The United Nation defines gender mainstreaming (GM) as the public policy concept of assessing the different implications for people of different genders of any planned policy action, including legislation and programmes, in all areas and levels. Mainstreaming essentially offers a pluralistic approach that values the diversity among people of different genders.
Women are crucial to the development of ASEAN, and the organization recognises the needs to incorporate gender perspectives across ASEAN communities and sectoral bodies.
The three-day conference was organised by the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) as the Philippine focal point of the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW), in partnership with ASEAN-USAID IGNITE (Inclusive Growth in ASEAN through Innovation, Trade and E-Commerce) Project and the Australian Project Investing in Women (Philippines). It served as a venue to discuss internationally recognised women’s issues that are relevant to the mandates of AEC sectoral bodies.
This initiative is part of the three-part series of conferences to support the development and implementation of gender mainstreaming initiatives across all sectoral bodies in the three ASEAN pillars. It is part of the ACW’s Work Plan for 2016-2022.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary and Director General to the ASEAN-Philippines National Secretariat Ms Junever M. Mahilum-West stated that gender inequality has tangible impacts on the economy. Through her welcoming address, she also noted that economic gender gaps seems to be the source of accountable losses in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of ASEAN Member States, despite the region positive economic growth. She stressed on the importance of the strong support of the private/business sectors towards GM in AEC Sectoral Bodies.
Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) Chair Dr Rhodora M. Bocoy highlighted the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) aim to strengthen women’s participation in the economy and women empowerment. This conference is one of the efforts put in place to implement ACW’s Work Plan for 2016-2022 to promote GM in ASEAN. She also mentioned that gender mainstreaming has been included in the ASEAN Declaration 2025 and Agenda 2030.
Deputy Secretary-General of the AEC Dr Aladdin D. Rillo noted on the low labour force participation of women in the ASEAN region. In addition, the national income does not recognise and take into account unpaid care work of women. National policies should emulate the UN and World Bank in recognising the importance of GM as it will potentially be beneficial to economic growth.
The first session aimed to contextualise Gender Mainstreaming in the AEC. Through this session that featured several notable panellists, it was observed that women face numerous barriers in securing stable and decent work opportunities, such as social, cultural, religious and institutional biases, susceptibility to violence and abuse, as well as stumbling blocks in ICT implementation. It was observed that the economic gender gap is larger in traditionally male-dominated jobs, as well as a general decrease in global work force participation of women.
Members of the panel agreed that GM is imperative to ensure greater women’s visibility and participation for a more inclusive ASEAN. ASEAN countries experience a robust yet inequitable economic growth. Women’s economic empowerment is a way for the UN SDGs to be achieved. Government policies, regulations and procedures need to be streamlined, helping women overcome hurdles by providing financial incentives and promoting the cluster approach business incubation facilities.
A research series by McKinsey & Company titled “Power of Parity” was highlighted in this session. The series found that a significant growth dividend can be gained from advancing women’s equality in Asia Pacific: the region could stand to gain an increase in GDP that is equivalent to the combined growth of Germany and Austria.
Ms Kristine continued with stating that the government and the private sector of each ASEAN Member State should work hand-in-hand to prioritise and address the economic gender issues which are: women’s labour-force participation, business leadership, access to digital technology and societal attitudes enforcing gender stereotypes.
Gender statistics is a crucial tool in evidence-based policymaking. Identifying, producing, disseminating, and analysing statistics are keys to understanding how gender issues affect individuals and society. A scorecard system is already in place to monitor and evaluate AEC, which tracks implementation, compliance and progress of each ASEAN Member State on measures that contribute to the four pillars of the 2015 AEC Blueprint.
The second session is titled "Application of Learnings and Validation of Preliminary Assessment Questionnaire – Breakout Sessions by Sectoral Body”. This session discussed the Philippine Commission on Women’s (PCW) Gender Mainstreaming Evaluation Framework (GMEF) as a possible framework in mainstreaming gender in the AEC. It features notable practices of mainstreaming gender in specific sectors such as transportation and agriculture. These practices can be references for replication or adoption in responding to critical gender issues in the economic pillar.
Sectoral bodies were grouped based on major thematic areas to discuss critical gender issues in their sector based on the responses in the Preliminary Assessment of Gender Mainstreaming Initiatives Questionnaire. The main output of the breakout sessions were action plans outlining specific interventions or actions to address sectoral gender issues.
Representatives from 10 ASEAN Member States (AMS) and various sectoral bodies of the AEC mapped their proposed actions and strategies in bridging the identified gender disparities in economic development in the region.
Priority gender issues or gaps identified in the COST sector were the following:
From these identified issues and gaps, strategies were put forward and ASEAN sectoral bodies were chosen to lead or initiate the action.
As a continuity to this conference, the Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan will be forwarded and discussed at ASEAN Ministerial meeting on Women (AMMW), which will be held in 2019.