A study visit to the United States from 18-25 April 2012 was concluded by the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children with the support of the ASEAN-U.S. Technical Assistance and Training Facility. With stops in Washington, D.C. and New York City, the ACWC along with ASEAN Secretariat representatives met with various U.S. government officials, civil society, private entities, academic organisations, media, and UN Agencies.

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On behalf of the U.S. Secretary of State, H.E. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues H.E. Melanne Verveer, welcomed the ACWC. “It was a pleasure to facilitate what I hope were mutually informative exchanges between the ACWC representatives and their U.S. counterparts,” said Ambassador Verveer. “I am confident that their visit is just the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership between the United States and ASEAN to protect and raise the status of women and children everywhere. Our global prosperity and stability depend upon it.”

In Washington D.C., the ACWC met with senior officials from the State Department, Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky, Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The ACWC was also engaged in dialogues with numerous civil society organisations, academics, and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Information and views were exchanged on the U.S. priorities, programmes, and development assistance in support of women’s and children’s advancement, as well as issues affecting the lives of women and children in ASEAN, and the ACWC’s work priorities. Discussions highlighted the issues of women’s political and economic participation, women’s rights in the work place, female migrant workers, gender-based violence, women’s role and concerns in security and peace, HIV prevalence, child protection system, early child care education, and juvenile justice system.

The ACWC also shared its perspectives on the situations of women and children in Southeast Asia at the Roundtable Discussion that convened at American University in Washington D.C. hosted by the ASEAN Studies Center and the East West Center. Another Roundtable Discussion also took place at New York University hosted by the Center for Global Affairs.

In New York City, the ACWC visited the Children’s Aid Society’s community school which is a model of integrated education approach to support student learning with the stronger involvement of families and communities. They also met with representatives of the investment giant Goldman Sachs that introduced its “10,000 Women Initiative” and Newsweek & The Daily Beast to discuss ways in which media can support women’s and children’s rights.

Consultations were convened with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and various UN Agencies, including: UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on global and regional issues as well as their respective work priorities concerning women and children in ASEAN.

“The study visit provided an opportunity for the ACWC to better understand, among others, the child protection and juvenile justice systems as well as the policies and practices for the fulfillment of child rights in the United States”, said Mr. Ahmad Taufan Damanik, the ACWC Vice-Chair and Indonesia’s Representative for children’s rights.

Mdm. Aurora Javate-De Dios, the Philippines’ Representative for women’s rights, also shared her views on how the ACWC benefits from the study visit. “Our U.S. trip helped us appreciate how the U.S. Government has made women’s and children’s issues a strategic component of their development and foreign policy agenda.”  She further said, “Aside from having the opportunity  to network with diverse groups of government officials, NGOs, academics, and media,  the meetings and conversations in the study visits provided many innovative and creative ideas on how to mainstream and project women’s and children’s issues particularly in the policies, programmes, and government projects.”

“This  study visit  to U.S. has substantially widened  ACWC’s perspectives with  regards  to the promotion  and protection  of women’s rights  and children’s  rights  in ASEAN.” echoed Mdm. Kanda Vajrabhaya, the ACWC Chair and Thailand’s Representative for women’s rights. Thanking the U.S. State Department, she continued, “Their enormous effort to prepare and coordinate the visit schedule and other logistics throughout the study visit is greatly appreciated.” She further underlined, “ACWC welcomes the possibility to collaborate in the projects and activities of mutual interest in the future and hopes that the networks established during the visit will be maintained and strengthened.”