Much has been achieved in the advancement of women’s rights in the fields of public service, business, academe, arts and culture. Such advancement was the fruit of the persistent struggle of the women whose defiance to break successive glass ceilings was often met with scorn, disdain and violence. It is true that in some societies the women’s movements have already brought their countries to greater progress while in others the challenges to empowerment persist and the struggles continue to play out. Therefore, as progressives and feminist women and men, we commit to join together to contribute in closing the gender gap.
Across the Asia-Pacific region, it is evident that much has to be done. Our region is home to a diverse set of cultures and traditions. Sadly, we are also home to a diversity of entrenched cultural, political and economic institutions which continue to hinder the full realization of women’s capabilities. Equally disheartening are the justifications to this unequal status of women: that it is part of our cultures, that such inequality is irrelevant in light of the need for economic growth.
We strongly question existing development models that keep women oppressed and disadvantaged. There is a need for a progressive development agenda that is responsive and sensitive to the diversity of their race, ethnicity, physical ability, faith/ non-faith and sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).
Amid these challenges, the task is not for women alone to bear. Men have an equal responsibility in closing the gender gap as well. At the core of our progressive values is the concept of solidarity and that such solidarity is a potent force for change. A sisterhood of progressives must be partner with an equivalent effort among the men of our societies to close the gender gap.
We must overcome political, economic and cultural barriers to gender equality. As political and social activists, there is a clear need for our societies to institute policies which expand the rights of women and ensure that those that have already been achieved are not eroded. Our commitment must be met with concrete policies within our organizations, within our parties to ensure that women actively take part, claim ownership and enabled leadership in the political and social goals that we are fighting for.
It is clearly necessary to ensure that gender gap indicators be confronted and addressed in different parts of the world. Not only should equal pay for equal work must be a reality but the equal right to participate in the labor market. Such can only be achieved when economic development is truly inclusive with special attention to poor women who bear a greater burden from poverty and marginalization. Poverty and gender inequality go hand in hand when our societies fail to confront the seeming intertwined problems of economic and gender inequality. Crucial to this also is ensuring and enhancing women’s participation in unions or similar associations and crafting social protection mechanisms such as pensions, maternity leave and benefits, and similar policies that safeguard a dignified life for all, especially the disadvantaged women. It must be stressed that women’s reproductive health and rights must be recognized. Access to quality education and trainings is imperative.
We recognize that even in developed countries, women still are underrepresented in different fields of expertise and in top positions therein including politics. The problems of aging populations foster different problems in the workforce but affects women differently in terms of industry bias in employing women and the unequal compensation. As in developing countries, it is important to break stereotypes, assert equal pay and promote enabling conditions that will address women empowerment and opportunities. Political participation of women must not only be formal but also substantive. Political parties across the region who stand for progressive values must open the doors of leadership to women at all levels. Affirmative actions like quotas, incentives and consequent practices that allow for meaningful engagement of women within political parties indicate its internal democracy, commitment to equality and reflect within what it promotes outside: clear and responsive gender-sensitive or feminist governance.
Electoral reforms should further strengthen the right to suffrage by making the voting process accessible. Similarly, governments must make greater effort to expanding the venues by which women can push for redress, reforms and better services for themselves and their families. Treatment of women at home, at school, at the workplace must center on their inherent human rights. No woman should be treated any less and fear for their safety simply for speaking their minds, going to school, or making a living. While women are indispensable movers in families, it is in no way their only place. In our countries, we must work to make our respective cultural, academic, and professional fields open and accepting to women. Our youth are important agents in pushing for reforms in these fields. A more socially connected generation is more open to new ideas and as such must be actively engaged by our movements to promote a more gender responsive culture.
As progressives and feminists, we must continue to address the realities that make gender inequality a continuing struggle while also promoting feminist values to the future generation who can in turn change not only traditional mindsets but also barrier-laden institutions. We collectively commit to pursue within our own organizations and in the public sphere our priority agenda to close the gender gap:
Mainstream gender agenda and gender lens in all sectors and institutions to break down barriers against gender-responsive policies and and build public-private work environment gender-sensitive;
Employ a minimum 33% gender quota for women and eventually close it succeedingly within parties and public offices and pursue affirmative quotas as well in the private enterprises and/or corporations;
Condemn any form of violence against women and children , move to criminalize sexual violence and enable strict implementation of domestic laws including measures of prevention and active rehabilitation for victims of violence and abuse;
Push for equal pay and quality public care work i.e. nursing, child care, elderly care and pursue legislation of the same including maternal-paternal leave and incentives to reproductive work;
Institutionalize equal access to support system of education and training, legal and health services for women to enable equalization of opportunities and equal outcomes to the lives of women and men;
Launch education program for both men and women regarding gender issues and the progressive gender agenda;
Commit to build cross-sectoral, cross-party and cross-generational alliances to strengthen the women’s rights-equal rights movement that win battles to close the gender gap. Women who account for half our world can no longer be treated as half their true worth.