ASEAN leaders recognise and reaffirm the importance of women and their participation in development. ASEAN Member Countries have been supportive of efforts to promote the status of women and have participated actively in the regional and international arena pertaining to women’s advancement.
Efforts towards establishing an ASEAN involvement, as a region, in women’s issues began during the ASEAN Women Leaders’ Conference held in 1975. The ASEAN Sub-Committee on Women (ASW) was established in 1976 and was renamed the ASEAN Women’s Programme (AWP) in 1981. To give a fresh impetus to the on-going ASEAN cooperation on women’s issues, this sectoral body was restructured into the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women (AMMW) in 2002. The coordination and monitoring of the implementation of ASEAN’s key regional priorities and cooperation in women’s issues and concerns are carried out by the AMMW which meets regularly every year.
The recognition of women in ASEAN and the commitment to the advancement of women are clearly reflected in the Declaration on the Advancement of Women in ASEAN which was adopted by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in 1988. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the ASEAN Region, adopted by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in 2004, is the second declaration recognising important concerns for women. It also marks the first time that all ten ASEAN Member Countries are committed to this cause at the regional level.
ASEAN cooperation on women is guided by two operational documents:
- The Work Plan for Women’s Advancement and Gender Equality (2005-2010), which has its roots in the 1988 Declaration on the Advancement of Women in ASEAN.
- The Work Plan to Operationalise the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (2006-2010), which builds on existing national efforts, moves forward the priorities of the other Work Plan and integrates all relevant priorities and measures into a consolidated action plan on violence against women.
The strong link in government and non-government partnerships is illustrated in, among others, the close partnership between the AMMW and the ASEAN Confederation on Women’s Organisations (ACWO). The AMMW has also established close partnerships with a number of key international organisations in working for gender equality and advancement, and eliminating violence and discrimination against women. These organisations include CIDA, UNDP and UNIFEM and a framework of cooperation was signed with UNIFEM in 1996.
ASEAN Member Countries have achieved various accomplishments in addressing women’s issues. The AMMW has convened different regional workshops, seminars, training sessions and consultative meetings that provided platforms for government officials, civil society organisations, professionals and other stakeholders to exchange views, share experiences and build commitments and a common understanding on various gender issues.
The ASEAN-High Level Meeting on Gender Mainstreaming within the Context of CEDAW, BPFA and the MDGs which was held in November 2006 is the most prominent example. During the High Level Meeting, the Joint Statement and Commitment to Implement Gender Mainstreaming was adopted.
Various publications and periodic regional reports were also produced. These include:
- The Thesaurus on Women in Development (1996);
- The First Regional Report on the Advancement of Women (1997);
- The Second Regional Report on the Advancement of Women (2002);
- The Third Regional Report on the Advancement of Women (2007).