Gender Equality in Elected Office in Asia Pacific: Six Actions to Expand Women’s Empowerment
The goal of equal participation for women and men in decision-making roles is essential to achieve social justice and women’s empowerment, to deliver development goals, and to strengthen the legitimacy of democratic bodies. The international community has repeatedly stressed the need to ensure equal rights of men and women. The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) committed the world’s government to removing obstacles facing women’s active participation in all spheres of public and private life through a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural, and political decisionmaking.
1. The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reinforced this commitment. Accordingly, member states have pledged to take all actions necessary for promoting equally effective
participation of men and women in all governance institutions, including elected and appointed bodies, in the judiciary and civil service. The equal enjoyment of human rights is essential for women to participate fully in all spheres of public and private life, and to be empowered as citizens, activists and leaders. Women’s leadership is also essential for inclusive, equitable and sustained development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The Asia-Pacific region continues to confront major challenges in actualizing gender equality in education and the labor market, in social policies, healthcare, and reproductive rights, as well as in the home and care of dependents.
2. Some issues face women and men equally. However, women of all ages are particularly vulnerable to problems arising from lack of access to land, credit and decent paid work, poverty within single parent households, gender-based violence, female infanticide, sex trafficking, lack of marital and inheritance rights, access to justice as well as the challenges of sexual assault and rape in war-torn societies. Development cannot be effective if decision-making excludes 51% of the world’s population. Women in decision-making roles also have a voice in the policy agenda.
3. In seeking to address complex challenges, the inclusion of women’s voices in public policymaking processes broadens the range of diverse experiences, outlooks, and talent brought into deliberations. Legislative bodies with members drawn from diverse backgrounds and outlooks are generally more innovative, identifying novel solutions ‘outside the box’ to tackle complex