The promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are consistent priorities of ASEAN. High-level political commitment has been afforded by the ASEAN Leaders in advancing the rights and welfare of women and girls through ASEAN’s regional cooperation, and in the national policies and programmes of ASEAN Member States.
The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, in its General Principles, states that the rights of women, among others, are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The ASEAN Community Vision 2025 envisions “an inclusive community that promotes high quality of life, equitable access to opportunities for all and promotes and protects human rights of women…”, among others. The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community 2025 has identified strategic measures that seeks to reduce barriers faced by women and girls, promote and protect human rights, and ensure equitable access for all, among others.
The regional strategic direction that ASEAN is taking towards the empowerment of women and girls are guided by the following regional instruments:
- Declaration on the Advancement of Women in the ASEAN Region (1988)
- Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the ASEAN Region (2004)
- Ha Noi Declaration on the Enhancement of the Welfare and Development of ASEAN Women and Children (2010)
- Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Elimination of Violence Against Children (2013)
- ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (2015)
- ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Children (2015)
- ASEAN Declaration on the Gender-responsive Implementation of ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the Sustainable Development Goals (2017)
ASEAN’s cooperation on promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are also guided by and resonates with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals.
In 1975, during the first meeting of the ASEAN Standing Committee, it established the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Women (ASW). The ASW held its first meeting in June 1976 in Makati City, the Philippines to discuss the ASEAN Strategy for the implementation of the World Plan of Action towards achieving the objectives of the United Nations International Decade for Women (1975-1985). It was also during the first meeting of the ASW that a working group was established to draft the constitution of the ASEAN Confederation of Women’s Organisations (ACWO) in order to strengthen the role of women in development with the cooperation of women non-government organisations.
In 1981, the ASW met again as the ASEAN Women’s Programme (AWP) under the Committee on Social Development (COSD). At this meeting, AWP ratified and adopted ACWO’s constitution, and subsequently a plan of action covering the period 1981 to 1986 was developed.
In 1996, at the 15th AWP Meeting, the AWP agreed to be renamed as the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Women (ASW), which was duly approved by the COSD.
In 2001, at the 20th ASW Meeting, a decision was made to elevate ASW into a full committee, which is the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW).
In 2002, the 1st ACW Meeting was held in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. A key discussion during the meeting was the convening of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women (AMMW).
In 2011, the ministers in-charge of women from all the ten ASEAN Member States convened the AMMW Preliminary Meeting in Bogor, Indonesia. Subsequently, the 1st AMMW Meeting was held back-to-back with the 10th ACW Meeting in Lao PDR.
- ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women (AMMW). Composed of ministers in-charge of women and girls in all ASEAN Member States, the AMMW sets the strategic policy direction on ASEAN’s regional cooperation on women. The AMMW is under the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Pillar.
- ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW). ACW is a subsidiary body of the AMMW composed of senior officials in the respective ministries in-charge of women and girls. The ACW supports AMMW by recommending regional policies, developing and implementing the five-year regional work plan, and managing partnerships.
- ACW Plus Three. This is an annual meeting of the ACW with the Plus Three Countries namely China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, and serves as a regular platform for exchanging policies and good practices on the empowerment of women and girls.
- ACW-ACWC Consultation Meeting. This consultative meeting serves as a platform for the ACW and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) to synergise their efforts on areas of mutual interest, as well as purposively facilitate partnerships on complementing issues such as gender mainstreaming, gender and climate change, and non-gender stereotyping, among others.
- ACW and ACWC Joint Ad-hoc Working Group on Gender Mainstreaming. The ad-hoc working group was established to develop a comprehensive strategy to mainstream gender perspectives across all the three ASEAN Community pillars.
- ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN). AWEN is a network of business women in the region. It serves as a platform to exchange knowledge and experiences on promoting economic and trade activities in order to enhance gender equality, and empower and strengthen entrepreneurship skills of women in ASEAN Community. AWEN seeks to create a favorable environment for female-led enterprises and support for women entrepreneurship in the region.
ASEAN Committee on Women Work Plan 2016-2020
Building on the gains from implementing the Work Plan for Women’s Advancement and Gender Equality (2005-2010), the Work Plan to Operationalise the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (2006-2010), and the ACW Work Plan 2011-2015, the ASEAN Committee on Women Work Plan 2016-2020 was developed. This five-year work plan contains the following objectives and priority areas:
- Increasethe proportion of women in leadership at AMS levels, particularly in appointed and elected positions in the public and private sectors.
- Promote gender-sensitivity and eliminate gender-stereotyping in primary, secondary and/or tertiary levels in public schools.
- Raise understanding and awareness of media practitioners on gender equality.
- Strengthen the mechanisms for effective gender mainstreaming in AMS and in ASEAN particularly in the three pillars.
- Establish and/or strengthen effective prevention and protection services supported by national EVAW legal framework and institutional mechanism.
- Increase access of women entrepreneurs, including young women, to finance, credit, markets, skill training, technology and social protection.
- Enhance regional and national initiatives to improve the protection and empowerment of women, especially those in vulnerable situations, including the elderly, and those with disabilities, key affected women of HIV/AIDS (women living with HIV/AIDS), internally displaced persons, and women at risk or victims of gender-based violence including domestic violence and trafficking.
- Promotion of women leadership
- Non-gender stereotyping and social norm change
- Gender mainstreaming across the three ASEAN Community pillars
- Elimination of violence against women
- Economic empowerment of women
- Protection and empowerment of women in vulnerable situations
The AMMW, with the support of and through the ACW, continues its strategic partnership with ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners, international organisations and civil society organisations such as Australia, Canada, US, UN Women, UNICEF, UNDP, and ACWO, among others.
- The Thesaurus on Women in Development (1996) (no online copy);
- The First Regional Report on the Advancement of Women (1997) (no online copy);
- The Second Regional Report on the Advancement of Women (2002) (no online copy);
- The ASEAN Committee on Women: 30 Years After (2005)
- The Third Regional Report on the Advancement of Women (2007)
- Projected Gender Impact of the ASEAN Economic Community (2016)
- Strengthening Women’s Entrepreneurship in ASEAN (2017)