Australian Embassy

Media Release - 04/12/2014

Australia Mekong NGO Dialogue to improve opportunity for women’s participation in economic development


HA NOI, VIETNAM (27 August 2014) – Today, the Australian Government is hosting a Forum for partners from across the region on “ASEAN Integration and Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Mekong”.

Being the first of this type to be held in the Mekong region, the Forum focuses on how women here can reach their full economic and social potential. The Forum is also an important channel of discussion between multiple stakeholders to ensure women get the most out of economic development in the context of ASEAN integration.

“The Mekong region is becoming more interconnected, and opportunities to examine issues from a regional perspective are very important”, says Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, HE Mr Hugh Borrowman. “I hope this is the first of many meetings in the Mekong region which will help us to discuss innovative solutions to critical regional development issues”.

ASEAN integration can be a huge boost for women’s economic participation. However, gaps caused by gender inequality such as access to finance, business skills and markets can slow down economic growth. The United Nations has valued the ‘gap’ caused by women ‘missing’ economic participation at USD 89 billion in the Asia Pacific each year.

Women can encounter multiple barriers such as unequal laws, inability to meet collateral requirements due to lack of property ownership, harassment in the public sphere, and insufficient business knowledge, capacity and financial literacy. Women also face both direct and indirect discrimination because of gender stereotyping. Traditional beliefs which undervalue women’s capacities and potential are an invisible barrier to their participation.

“Gender Equality’ is not only an obligation towards collecting accurate development statistics, but rather a sensible opportunity, as the benefits of including women will pay off with tangible value added in the long term”, says Cambodian Minister for Women’s Affairs, HE Dr Ing Khanthaphavy, who is also a key-note speaker at the Forum.

“In the context of many social prejudices, the role of women can be enhanced and gender equality achieved only when women are empowered in economic, political and social spheres,” says Le Kim Dung, Director General of the International Cooperation Department of Vietnam’s Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs. “As part of a general ASEAN trend, Vietnam has been actively promoting gender equality, empowerment, and women’s economic participation in Vietnam.”

The Forum is also an opportunity for participants to share their experiences as women social leaders and entrepreneurs from all sectors, including civil society, academia, the private sector and business associations.

The Australian Government is strongly committed to supporting women’s economic empowerment in the Mekong region. The Forum takes place under the framework of the Australia-Mekong NGO Engagement Platform (AMNEP).

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Sarah Ransom | First Secretary (Development Cooperation)
Regional Civil Society Specialist
Australian Embassy Hanoi
Tel.: (84 4) 3774 0140