Monday, March 08, 2010

Asia's economy rising but women falling behind

Asia Pacific is rapidly turning into an economic powerhouse with a vibrant growth story in spite of the global recession which has crippled the conventional economic powers in the west. But when it comes to the development of women and protecting their rights, Asia Pacific continues to be at the bottom of the pile, according to a new report by the UNDP.

The report titled Power Voice and Rights: A Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific , says that discrimination and neglect are threatening women’s very survival in the Asia-Pacific region, where women suffer from some of the world’s lowest rates of political representation, employment and property ownership. Their lack of participation is also depressing economic growth.

The Report focuses on three key areas —economic power, political decision-making and legal rights— to analyse what holds women back, and how policies and attitudes can be changed to foster a climb toward gender equality. Asia, the Report asserts, is standing at a cross-road and by putting the right policies in place now, countries in the region can achieve positive change.

Some of the major challenges women face include lower pay than men for the same work, forced to accept lowly paid jobs that men don't want to undertake, widespread illiteracy, poor representation in politics and legislatures, shorter life expectancy, female infanticide, domestic violence, low ownership of property and inadequate laws to protect their rights.

The report recommends removing barriers to women’s ownership of assets, such as land; expanding paid employment; making migration safe and investing in high-quality education and health to address the problems women face in the region.

While the local governments have to accept much of the responsibility to actively promote the well-being of women and protect their rights, businesses too can play a significant role in the development of women.

Non-discrimination in employment, ensuring gender diversity, protection from sexual harassment, protecting rights of migrant women workers, reasonable maternity benefits, work-life balance policies, training and career growth opportunities and developing women managers are some of the things companies can do to contribute to the development of women.

At the community level, companies can consider actively investing in women education which in turn will ensure more number of educated women are available for jobs.

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