and girls and tackle negative social norms and socio-economic barriers that hinder women from reaching their full potential. This involves recognizing, redistributing and reducing the burden of women's unpaid care and domestic work.

We must ensure the implementation of key commitments, such as the Asia-Pacific Declaration on Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, adopted in 2019.

We need to step up innovations and the use of technology to ensure women's equal rights to property, credit, land and natural resources and decent work.

In this regard, we will continue to support ASEAN countries in expanding women’s economic opportunities and fostering a gender-responsive ecosystem to catalyze women’s entrepreneurship.

I would like to reiterate ESCAP’s commitment to promoting and supporting women's economic empowerment and strengthening the care economy in the ASEAN region, in close collaboration with the ASEAN Committee on Women and ASEAN Secretariat.

Together with the UN family and our other committed partners, we stand ready to support countries in our region on their continued and accelerated journey towards the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Thank you very much.

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