Promote gender equality and empower women

Where are we?

  Omwati with her child seeking information on entitlements under various government schemes during a gram sabha meeting in Kanchodhar village in Madhya Pradesh on November 5, 2012. Photo credit: Powell Hatvalne/UNDP India

Asia and the Pacific, on average, have achieved gender parity across all levels of education; in primary, secondary and tertiary education. Among Asian countries, only Pakistan is unlikely to meet the target of equal access of girls and boys to education at all levels of education if progress is not accelerated. At the tertiary level, other South Asian countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India as well as Cambodia and Timor-Leste are unlikely to meet the target of gender parity. On the contrary, more women than men are enrolled in tertiary education in East Asia and South-East Asia as a whole. 

Despite the progress made towards gender equality in education, women in the region continue facing severe deficits in decision-making power and economic power. Asia and the Pacific has the world’s second-lowest percentage of women parliamentarians. The Pacific sub-region has four of the world’s six countries with no women legislators.

Women’s share in non-agricultural wage employment is around the world’s average of 40 percent in East and South-East Asia and the Pacific, the proportion is just 20 percent in South Asia. When paid employment opportunities for women are limited, women are more likely than men to work as family workers on farms or other family business enterprises or self-employed with little or no social benefits and financial security. More than 80 percent of total employment among women belongs to this type of work in South Asia and the Pacific.

The suppression of women’s voices in public sphere influences their decision-making power at home and discriminatory social and cultural norms, which contributes to gender inequality further. Due to strong preferences for male children, it was estimated that more than 100 million women are ‘missing’ as a result of sex-selective abortion or neglected care of female child. Maternal health is given the least priority in development policy and programmes. Gender-based violence remains a continuing problem. Women in Asia and the Pacific are less likely than men to own assets - whether they are financial assets, land, housing, or business assets; and when they own the value of women’s asset are lower than that of men’s.

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