MANILA, 30 August 2017 – In response to ASEAN Chair President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for gender equality at the 30th ASEAN Summit  in  Manila, Philippines, some 150 leading figures from ASEAN countries gathered at a forum to explore public-private partnership strategies to overcome discrimination of women and barriers in accessing economic opportunities, particularly trade.

The forum was jointly organised by the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network (AWEN) in partnership with the Philippine Department of Trade and industry, the Philippine Commission on Women, the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises.

According to the Study on the Projected Gender Impact of the ASEAN Economic Community published in 2016 by the ASEAN Secretariat, in order to reap the full benefits of trade expansion and economic integration, trade and non-trade policies and programmes need to avoid bias toward a particular sex or social gender.

Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya, Regional Operations Group of the Department of Trade and Industry, Philippines said, “Today’s discussion was organised specifically as a response to the mandate from ASEAN Leaders to mainstream gender equality across the ASEAN Community.”

“At USAID, we believe that gender equality and women’s empowerment can unlock human potential on a transformational scale. We see across ASEAN the economic advancements made when women have equal access to opportunities and gender disparities, such as the gender income gap, are addressed,” said Ryan Washburn, Acting USAID ASEAN Principal Officer. “Regional policies that promote gender equality play an important role in bolstering economic growth and shared prosperity,” Ryan added.

A study by McKinsey Global Institute in 2015 study showed that the world would gain US$28 trillion by 2025 with the elimination of the disparities borne by women in the work force.  This value is greater than that of the combined economies of the United States and China in 2016.

“Today’s discussion is important in setting the course for the future direction of women’s roles not only in their own communities but also in the region’s economic growth potential,”  according to Ms. Pacita Juan, Chairperson of AWEN.

Supported and published by  USAID through its Philippines’ Trade-Related Assistance for Development (TRADE) Project, a book entitled Women Beyond Borders, the Beginning of GREAT Women in ASEAN was launched at the forum. Written by Jeannie Javelosa, one of Philippines’ leading women entrepreneurs, the book outlines the story of an advocacy-driven brand which fosters women’s economic empowerment in the region. This brand includes the GREAT Women in ASEAN initiative sponsored by USAID through its ASEAN Connectivity through Trade and Investment (ACTI) Project. GREAT Women stands for Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women.

ACTI is one of the many U.S. initiatives in support of ASEAN and its ten Member States. The United States partners with ASEAN to support economic integration, expand maritime cooperation, cultivate emerging leaders, promote opportunity for women, and address transnational challenges. ASEAN commemorates its 50th anniversary this year as it also celebrates 40 years of partnership with the U.S.


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