Commission on the Status of Women
4 January 1995
ORIGINAL: CHINESE, ENGLISH, FRENCH AND RUSSIAN
COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
New York, 15 March-4 April 1995
Item 3 (c) of the provisional agenda*
PREPARATIONS FOR THE FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN:
ACTION FOR EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE
Reports from regional conferences and other
Jakarta Declaration and Plan of Action for the Advancement of
Women in Asia and the Pacific adopted by the Second Asian and
Pacific Ministerial Conference on Women in Development, held
at Jakarta from 7 to 14 June 1994
JAKARTA DECLARATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN IN ASIA AND THE
PACIFIC .................................................. 4
PLAN OF ACTION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN IN ASIA AND THE
PACIFIC .................................................. 7
I. MISSION STATEMENT .................................. 7
II. GLOBAL AND REGIONAL OVERVIEW ....................... 7
III. CRITICAL AREAS OF CONCERN........................... 11
A. The growing feminization of poverty ............. 11
B. Inequality in women's access to and participation
in economic activities .......................... 12
C. Inadequate recognition of women's role and concerns in
environment and natural resource management ..... 13
D. Inequitable access to power and decision-making . 14
E. Violation of women's human rights ............... 15
F. Inequalities and lack of access to health ....... 17
G. Inequalities and lack of access to education and
literacy ........................................ 19
H. Negative portrayal of women in the media ........ 20
I. Inadequate mechanisms for promoting the advancement
of women ........................................ 21
J. Inadequate recognition of women's role in
peace-building .................................. 22
IV. GOALS, STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES AND ACTION TO BE TAKEN . 22
A. Vulnerable groups and feminization of poverty ... 22
B. Promoting equality in women's access to and
participation in economic activities ............ 27
C. Recognizing women's role and concerns in
environmental and natural resource management ... 34
D. Supporting equal access of women to power and
decision-making ................................. 36
E. Protecting and promoting women's human rights ... 38
F. Promoting women's equal access to health ........ 42
G. Supporting access to and equality of women in education
and literacy .................................... 44
H. Portraying women positively in the media ........ 46
I. Creating adequate mechanisms for promoting the
advancement of women ............................ 49
J. Enhancing women's role in peace-building ........ 51
V. ARRANGEMENTS FOR IMPLEMENTATION .................... 52
A. Participation ................................... 52
B. Priorities ...................................... 53
C. Coordination..................................... 54
D. Financial arrangements .......................... 55
E. Monitoring and evaluation ....................... 55
JAKARTA DECLARATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF
WOMEN IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
The participants in the Second Asian and Pacific Ministerial
Conference on Women in Development, having met in Jakarta from 7
to 14 June 1994, have reviewed and appraised the implementation
of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of
Women adopted by the World Conference to Review and Appraise the
Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality,
Development and Peace, held in Nairobi in 1985, and prepared for
the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality,
Development and Peace to be held in Beijing from
4 to 15 September 1995;
Reaffirming their commitment to the provisions contained in
the Charter of the United Nations and relevant international
conventions and instruments, in particular the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
Recognizing the national competence of all countries to
formulate, adopt and implement their respective policies on the
advancement of women, mindful of their cultures, values and
traditions, as well as their social, economic and political
Emphasizing the importance of the empowerment of women as a
cornerstone of sustainable development and the strategic role of
women as agents and beneficiaries of development and in the
alleviation of poverty;
Aiming at achieving the full realization of the advancement
of women as equal partners with men, in the family and society,
based on a harmonious and mutually beneficial partnership between
men and women;
Aiming also at enhancing women's full involvement and active
participation in policy- and decision-making processes at all
Desirous of promoting and protecting the human rights of
women at all stages of their life cycle;
Noting with appreciation the efforts and progress made by
the members and associate members of ESCAP to promote the
objectives of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality,
Development and Peace, reaffirmed in the Nairobi Forward-looking
Strategies for the Advancement of Women, their commitment and
leadership shown in the creation and implementation of programmes
to meet these objectives, and the significant contribution made
by non-governmental organizations, particularly grass-roots,
social development and professional women's organizations,
research and higher educational institutions;
Acknowledging efforts at the subregional level to create
frameworks for the advancement of women, such as the Declaration
of the Advancement of Women in the ASEAN Region, the Pacific
Platform for Action: Rethinking Sustainable Development for
Pacific Women towards the Year 2000, and the South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Perspective with
regard to the Fourth World Conference on Women;
Noting further the invaluable contributions of donor
countries, multilateral agencies and non-governmental
organizations in providing technical and financial assistance for
women in development programmes;
Having reaffirmed the principles to which we are committed,
pledge our efforts towards the advancement of women in our
region, concentrating on the following areas:
1. The advancement of women has a bearing on peace and
development, and has implications at all levels, and
should therefore be addressed locally, nationally,
regionally and globally. In particular, women as agents
and beneficiaries of development must be fully
integrated into policy formulation, planning,
decision-making and implementation.
2. Women should have equal rights, obligations and
opportunities with men in all fields and at all levels
of development. Their empowerment and the improvement
of their political, social and economic status are
essential for human development, and self-reliance of
women and their families.
3. Formal, non-formal and informal education is essential
for empowering women with knowledge, skills and
self-confidence for full participation in development.
4. Priority should be given to health programmes targeting
women and the girl-child throughout their life cycle,
particularly in the fields of nutrition, basic health
and reproductive health.
5. The increasing global concern about the human dimensions
of development requires the integration of gender
concerns in all stages and at all levels of sustainable
development as a means to ensure human well-being,
equitably enjoyed by all people. The interrelationship
between population, resources, the environment and
development should be fully recognized, properly managed
and brought into a harmonious and dynamic synergy.
6. Alleviation of poverty and the eradication of absolute
poverty are fundamental to the achievement of
sustainable development and the advancement of women.
Consistent efforts towards achieving a balanced gender
partnership are a prerequisite for the full development
of human potential.
7. Strengthening of national machineries for the
advancement of women in various dimensions and with
effective collaboration between Governments and
non-governmental organizations is essential for the full
and equal integration of women in people-centred
8. The human rights of women and the girl-child are
inalienable, integral and indivisible parts of universal
human rights and consequently all forms of
discrimination against women, sexual exploitation and
gender-based violence should be eliminated.
9. Violence against women in the family, society and
conflict situations must be eliminated if women are to
enjoy their rights as individuals and members of the
family, society, state and global communities. In this
respect, the implementation of the provisions of the
Convention on the limination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, the Declaration on the Elimination
of Violence against Women, and other relevant human
rights instruments and United Nations resolutions is
crucial. The role of women in peace-building and
conflict resolution should be enhanced and strengthened.
10. The media are urged to respect fully the dignity of
women, in particular by portraying women positively in
all their diverse roles.
11. United Nations bodies and specialized agencies,
intergovernmental organizations, donor countries and
agencies, non-governmental organizations, the private
sector and the general public are urged to support and
assist the members and associate members of ESCAP in
implementing the following Plan of Action.
Adopt the following Plan of Action for the Advancement of
Women in Asia and the Pacific as a means to accelerate the
attainment of the objectives of the Nairobi Forward-looking
Strategies in the Asian and Pacific region, and to contribute to
preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action
for Equality, Development and Peace. The participants therefore
commit themselves, taking into account the social, economic and
political conditions of each country, to take all necessary
measures to ensure effective implementation of the following Plan
of Action at the national, regional and international levels in
cooperation with the United Nations system, and other regional
and international organizations as well as non-governmental
PLAN OF ACTION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN IN
ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
I. MISSION STATEMENT
To achieve the equal status of women as participants,
decision makers and beneficiaries in the political, economic,
social and cultural spheres of life.
To promote and ensure the human rights of women at all
stages of their life cycle.
To create or reorient political, economic and social
processes and institutions to enable women to participate fully
and actively in decision-making in the family and community and
at the national, regional and international levels.
To empower women and men to work together as equal partners
and to inspire a new generation of women and men to work together
for equality, sustainable development, and peace.
This Plan of Action lays down a framework which can be used
by national Governments to design concrete programmes and
policies in all spheres of women's involvement so as to bring the
goals envisaged in the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the
Advancement of Women well within the reach of the countries of
the region by the beginning of the twenty-first century. This
plan of action will be a regional input to the Fourth World
Conference on Women to be held in Beijing from 4 to 15 September
II. GLOBAL AND REGIONAL OVERVIEW
1. Since the adoption in 1985 of the Nairobi Forward-looking
Strategies for the Advancement of Women, there have been major
political, economic, social and cultural changes and upheavals
that have had both positive and negative effects on women. The
impact of these global processes on the Asian and Pacific region
forms the background against which the Plan of Action was
formulated and the context within which its proposals for action
will be implemented.
2. In the political sphere, the end of the cold war was
expected to create favourable conditions for peace and stability,
which are prerequisites for sustainable economic and social
progress. However, it has also brought about conflicts arising
out of ethnic, religious, political and other considerations that
jeopardize regional and international peace and stability.
Although the importance of women's roles in maintaining peace and
furthering the process of democratization has been increasingly
recognized, women continue to be specific targets of violence in
situations of armed and non-armed conflict. Women are also
victims of terrorism. To the extent that women continue to be
excluded from political decision-making and conflict resolution,
their vulnerability is heightened.
3. Global economic changes Ä structural change and adjustment,
growing economic interdependence among countries, new regional
and subregional alliances and trading arrangements Ä have
resulted in both advantages and disadvantages for individual
countries in the region and for particular groups within
countries, including women. The general level of economic growth
in the Asian and Pacific region has been particularly high, with
a number of countries experiencing very rapid economic
transformations in which both women and men have been active
participants. However, growth has not been achieved so readily
in other countries, some of which have had to implement
far-reaching economic restructuring and structural adjustment
policies. While such policies offer the potential for long-term
growth by expanding employment opportunities they have resulted
in short-term declines in income and growing unemployment for
some countries and many individuals. Women in poor families,
young women and women workers as a group tend to be both the
majority affected, and the most severely affected, by the
negative effects of structural adjustment policies and the
continuing debt crisis. In the countries in transition from
centrally planned to market economies, women have been
particularly hard hit by large-scale unemployment linked to
cut-backs in State enterprises and by the declines in subsidized
education, health and welfare services.
4. Even where women's participation in the labour force has
increased, this has largely been in non-regular forms of
employment in the informal sector, in home-based work,
subcontracting and part-time work rather than in formal wage
employment. Under such informal work arrangements, women are
often not entitled to non-wage benefits, are subject to poor
working conditions, are not covered by labour legislation and
lack social protection.
5. The conclusion of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement
on Tariffs and Trade promises to increase the international flow
of goods, capital, services and technology, leading to global
economic growth that should benefit both women and men. However,
all countries will not necessarily benefit equally. Inequitable
international structures and unequal relations among countries
may tend to exacerbate international development disparities and
internal inequities. Women have tended to bear the brunt of the
burden of the resultant unemployment and poverty. Consequently,
many have become involved in international labour migration as
countries capitalize on "the comparative advantage of women's
6. Rapid advances in technology affect particular groups of
women in different ways. Advances in technology generally
increase the productivity of labour, contributing to higher
earnings and economic growth, while domestic applications of
technology have the potential to lighten the burden of domestic
work. However, the positive impact of technology is likely to be
greatest for women with higher levels of skill and education.
7. The negative impact of technological changes is likely to be
greatest on women because wage employment for women is being
eroded by new technologies and flexible production arrangements.
Under the combined impact of labour-saving technologies and the
increasing reliance of multinational manufacturers on flexible
work arrangements, especially subcontracting, and the consequent
decline in formal sector employment opportunities for unskilled
labour, women workers tend to face greater pressure than men to
work for lower wages. Women are more likely to be exploited in
this way because of their weak bargaining position and because
home-based work, which reduces overheads for employers, is
culturally acceptable for women and compatible with their
domestic and child-care roles.
8. The economies in transition which have embarked upon
economic reforms and market-oriented policies in recent years
have felt the impact of reductions in public support services
somewhat more strongly than other countries in the region. This
is partly explained by the fact that the level of such services
had generally been higher in these economies as compared with
some other economies in the region. Privatization in these
economies has also brought in the spectre of unemployment, and
women, with the perceived primacy of their domestic
responsibilities and their inadequacies in employable skills
relative to men, have been faced with the lack of employment
opportunities. The general fall in the provision of social
services has also exposed groups of women suffering from special
kinds of vulnerabilities, such as age, disease, disability or
acute poverty, to the prospect of being virtually abandoned by
society at large.
9. Women, who often have a different environmental perspective
from men, have borne the brunt of the ill effects of
environmental degradation. In many countries of the region,
women are particularly active (although often uncounted) in
subsistence agriculture and food production, which tend to depend
heavily on the natural environment. Men are more active in
commercial agriculture and fishing, which more often involve
potentially unsustainable methods of utilizing the environment.
Similarly, although the international environmental debate has
tended to emphasize the greenhouse effect, the conservation of
wildlife and genetic resources, and other global issues of the
"Green Agenda", women's lives are more immediately affected by
local issues such as air and water pollution, traffic congestion,
urban overcrowding and waste disposal on the "Brown Agenda".
10. Nuclear radiation and the incineration of stockpiles of
chemical weapons have also had an adverse impact on the
environment, particularly in the Pacific. The current moratorium
on nuclear testing is a positive step towards addressing the
concerns about the degradation of the environment.
11. Widespread social change in the Asian and Pacific region has
created the preconditions in a number of countries for
significant advances in the status of women. Major improvements
in women's access to education, nutrition and health care are
reflected in rapid declines in fertility and mortality in a
number of countries in the region. However, the speed and
magnitude of the improvements in these countries serve to
highlight the lack of change in others. For many women in the
region, low levels of education and skills and lack of access to
information and knowledge reduce their potential contribution to
development and their share in its benefits. The lack of social
protection for women among international labour migrants,
refugees and persons with disabilities are social development
issues of special concern in the region.
12. Of particular concern to women in the Asian and Pacific
region is the increasing risk of human immunodeficiency
virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), associated
in part with the high incidence of male, female and child sex
workers as well as drug addicts in a number of countries. World
Health Organization studies indicate that the rate of growth of
HIV/AIDS in some areas of the region is among the highest in the
world. It is also higher among women, because they are
biologically particularly vulnerable to most sexually transmitted
diseases, including AIDS. An unwittingly exposed group of women
are single-partner married women exposed to the risk of infection
from husbands who also have sexual relations with other women
having multiple male partners. National and international sex
tourism, increased migration and a growing international sex and
drug trade have increased the commercial significance of
prostitution in the region. Ignorance, resistance to the use of
safe sex practices, particularly among men, and women's low
status, contribute to the heightened vulnerability of women in
the region to HIV/AIDS, as well as to other sexually transmitted
diseases. The high prevalence of anaemia among women in the
region and the risk of complications during childbirth also
expose women to the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission through blood
13. Social change has been accompanied by significant changes in
the relationships between women and men, especially in societies
where there have been major advances in education for women and
significant increases in women's participation in the paid labour
force. The boundaries of the sex-based division of labour
between productive and reproductive roles are gradually being
crossed as women enter formerly male-dominated areas of work and
men accept greater responsibility for domestic tasks, including
child care. However, changes in women's roles have been greater
and much more rapid than changes in men's roles and, among both
women and men, attitudes and values relating to gender roles have
generally changed very little. In many of the countries of the
region, differences between women's and men's achievements and
activities are still not recognized as the consequences of
socially constructed gender roles rather than immutable
biological differences. Despite overwhelming evidence to the
contrary, the assumption that gender roles are fixed biologically
has become embedded in cultures, resulting in attitudes and
behaviour of both women and men that have proved particularly
resistant to change.
14. In addition to political, economic, social and technological
changes, national and international development priorities and
strategies have changed since 1985 in ways of special
significance to women. Some countries, particularly those in the
Pacific, are questioning the impact of the onslaught of external
influences on community values and institutions. The
international community is moving toward a new dynamic paradigm
that identifies the well-being of people rather than the current
level of per capita national income as the essence of
development. Concepts such as sustainability, human development,
social development, gender-responsive development, women's rights
as human rights, equity and social justice are increasingly
central to the development debate. Development thinking has also
shifted from viewing the continuing discrimination against women
only as a women's issue to studying it as an issue of the whole
society. As a consequence, relative roles and responsibilities
are changing among the principal development actors: Governments,
the private sector, non-governmental organizations, communities,
families and individuals.
15. The status and situation of women in Asia and the Pacific
have improved since the formulation of the Nairobi
Forward-looking Strategies. Women in many countries have made
important gains in terms of literacy, health, education,
labour-force participation and employment. However, marked
female-male disparities persist and the absolute indicators of
women's status and human resources development remain low in the
less developed countries of the region. This continuing gap in
the enjoyment of the fruits of development has led to a movement
towards sustainable, equitable and humane development that is
respectful of the rights of women and men. Therefore, much
remains to be done before the region can claim to have achieved
the objectives of equality, development and peace established for
the United Nations Decade for Women and elaborated in the Nairobi
III. CRITICAL AREAS OF CONCERN
A. The growing feminization of poverty
16. A substantial proportion of the population of the region,
especially in South Asia, continues to live in absolute poverty.
Poverty exists in other regions as well, although the incidence
is less. Women, in particular those who are elderly, disabled,
and from indigenous and minority cultures, suffer the most under
conditions of absolute poverty. The number of rural and urban
slum women living in poverty is increasing at a faster rate than
for men and the proportion of women among the poor and extreme
poor is growing. Poverty is known to have driven countless women
in the region to low-status, low-paying occupations in domestic
service or in organized prostitution, frequently as migrants away
from their homes, at times across international borders, exposing
them to considerable risk of economic exploitation and sexual
17. Within the family, poverty strikes women disproportionately
hard. As women are entrusted with the responsibilities of home
management, the absence of resources and entitlements to meet
basic minimum needs for the survival of the family burdens women
particularly. In material terms also, women and girl-children in
ultra-poor families are the worst sufferers, as the distribution
of family resources under patriarchal systems tends to be skewed
against them. When total resources are very limited in any case,
it is easy to surmise why this tendency may spell disaster in the
life situation of these women. If they are unable to emerge from
poverty, the cycle tends to be perpetuated through their
18. The majority of women in the region reside in rural areas
and urban slums, and the majority of women workers are engaged in
subsistence agriculture and the informal sector with little or no
regulation, legislative protection, and trade union support.
19. The structural adjustment process has generally increased
the quantity of employment for women; however, this increase has
been mainly in non-regular forms of employment, including
self-employment in the informal sector. Such workers are often
not covered by labour legislation and lack job security. The
downscaling of the public sector, budgetary restraints and
privatization have affected women adversely, particularly through
the reduction of subsidized welfare services.
20. Rapid technological advances are likely to affect poor women
by devaluing their traditional skills, thus jeopardizing their
survival strategies and pushing them into extreme poverty.
21. Environmental degradation and the depletion of natural
resources have hit women the hardest.
22. In the countries with economies in transition, reduction in
State involvement in public support services has had direct
adverse effects on the poorest of the region, the majority of
whom happen to be women and children.
23. The benefits from the resource flow from the North to the
South are still disproportionately low compared with the pressing
needs of women from the South countries. This has aggravated the
poverty and dependency situation of women.
B. Inequality in women's access to and participation
in economic activities
24. Although women tend to have lower reported levels of
labour-force participation than men, much of women's work is
unrecognized as economic activity, even by women themselves, and
is therefore unreported and unrecorded in official sources of
data. The problem of improving databases on women's economic
contributions cannot be addressed without challenging existing
concepts and definitions of "work" and "economic activity".
Since women contribute at least two thirds of unpaid labour and
up to now unrecognized work in the home, on family farms etc.,
there is need to redefine these concepts as well as find new
methods that capture these contributions fully and give them
appropriate value in statistics. Women's contribution to
economic development is underestimated and thus official data
sources provide an incomplete basis for the formulation of
policies, plans and programmes relating to women. Underreporting
and underenumeration are particularly serious in subsistence
agriculture and the informal sector, in which large numbers of
25. In spite of some increases in the levels of women's
workforce participation, significant gender differences,
especially in the structure of employment, persist in most
countries of the region. A large majority of the women of the
region still work in subsistence agriculture as unpaid family
labour or as unskilled wage labour. An increasing number of
women also work in low-productivity non-agricultural jobs which
are often in vulnerable, unprotected and irregular types of
employment. Structural adjustment policies can contribute to
this tendency. Production units in export processing zones where
many workers are women are often characterized by low wages and
exploitative working conditions.
26. There is also increasing evidence of women entering
home-based, subcontract work, which almost always denies them
protection under labour laws and isolates them from fellow
workers, thereby reducing opportunities to organize. These
workers are often not recognized in national labour statistics as
economically productive workers. Structural adjustment
programmes that emphasize privatization and the role of the
market have sometimes resulted in reduction of the level of
labour standards, even in formal sector jobs. At times, women
have suffered a disproportionate reduction in labour market
opportunities under economic reforms, especially in economies in
27. Women's access to wage and salaried employment is heavily
skewed towards lower paid jobs. When new job opportunities are
created specifically for women they tend to be in low-wage,
low-skilled occupations, often under highly exploitative
conditions. The vast majority of women in the region work in
self-employment outside agriculture in low-paying trade or
28. A growing number of women from the region are migrating
across national boundaries for employment. The vast majority of
these international migrant women workers are absorbed in
domestic service in Western Asia and in the more developed
economies of East Asia. Other migrant women work in the
entertainment industry, often ending up as victims of
international trafficking and prostitution.
29. The major difficulties encountered by women in
self-employment activities relate to access to credit, markets
and technical skills. Customary law and convention in most
countries preclude women from claiming family assets. Women also
lack adequate access to institutional credit facilities.
C. Inadequate recognition of women's role and concerns in
environment and natural resource management
30. Natural and man-made disasters such as droughts, floods,
hurricanes, erosion, deforestation and inappropriate land use
have resulted in deprivation of traditional means of livelihood.
Such conditions have pushed great numbers of poor women into
marginal environments where critically low levels of water
supplies, shortages of fuel, overutilization of grazing and
arable lands and population density have deprived them of their
31. In the Pacific, environmental degradation caused by nuclear
radiation, destruction of chemical weapons, large-scale logging
and mining has heightened concerns over the health situation and
means of livelihood of men, women and children, and the already
32. Natural resource management and safeguarding the environment
are the responsibility of all, but the consequences of
environmental degradation particularly affect women, who are
responsible for obtaining fuel and water in much of the region.
Despite the close interaction between the environment and women's
lives, environmental policies have not been formulated from a
gender perspective. As a result, women have tended to suffer the
effects of environmental degradation. Where women are involved
in environmental management, protection and conservation, they
can be a decisive factor in the success of programmes.
33. In addition to the natural environment, the domestic
environment, particularly housing and settlement infrastructure
and access to water and sanitation, are vital concerns of women.
Women in the region also have a strong interest in the
development of sustainable and ecologically sound lifestyles,
consumption patterns and waste management. Women are concerned
to ensure that the ownership of intellectual property rights is
adequately and effectively protected. Subject to national
legislation and policies, women are also concerned to ensure that
technology, knowledge and customary and traditional practices of
local and indigenous people, including resource owners and
custodians, are adequately and effectively protected and that
they thereby benefit directly, on an equitable basis and on
mutually agreed terms, from any utilization of such technologies,
knowledge and practices or from any technological development
directly derived therefrom.
D. Inequitable access to power and decision-making
34. Although there have been advances in some countries, overall
there is evidence of continuing and serious inequality between
men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making in
virtually all areas affecting women's lives. These inequities
are evident both in the public domain and in women's private
35. International standards and conventions, such as the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, can
be used as a powerful strategy of persuasion directed at national
Governments. Thirty countries from Asia and the Pacific have
ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. With regard
to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women, only 18 member countries of ESCAP
have acceded to or ratified it, and some have done so with many
reservations. More than half of the countries have not signed
any of the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions
and few have ratified more than 7 out of 22 conventions that are
deemed to be relevant for women workers.
36. Although this region has been the first to have women as
heads of Government and in very senior positions in Government,
women continue to be largely excluded from decision-making. By
1993, a very small percentage of cabinet ministers in the region
were women. These ministers tend to be concentrated in
37. Women have the right to vote in all countries of the region
but they hold a very small percentage of seats in the legislative
bodies. In most countries of Asia and the Pacific, with few
exceptions, the percentage of seats held by women in national
legislative bodies has been low. There are few appropriate
mechanisms to assist and encourage women's participation in
political and other structures. Prevailing norms and styles of
political life and employment tend to perpetuate women's limited
access to decision-making processes, including by setting up
negative stereotypes and depriving young women of positive role
38. The participation of women in public administration and also
in workers' and employers' organizations, especially in the
higher echelons, has been minimal in most countries of the
region. In the judicial sphere, while women are entering the
legal profession as lawyers in larger numbers than ever before,
they are not proportionately represented in the judiciary or
higher echelons of the legal profession. There are relatively
few women at decision- and policy-making levels in political
parties. The number of women generally is also limited at
various levels within the party organizations. In addition,
gender concerns are not adequately reflected in political party
declarations, documents and manifestos.
39. There has been considerable progress in the Asian and
Pacific region in promoting gender equality through legislation.
In almost all Asian and Pacific countries, stipulations on the
equality of women are subsumed within the constitutional
declarations regarding the equal rights and obligations of all
citizens. A number of countries have chosen to reinforce these
constitutional guarantees by enacting separate legislation. Some
countries have established separate judicial procedures to
investigate, address and monitor sex discrimination, in addition
to the general judicial provisions. Discriminatory laws relating
to employment and the family have been amended or removed and new
laws and measures have been introduced in order to improve
women's legal status. The norms, attitudes, behaviour and values
that define each individual society and culture are transmitted
to future generations primarily through the family and reinforced
by societal values. In some countries, gains have been made in
domestic partnership and role-sharing, but traditional norms and
values continue to assign women a lower status than men,
restricting their access to power and participation in family
decision-making. This is where future generations learn gender
relations and roles which, if not addressed, will undermine
efforts to increase women's participation in decision-making in
other spheres and activities.
E. Violation of women's human rights
40. Another area of common concern is the widespread incidence
of physical, sexual and psychological abuse perpetrated against
women both outside and inside the family, often with the
knowledge and tacit approval of other family members and the
community at large. The international community has expressed
its views through the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women
and other United Nations resolutions, clearly stipulating that
violence against women outside and inside the family is a
violation of women's human rights. The recent appointment of a
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women is
significant and welcome.
41. A considerable amount of abuse and harassment of women also
takes place within the family. The phenomenon of violence in the
home is common, and is not confined to poor or illiterate
families, as is often presumed. In some communities, female
babies and girl-children have been known to be systematically
condemned to pervasive neglect. The extreme form of such neglect
and abuse is manifested in female foeticide and infanticide that
have been reported in some countries in the region. Dowry, or
the perceived inadequacy of it, has been the cause of harassment
of young brides in thousands of reported cases in the region, at
times leading to death.
42. Another form of violence and sexual abuse of women which is
rampant in this region is trafficking in women, which is
sometimes carried out across international borders. Young women
from poor families are bought and sold like commodities, at times
with the knowledge and tacit approval of poverty-stricken
parents. These women are not merely subjected to systematic
physical and sexual abuse, and economic exploitation to the hilt
by the traffickers and their henchmen, but they also suffer from
great vulnerability to infection from sexually transmitted
diseases, including the life-threatening AIDS.
43. Women in large numbers have been subjected to violence in
times of war as well as armed and social conflicts. During the
post-Nairobi Conference period, the Asian and Pacific region has
seen numerous conflicts of the ethnic, political, religious and
communal variety, which have left their scars on hundreds and
thousands of innocent men, women and children. Women are
particularly vulnerable at such times of uncertainty as they are
often left by themselves to fend for the family and to cope with
the added burden of loss of men, or catering for male family
members suffering from war-inflicted physical disabilities or
44. A particular manifestation of society's mistreatment of
women is apparent in the kinds of abuse and indignities to which
women are subjected at the time of such disturbances.
Political, ethnic and religious conflicts in the region are
systematically stained by the large-scale incidence of rape and
molestation of women. The ideology of patriarchy that fixes
different sexual norms for men and women and one that tacitly
exonerates the rights of men over women almost as items of
property, even in normal times, seems to extend to systematic and
organized violation of women's bodies by the male of the rival
parties at times of conflict, as if to put the seal of victory
over the rival.
45. Indigenous women are often doubly discriminated against as
woman and as representatives of indigenous communities. In
particular, their cultural identity has been threatened by the
development process which fails to take into account factors such
as their specific traditions, their land tenure systems and
46. Another dimension of gender inequality derives from the
excessive work burden women have traditionally been expected to
bear. Such expectations continue to shape women's daily lives
under changing economic conditions. All across the region, in
spite of the fact that women's market participation has increased
steadily, there is no commensurate reduction in the household
responsibilities of women. Work outside the home has in most
cases been in addition to the domestic chores for which women
have always been responsible, resulting in excessively long
working hours. This is so in both urban and in rural areas,
where the need for additional cash incomes has been drawing more
and more women into the monetized sector, adding to their
workload. The growing inadequacy of fuel and firewood has
exacerbated the problems of rural women. In the families that
can afford hired domestic help, the load has been shifted to
poorer women working as such, for whom again, the economic
contribution they make to the household kitty has not served as a
factor in reducing their own domestic workload. The culture of
sharing housework by men of the household has not as yet acquired
much social acceptability in the region.
47. Awareness-raising should be promoted and cultural efforts
made so that the family can serve as a milieu within which
positive gender education can be practised. Evidence from the
region has shown that much of the violence directed against women
from early infancy is committed within the family. The roots of
gender discrimination are often planted in young minds by the
nature of the socialization processes that children observe,
experience and are taught within the family. If women of the
region are to aspire to justice and fair play, the sanctity of
domestic privacy can no longer be used as an excuse for
continuing human rights abuses against women within the family.
Efforts must be directed at the family to ensure that gender
discrimination is confronted where it is least visible to the
public eye and perhaps most insidious in its reach and impact.
48. The year 1994 has been proclaimed by the General Assembly as
the International Year of the Family, with the motto "Building
the smallest unit of democracy at the heart of society". If the
family in the Asian and Pacific region is to aspire to be a
democratic structure, then gender equality within the family is a
must. Instead of being a hierarchical structure of domination
and subordination, of control and subservience, the family then
becomes a closely-knit kin-group of caring individuals in which
burdens and responsibilities are shared equitably and equal
partnership between men and women is ensured.
49. The two broad approaches to attain this vision of a
democratic family are through advocacy and education on the one
hand and State intervention in the form of legal reforms and
better law implementation, on the other. On the advocacy front,
there is need to use a gamut of strategies, including training
and gender-sensitization in formal and informal educational
systems, through extensive revision of syllabuses and teaching
material, and through community and non-governmental organization
involvement, as well as innovative use of the media to spread
democratic values within the family. At the other end, the State
should intervene in a much more active manner than it has done in
the past to reform family law provisions that treat women
unequally in matters such as property and inheritance, custody of
children, divorce and maintenance, and so on, preferably with the
initiatives for such reforms coming from women in the community.
There is need for State intervention also in cases of overt
discrimination of girl-children by parents, not merely in the
extreme cases of female infanticide but also in day-to-day
matters such as the provision of basic education, nutritional
requirements and basic health services. Stricter laws and law
enforcement are also needed to end the menace of continued
physical and sexual abuse of women and girl-children within the
F. Inequalities and lack of access to health
50. While many countries of the region have made significant
advances in the provision for health care for women at all stages
of the life cycle, there remain marked inadequacies. General
health care, maternal health care and treatment of complications
from pregnancy and childbirth-related problems are still very
inadequate in many countries. Maternal mortality rates have
increased in around 10 of the countries where data are available,
while decreasing in several countries. Discrepancies in maternal
death rates between developed countries of the West and the
developing countries of Asia and the Pacific continue to be the
highest among all public health indicators, although infant
mortality rates in the region have fallen significantly owing to
improved public health and child immunization programmes. One of
the main reasons for the high incidence of obstetrically
difficult births and anaemia in women is poor nutrition of women
and girls and the excessive workload women and girls are made to
bear from early childhood. These factors continue to shape the
conditions of women's daily lives in many households.
Furthermore, facilities for the treatment of infection toxaemia
and haemorrhage, which are the major cause of maternal mortality,
are generally inadequate in many countries.
51. The incidence of unwanted pregnancies is still very high in
the region, suggesting, among other factors, inadequate access of
women to education about reproductive choices and to family
planning services, or lack of control over their reproductive
roles in an unequal sexual partnership. Excessive workload, lack
of proper nutrition, repeated pregnancies, poor education, and
lack of access to health-care facilities mark the lives of the
majority of women in the region, particularly those who are poor.
Many countries continue to suffer from inadequate and very skewed
distribution of medical services. Distribution is heavily skewed
in favour of urban and against rural areas, while within each,
access to services is skewed in favour of men and against women.
Poor rural women are the most neglected of all groups. In
addition, one quarter to one third of all maternal deaths occur
when births are too numerous or to mothers who are under 16 or
over 33 and when the births are too closely spaced. Early
marriages and teenage pregnancies, which have continued to
flourish despite legislation to the contrary in some countries,
have contributed to this problem. Morbidity rates are known to
be high in the region, but reliable and valid indicators of
morbidity are yet to be developed.
52. Total fertility rates (TFR) continued to decline in all
subregions of Asia and the Pacific throughout the post-Nairobi
Conference period. TFR dropped from 2.42 to 2.19 in developing
countries in East Asia and from 3.69 to 3.37 in South-East Asia
from 1985 to 1992. In South Asia and the Pacific islands, the
rate decreased during the same period from 4.71 to 4.36 and from
4.92 to 4.62 respectively. The trend of providing only
"women-centred" birth control programmes has persisted. Owing to
the boy preference that exists in some areas, the phenomena of
female foeticide and infanticide still exist in some areas. The
sex ratio at birth (number of females per hundred males) in such
areas has dropped to a low level, which is a cause for concern.
53. Some biological, social and physiological features
predispose women to greater vulnerability to most sexually
transmitted diseases, including AIDS. Male-to-female
transmission of such diseases is reportedly two to four times
more efficient than for female-to-male transmission. The group
that is most vulnerable in terms of absolute numbers in this
respect are single-partner married women who are exposed to being
infected by their sexually promiscuous husbands. Also among the
most affected by the AIDS crisis and at the receiving end of many
sexually transmitted diseases are women in prostitution who often
lack adequate health protection. In Asian and Pacific societies,
women have little say in defining the terms of sexual
relationships and, given the nature of women's vulnerability in
such societies, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS among women needs to
be urgently controlled by designing programmes that take into
account the social and cultural context of women's situation.
54. The majority of women and girls throughout the countries of
this region suffer from poor nutritional status and well-being at
all stages of the life cycle. Coming from economically and
socially disadvantaged sections in rural and urban areas, their
problems are compounded by a lack of basic amenities, such as
clean drinking water and sanitation. Lack of access to and
control of primary health care and pervasive commercial pressures
and influences have replaced sound traditional practices such as
birthing, breast-feeding, family foods and child care, which are
all essential to the good-quality health of women. This has
resulted in the disempowerment of women in their own health care
and a wastage of women's innate resources.
G. Inequalities and lack of access to education and literacy
55. Although illiteracy rates among women in many countries in
the region have declined by around 5 to 10 per cent, the
incidence of female illiteracy is still alarmingly high in the
region. The situation in terms of women's education is much
better in East and South-East, Asia and the Pacific and in
pockets of South Asia. Yet, as noted earlier, almost everywhere
in the region, wherever illiteracy exists, women constitute the
bulk of the illiterate population. Lack of literacy and basic
skills not merely precludes large sections of women from
productive employment opportunities but also affects the quality
of life of the women, as well as that of the rest of the society,
in numerous ways. A significant number of studies from all over
the region have shown conclusively that female literacy is the
single most important factor in determining the success of family
planning and primary health care services.
56. Boys have been given preference over girls in matters of
education in general. When resources are limited and opportunity
costs high, the girl-child is doubly condemned. It would be
wrong to presume that the correlation between illiteracy and
poverty is absolute. Much depends on the social norms and value
which society places on education as well as on girls.
Consequently, women continue to constitute a lower percentage of
the student body, especially at the secondary and higher levels,
in almost all countries of the region. They form an
insignificantly small fraction in most science and technology
57. Textbooks and syllabuses often perpetuate gender-typing of
roles. Under such conditions, the acquisition of formal literacy
cannot act as a vehicle for changing social mores. The
educational and skill-acquisition profiles of women are still
very skewed, even in countries which have made significant
strides in literacy, reflecting the strong hold of societal views
about what specializations are proper for women. While there are
indications that the sex-stereotyping of education or vocation is
becoming weaker, this tendency is as yet too insignificant to
have caused large, perceptible changes in the overall
distribution. Skewed distribution of female students in
traditionally women-dominated areas and vocational training
programmes reflects the broad social perceptions about women's
roles. Women also have fewer opportunities for career
development and leadership training regardless of the degree of
the economic development of the country.
58. In many countries of the region, informal education is
playing a very important role in literacy for many women and
girls. But the availability of and access to informal
educational institutions for women and girls is still very
H. Negative portrayal of women in the media
59. The region is experiencing a rapidly changing media
environment. The new "communications revolution" with satellite
broadcasting and other advances in technology cut across national
boundaries, putting the media beyond the reach of Governments and
social institutions such as the family and community.
60. While the globalization of the media offers the promise of
greater interaction among peoples, it can also create and
reinforce images, attitudes and behaviour that may often be
contradictory to the advancement of women.
61. Among the most destructive forms of media influence is the
perpetuation and reinforcement of negative images of women that
do not provide an accurate or realistic picture of women's
multiple roles and value in a changing world. Even more
insidious is the use by the media of women's bodies as sex
objects. Most vulnerable to the influence of the media are young
women, who feel impelled to conform to the materialistic,
consumer-driven and exploitative stereotypes. At the same time,
while the media may have been used to promote cultural values,
ideology and religion selectively to justify the control of women
by social and State institutions, the progressive forms of
cultural values and religion have also been effective means to
promote the advancement of women at the grass-root levels. It is
appropriate to change current media practices that thrive on
sensationalism and profit motives, as otherwise the conflict
between conservative values and pornographic and violent images
can only worsen.
62. Media images of women affect women's lives in several ways:
they perpetuate stereotypes and create a distorted self-image.
Myths and misconceptions enforced by the media also affect the
thinking and attitudes of government planners, thereby further
marginalizing the role and contribution of women as well as
compromising the future of young women and the girl-child.
63. Media ownership patterns in the region indicate a strong
link between business - especially multinationals - and political
groups. At the same time, ownership and control of the media are
in male hands, which means that the content of the media is
presented largely from a male perspective, reflecting, in many
ways, men's values and perceptions. While there are increasing
numbers of women employed in the various media, employment
patterns show that women are grossly under-represented in
decision-making positions. The power to control and
significantly influence the media still eludes women.
I. Inadequate mechanisms for promoting the advancement of women
64. Effective mechanisms are needed at local, national and
regional levels to serve as catalysts for promoting the
advancement of women. In most countries, the mechanisms
established lack the capacity, in terms of the relative position
in government structure, and financial and human resources, to
perform this function effectively.
65. National machineries for the advancement of women have been
created in many countries of the region. Diverse in form, they
provide a tool for the advancement of women through advocacy,
monitoring of public policies and programmes, and mobilizing
support. However, these national machineries are often
marginalized in national government structure and given the
responsibility for addressing gender issues across all sectors.
Moreover, they are understaffed and usually lack the expertise to
engage in effective advocacy and gender training. They are also
often underfunded and unable to mobilize the information and
authority needed for advocacy, coordination and monitoring within
government. They also have insufficient links with
non-governmental organizations which can assist in identifying
priority gender issues to be addressed and action needed,
especially critical monitoring and evaluation functions.
66. Women's organizations, including grass-roots women's groups,
professional associations, women's networks and other
non-governmental organizations have demonstrated success in
effectively and forcefully mobilizing women, especially at the
community level in both rural and urban areas. However, their
effectiveness is hampered by lack of coordination among
themselves, inadequate linkage with Government, and insufficient
financial resources. Another critical problem is the unpaid
nature of the services rendered by women in these organizations Ä
a manifestation of the low value given to women's time and
67. International-level mechanisms to promote the advancement of
women basically experience the same problems as national
68. While there have been improvements in the development and
use of statistics and indicators desegregated by sex, much
remains to be done to further refine concepts and methods to
generate new, better-quality and timely data, and to put
statistics in the hands of diverse users.
69. Experience in some countries shows that the process of
advancing the concerns of women is considerably aided by the
existence of a strong national machinery with the authority to
advocate, coordinate and monitor the policies and programmes of
various government agencies. The critical elements required are
an appropriate institutional position within the government
bureaucracy to endow it with similar authority as other central
coordinating bodies for planning, proper staffing in skills and
numbers, and adequate resources to enable it to carry out its
7j Other equally critical elements for mainstreaming gender
concerns in public policies and programmes are: (a) assigning
well-defined responsibilities, and strengthening the
institutional capacity of all government agencies to undertake
gender-responsive development planning in their sectors or areas
of responsibility; (b) timely and reliable statistics on the
situation of women and men to provide a basis for formulating
policies and programmes, and for monitoring and evaluating them.
71. It has also been shown that a strong national machinery,
complemented by strong women's organizations at the community and
various other levels, is best able to access resources and
mobilize women to address priority gender concerns.
J. Inadequate recognition of women's role in peace-building
72. The underrepresentation of women in decision-making bodies
at all levels, particularly in international negotiations on the
peace process, needs to be addressed, as women, often being the
worst victims of war and armed conflicts, could contribute
constructively in defining alternatives and steps to be taken for
peace-building and conflict resolution.
73. It has been suggested that, unless threats to international
peace and security are eliminated, full equality between women
and men cannot be achieved. Experience has shown that the slow
progress in reaching agreements for peaceful settlements of armed
conflicts prolongs the sufferings for men, women and children,
especially women, as they have to bear the burden of maintaining
the survival of the family.
IV. GOALS, STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES AND ACTION TO BE TAKEN
The critical areas of concern highlighted in this Plan of
Action embrace the themes of equality, development and peace
established for the United Nations Decade for Women and
elaborated in the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies. As the
year 2000 approaches, with the objectives of the Strategies still
far from being attained, each Government needs to adopt at the
national level appropriate and relevant time-bound and
quantitative targets in each area to make the Plan of Action a
reality for action and achievement.
A. Vulnerable groups and feminization of poverty
To ensure women's empowerment through equitable access to
and adequate control over resources so that poverty is eradicated
and women of the region are able to live a life of dignity and
It is necessary to mainstream women's concerns into
effective agricultural and rural development policies, plans and
programmes in order to ensure household and national food
security and adequate livelihood for the rural women of the
Action to be taken
(i) Resources need to be specially allocated to ensure the
growth of broader opportunities to generate income for
women involved in the development of subsistence
agriculture and small and marginal farms where a large
majority of the poor women of the region are absorbed.
(ii) Measures should be taken to ensure that women acquire full
entitlement to land rights on an equal basis with men, in
terms of both ownership and use rights, that such equality
be maintained even under conditions of land shortage or
land redistribution, whereby land rights may be jointly
held, and that, for indigenous women, their community's
right of ancestral domain be respected.
(iii) Special efforts should be made to provide women
cultivators with equal access to credit, inputs, technology
and extension services and ensure equal pay for women
(iv) Measures should be taken to protect women from hazardous
chemicals used in agriculture.
2. Informal sector
To promote, through multifaceted innovative strategies, the
income and employment potential in the informal trade, services
and manufacturing sectors which absorb the bulk of women workers
of the region outside of agriculture.
Action to be taken
(i) Where appropriate, to lift the credit constraint on
self-employed women by promoting women's self-help groups,
credit networks based on group-lending and other similar
innovative ventures to ensure that women without access to
bankable collateral have adequate access to fixed and
working capital. The involvement of non-governmental
organizations in the field of credit should be encouraged.
(ii) To encourage women's cooperatives for marketing and input
procurement needs by promoting awareness, and catering for
training needs and networking.
(iii) To improve working conditions, provide social security
and minimize the comparative isolation of poor women
workers in the informal sectors, the following measures
should be promoted: (a) create or strengthen workers'
associations and other groups to create solidarity and
facilitate group action, including negotiations with
contractors, suppliers and employers; (b) develop
non-conventional forms of social protection through
community groups, cooperatives or other ad hoc groups that
are able to provide the necessary capacity for social
solidarity, mutual insurance and mutual protection; (c)
support such groups through the provision of leadership
training, and by linking them to supportive
(iv) To make available to poor women opportunities for skill
upgrading and training in basic management skills.
3. Female-headed and female-maintained households
To cater for the needs of female-maintained households in
view of the special situation of women in such households as the
chief breadwinners and household managers, usually under acute
poverty conditions and with high dependency ratios.
Action to be taken
(i) Priority should be given to poor female-maintained
households in government assistance or income-generating
rural and urban development programmes.
(ii) Special income-generating schemes for female heads of
households in poverty should be designed, keeping in mind
their domestic as well as household responsibilities.
(iii) The involvement of non-governmental organizations should
be encouraged to ensure greater access by female-maintained
households to economic resources by forging links with
existing facilities and creating new structures suitable to
4. Elderly women
To design social safety networks, including public
assistance programmes and innovative neighbourhood support
mechanisms, in order to cater for the physical and psychological
needs of the growing body of elderly women in the region who face
increasing marginalization in the wake of the steady erosion in
the joint family system and emerging demographic changes in the
Action to be taken
(i) In recognition of the socio-economic and demographic
changes affecting an increasing number of elderly women,
many of whom experience declining health, with limited
access to the labour market, adequate resources should be
provided to cater for the needs of elderly women in the
(ii) Innovative programmes may be designed with the involvement
of non-governmental organizations where the wisdom and
experience of elderly women may be utilized productively,
as, for instance, in neighbourhood child-care centres.
(iii) The special health problems of elderly women need to be
catered for adequately by sensitizing the personnel of
(iv) Geriatric care should be made an integral part of medical
and paramedical training.
(v) A media campaign may be launched to highlight the many ways
in which positive contributions may be made by the elderly
to the welfare and happiness of the family.
(vi) There should be adequate and equitable access to support
services for older women and they should be encouraged to
use those services to maintain their independence and
5. Young women and girls
To meet the special needs of young women and girls with due
regard for their creative capabilities, for social, family and
community support, employment opportunities, participation in the
political process, and access to education, housing and health in
order to equip them to achieve their full potential.
Action to be taken
(i) Countries should take effective steps to address the
neglect, as well as all types of exploitation and abuse of
young women, such as abduction, rape and incest,
pornography, trafficking, abandonment and prostitution; in
particular, countries should take appropriate action to
eliminate sexual abuse of young women and girls both within
and outside their borders.
(ii) Countries should aim to meet the needs and aspirations of
young women, particularly in the areas of formal and
non-formal education, training, employment opportunities,
housing and health, thereby ensuring their integration and
participation in all spheres of society, including
participation in the political process and preparation for
(iii) Countries should create a socio-economic environment
conducive to the elimination of all child marriages and
other unions, as a matter of urgency, and should discourage
early marriage. The social responsibilities that marriage
entails should be reinforced in countries' educational
programmes. Governments should act against the
discrimination against young pregnant women.
(iv) Governments need to recognize that youth organizations are
increasingly becoming effective partners in developing
programmes. Young women and girls should be actively
involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation of
development activities that have a direct impact on their
6. Women with disabilities
To eliminate the dehumanizing isolation and social stigma
against women and girls with disabilities and to integrate their
concerns into the mainstream of the socio-economic development in
Action to be taken
(i) In accordance with the United Nations World Programme of
Action concerning Disabled Persons and in the light of the
Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002,
Governments should make every effort to integrate and
mainstream disabled women as agents and beneficiaries of
development in all sectors of society.
(ii) Extensive educational campaigns should be launched in
schools and through the media on the causes, often
preventable, of various kinds of disabilities affecting
women, and information provided on the course of action to
be taken to prevent them; adequate budgetary provisions
should be made to treat and prevent the widespread
incidence of disability among women in the region.
(iii) Disabled women should be projected as potentially
productive members of society in order to dispel social
prejudices against them.
(iv) Women's organizations should make special attempts to
induct into their activities women with disabilities who
have courageously faced the double discrimination of
disability and gender, so that they may serve as role
models to all women with disabilities and dispel the myths
about disability in the community.
(v) Governments should establish a system to identify and
provide jobs in all sectors which would be suited to the
abilities, potential and aspirations of women with
disabilities in order to enable those women to participate
in mainstream programmes for enhancing women's
participation in economic development.
(vi) Formal and non-formal education and training programme
planners, trainers, co-trainees and employers should be
sensitized to the special capacities and needs of girls and
women with disabilities so that they can participate in
general training programmes for women. Training materials
should be made available in appropriate formats, such as
braille and sign language, for use by girls and women with
(vii) Physical access to the workplace for women with
disabilities, venues and facilities for the exercise of
political rights, including locations for legal and
political literacy programmes, political meeting places and
voting centres, should be provided.
7. Structural adjustment process
To study the impact of structural adjustment policies and to
ensure that women do not bear a disproportionate burden of such
Action to be taken
(i) Special efforts should be made to sustain existing levels
and expand, wherever possible, support services that
address the gender needs of women.
(ii) Special efforts need to be made to specially strengthen
poverty alleviation and wage employment generation
programmes through increased allocations and special
components for women.
(iii) The budgets of education and health services should be
protected and enhanced wherever possible.
(iv) The public distribution system should be expanded and
better targeted on the poor.
(v) It is necessary to ensure the full participation of women
in the process of reconstruction in countries with
economies in transition.
(vi) The impact of the structural adjustment process on women
should be continuously studied and monitored.
B. Promoting equality in women's access to and
participation in economic activities
To ensure women's equitable access to services and resources
and participation in economic institutions.
1. Gender-responsive planning, policy-making
To ensure that account is taken of the differential impacts
of policies and programmes on women and men by undertaking gender
analysis at all stages of the development and implementation of
government policies. This includes the collection, collation and
dissemination of gender-disaggregated data; policy development;
and monitoring and evaluation of the impact of policies and
Action to be taken
(i) Resource allocation at macro, sectoral or project levels
should reflect adequately the social costs and benefits of
(ii) Gender and social analysis should be made an integral part
of all impact analyses of macro-, sectoral- or micro-level
policies, including trade agreements, structural adjustment
and poverty alleviation policies and programmes.
(iii) Where women have been so seriously disadvantaged in the
past that they cannot have access to mainstream development
activities on an equal basis with men, programmes
specifically targeted to women, affirmative actions and
separate facilities for women should be provided.
(iv) Employment and income generation for women should go
hand-in-hand with improvement of working conditions and the
welfare of women workers. The quality of employment should
be improved through the review, revision and effective
implementation of labour legislation to eliminate
gender-based discrimination and promote equality of
opportunity and treatment and also through improved
occupational safety and health measures.
(v) Special efforts should be made to remove obstacles, such as
the lack of adequate support services, that prevent women
from taking advantage of new employment opportunities.
(vi) Continuous gender-sensitization of officials and planners,
government and international funding agencies, and
legislators and implementators of government and
international funding agencies should be ensured. Such
programmes should be accorded formal recognition and
priority by the Government. Closer dialogue and
cooperation among Government, workers' and employers'
organizations, international funding agencies and
non-governmental organizations should be promoted.
(vii) For those women most adversely affected by structural
adjustment reforms or the transition to market economies,
social safety nets should be provided by Governments and
employers. In view of the increasing vulnerability of
women workers, efforts should be made to develop and
improve social protection by both public and private
sectors, community groups, grass-roots organizations, etc.
2. The visibility and recognition of women's
To develop methodologies for ensuring the full visibility
and recognition of women's work within and outside the domestic
sphere, including measurement of women's contribution to the
household sector of the economy.
Action to be taken
(i) Time-use studies should be carried out by national
statistical offices in order to measure the domestic and
non-domestic work burden of men, women and children under
different socio-economic conditions. Such studies may be
carried out at periodic intervals and designed in similar
formats in order to facilitate inter-temporal and
(ii) The staff of national statistical offices, including the
field staff, the women themselves and the public in general
should be sensitized through training programmes and the
media so that all women's economic activities within and
outside the household are adequately recorded and taken
into account in policies and programmes. Questionnaires
need to be properly designed so as to capture the extent of
women's multifaceted contributions to the economic welfare
of the family.
(iii) Data gathered through time-use surveys should be taken
into account in the development of government policies and
financial assistance programmes.
3. Access to information, skills and knowledge about
To reduce the gender gap in access to information, skills
and knowledge about economic opportunities by providing women
with equal access to labour market information, training and
information on other economic opportunities.
Action to be taken
(i) Gender-sensitive labour market information systems should
be developed to alert policy makers and planners to changes
in the pattern of female employment and measure the pay and
conditions of women workers. Employment services should be
strengthened so that those demanding or supplying labour
are aware of and able to adjust to changing labour market
(ii) Measures should be taken to make information on economic
opportunities, including on production and processing
technology, as well as marketing, readily accessible to
women. Special efforts should be made to devise
appropriate means of communicating such information to
illiterate, poor and rural women, including the use of
audio-visual materials and the media.
(iii) Where appropriate, Governments should develop
affirmative action policies in the recruitment of new
extension workers as a means to improve women's access to
(iv) Measures should be taken to ensure that girls and women
with disabilities can participate in general training
programmes for women.
(v) Special measures should be targeted to women with
disabilities to assist them to gain employment.
4. Mainstreaming women's concerns in agriculture and
To incorporate women's, particularly women farmer, concerns
into agricultural and rural development policies, plans and
programmes in order to ensure food security and an adequate
livelihood for rural women.
Action to be taken
(i) Adequate resources need to be allocated on a priority basis
to ensure growth in the agricultural sector with special
emphasis on small and marginal farms where a large majority
of the poor women of the region are engaged.
(ii) Measures should be taken to ensure that women acquire full
entitlement to land rights on an equal basis with men, in
terms of ownership and usage rights and security of tenure,
and that such equality be maintained even under conditions
of land shortage or land redistribution. Where
appropriate, provision should be made for land rights to be
(iii) Special efforts should be made to provide women
cultivators with equal access to credit, inputs, technology
and extension services and to ensure equal pay for women
(iv) Economic policy makers and planners should be
gender-sensitized to ensure careful consideration of the
impact of macroeconomic policies on the agricultural
sector. Particular attention should be given to providing
opportunities to women to ensure that women farmers and
labourers are not marginalized by the introduction of new
agricultural technologies and their impact on the food
security and livelihood strategies of the rural poor.
(v) A gender perspective should be incorporated in training
courses for agricultural extension workers. Implementation
staff in agricultural and rural development agencies should
participate in gender-sensitization programmes.
(vi) The development of new agricultural technologies should
give particular attention to reducing the physical
workloads of women farmers.
5. Women in industry and commerce
To reduce the gender gap in the development and utilization
of human resources in industry and commerce by facilitating the
development and full utilization of the female labour potential
in the industrial sector and in commerce.
Action to be taken
(i) Governments should ensure that women workers in the
industrial sector have equal access to all strata of the
labour market through equitable skill development and
technological upgrading. Gender discrimination in
employment contract conditions as well as unequal access to
higher paid and higher status jobs should be eliminated,
and the principle of equal pay for equal work implemented
in all areas of employment.
(ii) In traditionally feminized sectors like textiles, garments
or handicrafts, comparable worth principles may be invoked
to improve the level of wages in sectors and jobs where
(iii) In traditionally male-dominated activities in the public
and private sectors, affirmative action programmes for
women candidates may be invoked to break down gender
(iv) To improve the working conditions and welfare of women
workers, measures such as the following should be
implemented: extend the application of labour laws to all
workers, including contractual, casual, temporary and
part-time workers; strengthen labour inspection services to
ensure proper enforcement of legislation; promote
gender-sensitization training for labour inspectors and
women workers on occupational safety and health, labour
legislation and workers' rights; make employers aware of
the productivity gains associated with improved working
conditions; formulate and implement policies against sex
discrimination; and adopt legal and/or other measures to
protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace.
(v) Affirmative action, education and information programmes
should be promoted to enhance women's participation in
workers' organizations and the formation of workers' groups
and associations among women workers to develop group
solidarity, provide support and serve as a training ground
(vi) The impact of women's reproductive role on their access to
work should be minimized through action such as the removal
of any barriers to the recruitment of women, the provision
of flexible child-care arrangements and crŠches at
workplaces, child-care leave provision, breast-feeding
breaks and flexible working hours and other support
facilities, so that activities outside the home can be
combined as appropriate with child-rearing and domestic
(vii) Business organizations, such as chambers of commerce,
should encourage and promote women entrepreneurs.
6. Women in the informal sector
To reduce the gender gap in the development and utilization
of human resources in the informal sector by developing
multifaceted and innovative strategies to promote women's income
and employment potential in the informal sector in trade,
services and manufacturing activities.
Action to be taken
(i) Improve the access of self-employed women to credit by
encouraging the banking and financial system to modify
procedures and institutional arrangements to meet the needs
of self-employed women.
(ii) Encourage women's cooperatives for marketing and input
procurement by promoting awareness, and providing training
and networking facilities.
(iii) Facilitate access to information, technology and
knowledge as well as to existing formal marketing networks
in both the domestic and export sectors in order to ensure
the viability of women's informal sector ventures.
(iv) Improve working conditions, provide social security and
minimize the comparative isolation of women workers in the
informal sector and home-based work by, among other things,
extending the coverage of labour legislation to informal
sector and home-based workers and fostering the development
of networks among them.
(v) Promote entrepreneurial and management skills among women.
Interventions that focus on women entrepreneurs rather than
on enterprises are more strategic because they empower
women and the benefits are less likely to be taken over by
(vi) To initiate a proposal for an ILO convention on the
protection of the rights of home-based workers.
7. Women migrant workers
To support and improve the economic and social welfare of
women migrant workers by ensuring that internal and international
female migrant workers are accorded full protection and
appropriate remuneration through legal and institutional actions
as guided by human rights instruments and international labour
Action to be taken
(i) Urge Governments to take into account international laws
and human rights instruments, such as the 1990 Convention
on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and
Members of their Families, General Assembly resolution
48/110 of 20 December 1993 on violence against women
migrant workers and ILO conventions and resolutions on
(ii) Urge the Governments of sending and receiving countries to
establish bilateral agreements for minimum standards for
worker protection, working conditions, standardized
contracts, modes of conflict resolution and repatriation.
Governments should also explore measures by mutual
agreement to resolve the problems of illegal migrants and
to ensure their humane treatment.
(iii) Employment contracts for migrant workers should be
strictly enforced through government intervention, with
regard to the obligations of the employers, recruitment
agents and the migrant worker employees.
(iv) Establish mechanisms to assist migrant women workers in
redressing the non-compliance of contracts with employers
and to protect the women from social, sexual and economic
(v) International associations of migrant female workers should
be established with branches in all sending and receiving
countries. These associations should serve to provide
potential female migrants with realistic information on
working and living conditions overseas and undertake
advocacy to ensure that workers' legal rights are enforced.
(vi) Promote the involvement of non-governmental organizations
to protect migrant women workers in matters of wages,
working conditions, and harassment and abuse by employers
and recruitment agents.
(vii) National development policies and plans should take into
account the gender-differentiated impact of macro-policies
and regional growth patterns on internal migration flows.
Such policies and plans should promote equal access to
productive assets and social services for migrant and
native populations of both sexes.
8. Training and development
To reduce the gender gap in training and development by
ensuring women's equal access to opportunities to develop their
skills in new technologies in order to compete on equal terms
with men for better jobs and to prevent or minimize the impact of
technological unemployment among women.
Action to be taken
(i) Encourage female students to study science and mathematics
in schools and universities. Appoint women with
appropriate scientific skills to senior policy-making
positions in science and technology.
(ii) Promote women's participation in all areas of technical and
vocational training and assist trained women in obtaining
(iii) Provide women with equal access to on-the-job skills
development and career advancement in the public as well as
in the private sectors.
(iv) Enable women to benefit from and cope with the impact of
new technologies by: developing and implementing
appropriate skills training and retraining programmes for
women in occupations and industries where new technologies
are reducing the demand for labour; strengthening women's
participation in labour relations; raising their awareness
of technological change so that employers and workers can
cooperate in the introduction of new technologies; and
providing social protection for technologically unemployed
C. Recognizing women's role and concerns in environmental
and natural resource management
To recognize and utilize the critical role and knowledge of
women in environmental and natural resource management, and
enhance awareness of their capacity to manage their environment.
1. Integration of women in environmental and natural
To integrate women's concerns and enhance women's
participation in environment and natural resource management.
Action to be taken
(i) Involve women at all levels of the planning and
implementation process to improve the environment,
including the home and work environment.
(ii) Mobilize all sources of information to increase the
potential of women to conserve and improve their
(iii) Recognize women as active participants in national and
international ecosystem management and the control of
(iv) Promote equal opportunities for women to participate in
wage-earning employment resulting from environmental
preservation and upgrading programmes.
(v) Ensure that the ownership of intellectual property rights
is adequately and effectively protected. Ensure, subject
to national policies and legislation, that technology,
knowledge and customary and traditional practices of local
and indigenous people, including resource owners and
custodians, are adequately and effectively protected and
that they thereby benefit directly, on an equitable basis
and on mutually agreed terms, from any utilization of such
technologies, knowledge and practices or from any
technological development directly derived therefrom.
2. Policies and planning for sustainable development
To integrate women's concerns and women's perspectives into
the design and implementation of environmentally sound and
sustainable resource management mechanisms at micro as well as
macro levels, in rural and in urban areas.
Action to be taken
(i) Integrate the knowledge and experience of grass-roots women
in the management of ecosystems into projects, programmes
and policies for environmentally sustainable development
by, among other things, including the involvement of
knowledgeable women at all levels of policy-making.
(ii) Reflect the needs and perceptions of women in the
formulation of programmes and development policies.
(iii) Ensure greater local autonomy and decentralization of
power to local bodies for better utilization of local
resources and ensure gender equity at the local levels to
effect such utilization. Adequate public resources should
be made available to local authorities for grass-roots
(iv) Increase development assistance to grass-roots women's
organizations working in the field of the environment.
3. Shelter and settlement
To meet women's needs for shelter and a clean environment.
Action to be taken
(i) Develop innovative programmes and appropriate technology to
provide housing for the rural poor with special emphasis on
meeting the needs of female heads of households, destitute
and abandoned women, and women in extreme poverty. In
urban areas, integrate shelter and housing programmes for
the urban poor with overall urbanization strategies.
Special attention should be given to providing housing for
migrant working women.
(ii) Ensure that all women and children have adequate shelter,
including access to clean drinking water, by assisting
rural women in constructing housing using appropriate and
environmentally friendly technologies; integrate the
housing needs of poor urban women into urban development
strategies, paying particular regard to the effect of
location on access to employment; involve poor and other
women from target groups in the choice of location and
design of housing in order to incorporate their needs for
culturally appropriate and practical space for cooking and
child care, and for access to fuel, water and work;
undertake gender-sensitization for architects, urban
planners and staff of public transport authorities;
implement surveys to identify the transport needs of urban
women, particularly those living in poverty, and the
development of programmes to meet those needs; and develop
special housing programmes for migrant, refugee and
(iii) Encourage gender-sensitive housing development policies
that take into account the needs of women in the design and
location of settlements, so that women's home management
and reproductive activities, such as the procurement of
water and fuel, cooking, cleaning and child-rearing, as
well as their labour market activities, can be carried out.
(iv) Ensure that women have equal rights in the ownership of
housing and that they are not discriminated against in the
provision of housing finance.
(v) Give preferential treatment to women from families in
extreme poverty, especially female heads of households, in
government housing programmes.
(vi) Involve women in the planning and construction phases of
community housing projects in order to ensure the provision
of gender-sensitive housing.
D. Supporting equal access of women to power
To strengthen factors that promote the full and equal
participation of women in power structures and decision-making at
all levels and, where necessary, to reorient the focus, practices
and assumptions of formal and informal institutions and to
inspire women and men to work together for a more humane and
Action to be taken
(i) Governments are urged to ratify the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
and withdraw substantive reservations to the Convention.
(ii) Governments are urged to ratify the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and
related conventions relevant to women's lives, and to
implement these through legal, administrative and other
(iii) Governments should promote international conventions
through community education, legal literacy programmes,
legal aid and counselling.
(iv) Governments, citizens and political parties are encouraged
to increase the percentage of women in legislative bodies
and ministries, at senior levels of the civil service and
in the judiciary, to at least 20 per cent by the year 2000,
by using legislation and quotas where required to address
structural impediments and by providing special assistance
such as training and information.
(v) Governments are urged to recognize decentralization in
decision-making as a necessary step towards ensuring
increased participation by women.
(vi) Efforts should be made to ensure that women are equitably
represented in all decision-making and advisory bodies by
Governments, trade unions, chambers of commerce and
industry and community groups by encouraging the
availability of information on women qualified for
appointment to senior decision-making, policy-making and
(vii) A wide range of means should be used to promote
awareness of women's human rights and the importance of
their full and equal participation in government,
administration, the law, trade unions and employer groups
and community groups.
(viii) Opportunities, including training, should be provided to
young people to prepare themselves for their future
leadership roles in this region.
Gender bias in the law
(ix) Legal systems should be made more accessible (especially to
those who lack resources), to women, including through
providing legal aid services, paralegal training and legal
(x) Gender bias in the law should be eliminated by research,
review and change in existing legislation and legal,
judicial and court practices, and by promoting awareness of
gender bias in legal education and training and providing
ongoing gender awareness programmes for members of the
legal profession, magistrates, judges and other legal
(xi) Family law should be reformed towards a common civil code
upholding the dignity of women as equal partners with men
in the family, including removing gender inequities in
matters of divorce, custody and property rights, preferably
where the initiative comes from the women in the concerned
(xii) Women should have an equal share of ownership and
inheritance of property and land.
(xiii) Discrimination against women in matters of citizenship
and nationality of spouses and children should be
(xiv) Increased sharing of roles and responsibilities within
the family should be promoted through innovative media
campaigns, school and community education programmes which
emphasize gender equality and non-stereotyped gender roles
of women and men within the family so that women may
participate in public spheres and activities.
(xv) Family counselling centres may be promoted with
non-governmental organization and community involvement and
operated by trained personnel and with adequate financial
E. Protecting and promoting women's human rights
In order for there to be justice for men and women, both
must be equal before the law. In some countries of the region,
discriminatory laws exist in the areas of property rights,
marriage, divorce and nationality. Women's rights being integral
to the concept of human rights, non-discriminatory laws in all
areas of public and private life need to be established to bring
about basic equity on the basis of their constitutional rights.
1. Violence against women
To ensure that violence against women in the public and
private spheres is treated as a violation of women's human rights
and as a community issue and that the causes of prostitution are
eliminated, paying particular attention to eliminating child and
Action to be taken
(i) Governments, intergovernmental bodies, other relevant
United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and
non-governmental organizations should be urged to take all
possible steps to eliminate violence against women in
accordance with the Declaration on the Elimination of
Violence against Women and other relevant United Nations
(ii) All Governments are urged to cooperate with and assist the
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, including the
causes and consequences of such violence, in the
performance of her tasks and duties and to furnish all
information requested by her.
Law and enforcement
(iii) Governments, United Nations bodies and specialized
agencies and non-governmental organizations should
periodically analyse and review existing legislation
relevant to violence against women with a view to ensuring
its effectiveness in eliminating violence against women
and, where such legislation does not already exist,
Governments are urged to introduce legislation.
(iv) Governments, intergovernmental bodies and non-governmental
organizations should be encouraged to conduct research on
enforcement and penalties on perpetrators of violence
against women, review and amend legislation, including bail
provisions, from the perspective that violence against
women is a fundamental violation of human rights and that
protection of these rights should take precedence over
protecting the civil liberties of the alleged violent
(v) Governments should legislate to criminalize child abuse,
including incest, rape and prostitution, and provide
appropriate support services and counselling.
(vi) Governments should be encouraged to increase the number of
female police officers with special training and deploy
them in adequate numbers to deal within the criminal
justice system with women subjected to violence.
Education and support
(vii) Undertake innovative and wide-ranging community
education to raise awareness of the root cause of violence
against women. Such measures could include conducting
community education campaigns which promote non-violent
attitudes, the criminal nature of violence against women
and the unacceptability of violence against women.
(viii) Raise awareness of members of the judiciary, health
professionals, members of the legal profession and police
of the nature and dynamics of violence against women.
(ix) Governments should develop and provide, in consultation
with non-governmental organizations, a comprehensive crisis
response to the various manifestations of violence against
women, including access to the courts, counselling,
information on crisis and support services, provision of
crisis intervention and trauma centres and emergency
financial and accommodation assistance.
Other specific action
(x) Child prostitution and forced prostitution must be made
illegal and heavy punishment imposed on traffickers and
agents. Laws should be reformulated to shift the bias
against prostitutes that currently exists in many
(xi) Eradicate any conflicts which may arise between the rights
of women subjected to violence and the harmful effects of
certain traditional or customary or cultural prejudices.
(xii) Governments should introduce policies, practices and
legislation where required to eliminate sexual harassment
in the workplace and provide effective compliance
mechanisms to enforce the treatment of such harassment as
(xiii) Adequate rehabilitation programmes should be designed to
rehabilitate women rescued from commercialized prostitution
(xiv) Efforts should be made to change social norms that
exonerate sexual double standards in allowing male sexual
promiscuity while setting strict norms of morality for
(xv) Job opportunities for girls should be expanded in sectors
other than the "entertainment" industry to allow young
women greater options in earning their living.
2. Indigenous women
To empower indigenous women so that they have opportunities
and choice within the development process, on terms which enable
them to preserve their cultural identity.
Action to be taken
(i) Involve indigenous women on all issues affecting them.
(ii) Pay special attention in the development process to factors
such as land tenure, family and community structure,
language and spiritual traditions which contribute to the
cultural identity of indigenous women and their
(iii) Ensure that indigenous women enjoy legal equality and
protection on the same terms as all women in society, and
are not discriminated against on the basis of their race.
(iv) Ensure that the rights of indigenous women over their
ancestral domain be recognized and respected.
(v) Ensure that the indigenous and traditional know-how of
women in agriculture be preserved and further developed.
3. Women under war and other conflict situations
To ensure that the special protection and assistance needs
of refugee and displaced women are taken into account adequately
in the design of rehabilitation programmes.
Action to be taken
(i) Refugee and displaced women's concerns should be routinely
integrated into planning, programming and processing in
consultation with the women themselves. Activities aimed
at promoting the rights of refugee women, including through
the dissemination of the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Guidelines on the
Protection of Refugee Women and their implementation,
should be encouraged in close cooperation with refugee
women, in all sectors of refugee programmes.
(ii) Refugee women, especially those vulnerable to sexual abuse,
should be given special protection through appropriate
strategies, including the proper design and location of
camps, and the adequate staffing of such camps.
(iii) Female officials should be deployed in border areas and
in refugee rehabilitation camps in adequate numbers to deal
with the problems of refugee and displaced women.
(iv) Displaced women should be rehabilitated through proper
training programmes that may help develop their productive
potential and endow them with marketable skills.
(v) Governments are to be encouraged to consider closely the
UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, in
conjunction with the 1951 Convention relating to the Status
of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol on that Convention in
considering refugee status for women who defy specific
social mores of feminine propriety and who try to leave, or
have left, their country of origin.
(vi) Governments are asked to strongly condemn the systematic
rape of women in situations of armed conflict and war and
to support calls for the perpetrators of such crimes to be
(vii) Governments are asked to strongly condemn the systematic
rape of women in situations of terrorism and to support
calls for the perpetrators of such crimes to be punished.
F. Promoting women's equal access to health
To ensure that women's health needs in all stages of the
life cycle are adequately articulated and properly met by the
requisite provision of budgetary resources, legislative support
and social and health-care reorientation; to eliminate female
foeticide; and to make systematic and pernicious gender
discrimination in the distribution of nutrition and health-care
services among children in the family a violation of law; and to
set targets for the reduction in maternal mortality and morbidity
rates by the year 2000, as established by various United Nations
Action to be taken
(i) Formulate national health policies in which the concept of
women's health is broadened to include all aspects of
health, including maternal health, reproductive health,
sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive tract
infections, nutrition and cancers, and menopausal and
post-menopausal conditions, and through which women-centred
services on all aspects of health care become available to
(ii) The "culture of silence" that prevents women from
recognizing and articulating their health needs should be
broken by consciousness-raising processes so that women
become visible in health statistics and their health
requirements are properly addressed.
(iii) Health and nutritional training should form an integral
part of all adult literacy programmes and school curricula
from the primary level.
(iv) The principle of gender equality in infant and child-care
practices should be incorporated in all health educational
programmes so that pervasive and callous gender
discrimination in the provision of health care within the
family can be eliminated. Existing United Nations
documents that ensure women's participation and empowerment
of both health care and nutrition should be fully enforced,
such as the World Declaration on Nutrition and Plan of
Action for Nutrition, adopted by the FAO/WHO (Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health
Organization) International Conference on Nutrition, held
in Rome in 1992, the Innocenti Declaration on the
Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding, adopted
by a WHO/UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) meeting in
1990, the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk
Substitutes, adopted by WHO in 1981, and related documents
that protect women from commercial pressures and
(v) Health should be recognized as a basic human right and
accorded high priority in budget allocations. Governments
should formulate national health policies in which the
concept of women's health is broadened to include all
aspects of health, through which women-centred services on
all aspects of health care become available to women.
(vi) Priority should be given to the delivery of appropriate,
affordable and accessible primary health-care services,
including safe motherhood services and disease control
responsive to women's special health needs.
(vii) Adequate efforts should be made by protective
legislation and other devices to minimize occupational
health hazards for women workers to ensure universal
coverage of health care.
(viii) National Governments should accord the highest priority
to the design and implementation of culturally adequate,
gender-sensitive HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and care
(ix) Privatization of health services should be discouraged
inasmuch as it denies access of quality health care to all
people and to women in particular.
(x) Rational drug policies should be adopted and the WHO
essential drug list used as a basis for drug procurement
(xi) Special attention should be given to the health and
nutrition of the girl-child and to pregnant and lactating
(xii) Iron deficiency anaemia in women should be reduced by
one third of the 1990 levels by the year 2000.
To ensure that women can exercise free and informed
reproductive choices through the formulation of administrative
guidelines, policies and programmes.
Action to be taken
(i) Legislative and social support should be ensured to prevent
unwanted pregnancies, reduce the incidence of high-risk
pregnancies and increase utilization of family planning by
women and men.
(ii) Family planning programmes should work towards improving
the quality of their services and helping couples and
individuals meet their reproductive goals. Such goals
should promote good health, respect the dignity of all
persons and their right to choose the number and spacing of
their children with adequate information on the safety and
efficacy of their family planning method of choice, and
ensure the accessibility of these services to all who need
and want them.
(iii) National Governments should ensure the easy availability
of safe methods at affordable prices.
(iv) All countries in the region with unacceptably high maternal
mortality rates should set the target of bringing them down
to one half of the 1990 level.
(v) Governments should aim to reduce the level of infant
mortality to 40 per 1,000 live births or lower.
(vi) National Governments should ban sex determination tests for
non-medical reasons and impose deterrent punishment for
those who provide such services.
G. Supporting access to and equality of women in education
1. Education and literacy
To accord the highest development priority to the problem of
illiteracy among women so that all women may attain functional
literacy as soon as possible, as well as to eliminate the gender
gap in basic and functional literacy and gender discrimination
and gender stereotyping in the content of education.
Action to be taken
(i) All countries, especially those with high levels of female
illiteracy, should immediately set up national literacy
missions and endow them with adequate resources in order to
attain elimination of adult female illiteracy.
(ii) Local administrative structures as well as non-governmental
organizations need to be involved integrally in these
efforts. Adequate provision should be made for follow-up
activities and in-built monitoring of the literacy
programmes in order to ensure continuity of the process.
(iii) Consciousness-raising activities through the media
should be carried out in innovative ways to generate
enthusiasm for the goal of universal literacy.
(iv) Measures should be taken to ensure wide dispersal of
educational facilities across geographical space at least
up to the secondary level, so that access of all women
living in remote and rural areas is fostered.
(v) Every attempt should be made to eliminate the depiction of
gender-stereotyped roles for women through revision of
syllabus and course content, consciousness-raising of
teachers and parents, and innovative affirmative action
programmes for girl students. Women's induction in
technical, scientific and other non-traditional fields
should be actively promoted.
(vi) Government should take measures to promote (a) universal
primary education; (b) equal participation in secondary
education; and (c) increased access of girls and women to
(vii) Government education departments, including the national
focal points for women in all countries of the region,
should become actively involved in the task of revising the
syllabus and course content of all school textbooks to
ensure that such material does not reinforce traditional
gender stereotyping of women's roles.
(viii) All schoolteachers from the primary level upwards should
be made to undergo gender-sensitization training
periodically in order to ensure that they transmit the
right kind of gender messages to their pupils during their
(ix) Women should be encouraged to engage in non-traditional
vocations and to attend non-traditional vocational training
(x) Gender studies should be promoted to ensure that a gender
perspective is integrated into all levels of education and
in all fields.
(xi) Career education programmes for women at all levels of
education should be developed and provided.
(xii) Special literacy programmes to cater for the needs of
women, especially rural women, should be promoted.
2. Science and technology
To ensure that women's participation in the new areas of
scientific and technological skills takes place on an equal
footing with men and that the benefits of such technology become
accessible to large segments of the women of the region, because
while women contribute significantly to science and technology,
they lack access to and control over technological and scientific
skills and innovations.
Action to be taken
(i) Special affirmative action measures (including special
scholarships) should be taken to promote the entry of young
girls and women students into formal educational and
vocational training institutes as well as private and
public enterprises to pursue scientific and technical
vocations, especially the newly emerging ones, on an equal
footing with their male counterparts. Measures should be
instituted to ensure that girls so trained can gain access
to appropriate employment.
(ii) Efforts should be made to break down gender-stereotyped
notions about scientific and technical expertise being
primarily a prerogative of men through proper revision of
syllabus and course contents, innovative use of the media
and sensitization of parents and teachers.
(iii) Research and development should be encouraged in
bringing the fields of scientific and technological
knowledge into the design of affordable equipment that can
reduce the drudgery of household work for the women of the
H. Portraying women positively in the media
To promote positive images of women in the media with a view
to influencing, transforming and creating social environment
policies affecting women, according women their rightful place in
society as active and equal partners in development and enhancing
women's dignity and self-image.
1. Communications technology
To ensure that women enjoy greater access to all forms of
communications technology, including the traditional and
indigenous media, so that women become creators and producers and
not merely recipients and consumers of media messages.
Action to be taken
(i) Governments and media organizations to create policies and
projects that provide training and employment opportunities
for women, especially in the use of new technologies.
(ii) Encourage the wider use of alternative media, especially by
marginalized women, to allow them to give voice to their
own issues and concerns.
(iii) Provide avenues by which alternative and mainstream
media can reinforce each other's efforts in the positive
portrayal of women.
2. Globalization of the media
To ensure that the global media, while providing
information, knowledge and entertainment across borders, also
promote social change and equality between women and men without
destroying the existing culture and prevailing values of
Action to be taken
(i) Strengthen efforts to link women at the national, regional
and international levels, in mainstream and alternative
media, to share experience, knowledge and strategies in
addressing gender, environment and development issues in
(ii) Governments should develop policies on communications to
respond effectively to the influx of inappropriate media
images from foreign sources.
(iii) Encourage and provide the means for the creative use of
indigenous cultural forms in the media, especially at
national and regional levels.
To change the gender orientation of the mainstream media and
ensure the elimination of gender stereotyping in the portrayal of
women in all forms of the mass media.
Action to be taken
(i) Encourage and subsidize media producers to create quality
gender-sensitive media materials and provide the means for
sharing such materials at the local and regional levels.
(ii) Provide gender-sensitivity training to media professionals,
including media owners and managers, to encourage the
creation and use of positive images of women in the media.
(iii) Popularize media-awareness training, especially in
schools and communities, to build an audience base of
discerning consumers who will recognize gender stereotypes
in the media and demand quality media output.
(iv) Support media-monitoring efforts of women's and consumers'
groups at national, regional and international levels, and
take remedial measures to address their findings.
(v) Adopt more stringent and effective measures to implement
existing legislation on pornography and create policies to
curb the excessive use of violence in the media. While
some countries have regulatory mechanisms for dealing with
images of violence and sex, the area of gender sensitivity
and portrayal of women in the media has been neglected.
4. The media and development
To ensure that the true role and full range of women's
contributions in development are reflected in the media.
Action to be taken
(i) Encourage the media to develop a gender perspective on all
issues, particularly those that are not generally
considered "women's issues" such as foreign debt,
environment, science and technology, and sustainable
(ii) Develop a module on women in development for use in schools
of communication and by professional associations.
(iii) National mechanisms on women in development should forge
closer linkages with the media, providing journalists with
the necessary gender orientation with which to view and
analyse development issues.
5. Media ownership and decision-making
To democratize access to and employment in the media, and
participation in the decision-making processes of the media, by
women and other marginalized groups.
Action to be taken
(i) Explore other ownership arrangements, such as cooperatives
and consortia, and develop measures for preventing
monopolization of the mass media by business and political
(ii) To put in place career development plans in media
organizations for young women through curriculum programmes
and in-service training.
(iii) Encourage media houses to adopt preferential hiring
policies targeted at women to ensure their equitable
representation, especially in newsrooms and production
offices. Establish guidelines and other mechanisms to
ensure equality in remuneration and benefits, including
family support systems for women in the media.
(iv) Ensure that women are better represented in decision-making
positions in media houses by providing them with the
necessary training and career opportunities, including
assignments to cover fields other than those generally
assigned to women journalists.
I. Creating adequate mechanisms for promoting the
advancement of women
To strengthen national machineries for the advancement of
women for the implementation of the Plan of Action.
1. National machinery
To define a clear mandate for national machineries and place
them at the highest political level of government.
Action to be taken
(i) Provide adequate staff and resources and upgrade the
(ii) Provide financial autonomy and direct international
linkages with other national machineries and with the
United Nations system in order to be independent.
(iii) Promote a global gender equality policy by monitoring
other governmental institutions.
(iv) Integrate the concerns of national machineries at all
levels and in all areas.
2. Gender analysis
To encourage Governments to develop more effective tools for
Action to be taken
(i) Require government officials to apply these tools in
developing policies and programmes.
(ii) Train all key personnel on gender analysis as a tool for
the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of
programmes and projects.
(iii) The United Nations should assist countries by developing
models for gender analysis of national policies and
(iv) Promote the employment of women in policy development and
programme implementation institutions, especially for
3. Integration of gender concerns
To strengthen the capacity of all government agencies to
integrate gender concerns into their work.
Action to be taken
(i) Facilitate the active participation of and coordination
with non-governmental organizations and agencies and
institutions conducting research on women.
(ii) Ensure the close integration of women in advisory
consultative bodies within national machineries.
To review and assess the adequacy of the coverage of gender
issues in official statistical systems and to prepare a plan for
Action to be taken
(i) Produce a publication that presents and interprets topical
data from a gender perspective suitable for a wide range of
(ii) At the international level, a new publication on the
subject "The world's women and men" should be prepared.
(iii) Statistical offices at both international and national
levels should develop methods and programmes to measure:
- Time use of men and women, especially all work and
work-related activities, whether paid or unpaid;
- Informal sector and subsistence agriculture;
- Satellite accounts on the contributions of women and
- Roles of women and men in the family and in family
- Domestic violence;
- Political and economic leadership;
- Wages, salaries and income.
J. Enhancing women's role in peace-building
To eliminate all obstacles to the full and equal
participation of women at national, regional and international
levels in peace-building and conflict resolution.
1. Participation in peace-building
To ensure the full and equal participation of women at
local, national, regional and international levels in conflict
Action to be taken
(i) Adequate representation of women should be ensured in
peace-keeping activities and peace negotiations at all
(ii) Women's views and women's perspectives should be reflected
in all such activities and negotiations.
(iii) Governments are urged to integrate women's viewpoints
and involve women in bilateral and multilateral
discussions, particularly on the crucial issues of
disarmament and reduction in defence expenditure;
Governments are encouraged to consider reallocating
military budgets to urgent social services.
(iv) Governments are urged to redefine security beyond the
conventional concerns of national defence, thus possibly
reducing military spending.
2. Education for peace
To ensure that peace education is made an integral part of
the socialization process within the family and in the society at
Action to be taken
(i) Reflect women's perspectives and involve women in the
design of peace awareness and peace promotional programmes
in the media, educational systems and the community.
(ii) Undertake measures to discourage the presentation of
excessive violence in the mass media.
3. Peace research
To increase understanding of the root causes of conflict
situations and the potential role of women in peace-building and
Action to be taken
(i) Encourage Governments to promote research on and establish
institutions for the study of peace-building and conflict
(ii) Encourage researchers to undertake studies on the root
causes of conflicts and the potential role of women in
peace-building and conflict resolution.
(iii) Encourage networking and promote dialogue among peace
researchers at national, regional and international levels.
V. ARRANGEMENTS FOR IMPLEMENTATION
74. Coordinated and complementary action is required from a
number of different parties for the Plan of Action for the
Advancement of Women in Asia and the Pacific to contribute
effectively to the advancement of women in the region; these
include Governments, intergovernmental organizations, donor
countries and agencies, non-governmental organizations, the
private sector and the general public.
75. First and most important is the role of participating member
and associate member Governments. Participating Governments need
to develop national plans of action for the advancement of women,
where these do not already exist. Based on the proposals
contained in the regional Plan of Action, national plans should
contain fully operational programmes and projects reflecting
national problems and priorities, as well as specific and
measurable outcome indicators to facilitate monitoring and
evaluation. Governments should ensure that appropriate
institutional arrangements are mobilized or, where necessary,
created to permit the full and effective discharge of their
national responsibilities in accordance with the provisions of
the Plan. Such arrangements will include incorporating the
national plans of action for the advancement of women into the
activities of national planning and executing bodies and national
development coordinating mechanisms.
76. Multisectoral participation is essential because many of the
most important developments required to advance the status and
roles of women involve broad social and community institutions.
Thus, Governments should encourage and facilitate the
participation of non-governmental organizations, the private
sector and the general public to formulate and execute the
national plans of action for the advancement of women. Existing
national women's machineries should be utilized and other
procedures and arrangements established to ensure the widest
possible participation in the execution of national plans. The
various sectors should be encouraged to modify existing
programmes and actions, as well as develop new projects and
activities in support of the advancement of women.
77. At the regional level, the participation of
intergovernmental organizations is required to support national
efforts. These include the United Nations bodies and agencies
active in the region. These organizations should develop
specific activities to support Governments in the implementation
of national plans of action and promote regional cooperation for
the advancement of women in Asia and the Pacific. It is
particularly important that intergovernmental organizations
review ongoing programmes and projects at the national and
regional levels to ensure that these are consistent with and
contribute to the advancement of women.
78. Donor countries and agencies also have a vital role to play
in supporting the Plan of Action and the implementation of
national plans. In addition to providing financial and technical
support for activities under the Plan, donors also need to review
ongoing programmes and projects in all areas of development to
ensure that they are consistent with and support the advancement
79. It is urgent to develop suitable institutional mechanisms
for regular and systematic interaction between Governments and
non-governmental organizations, including community-based groups
and trade unions. Such mechanisms shall be set up at all levels,
with special emphasis on local-level mechanisms in which most
women can participate effectively. Among the important roles of
non-governmental organizations are the dissemination of
information on the Plan, advocacy towards and participation in
the formulation of the national plan of action, influencing
implementation of national plans and supplementing State action
at the local level, monitoring the implementation of the national
plan and recommending improvements in Plan implementation.
80. The Plan of Action is a strategic approach to the
advancement of women in Asia and the Pacific. Noting that many
countries in the region have achieved considerable progress
towards meeting women's practical needs, the Plan emphasizes the
need also to address women's strategic gender interests. Thus,
strategic gender-related objectives are identified for the key
dimensions of each of the critical areas of concern under this
81. Within this overall framework, national priorities should be
set by each country, taking into account national circumstances.
Although, in the region as a whole, the promotion of women's
strategic gender interests is likely to assume the highest
priority, in some countries greater success in meeting women's
practical needs may be an essential step before strategic gender
interests can be advanced effectively. Even in those countries
that have made the most progress in meeting basic needs, failure
to meet the practical needs of particular groups of women may
continue to obstruct efforts to advance their strategic gender
82. At the national level, responsibility for setting priorities
should be shared between agencies and organizations in both the
public and private sectors, under the coordination of the
national focal point for women. At the regional level,
priority-setting should be the collective responsibility of the
various United Nations agencies and bodies and other
intergovernmental organizations participating in the
implementation of the Plan.
83. At the national level, coordination of the implementation of
the present Plan of Action should be undertaken through a
national focal point for women for the advancement of women.
Where such a focal point does not already exist, Governments will
need to establish a national focal point. This should be located
at the highest possible policy-making level, and be given
responsibility for formulating a national plan of action within
the framework of the Plan of Action. The national focal point
should be given the power and the resources necessary to promote
the active participation of all sectors, including
non-governmental organizations, other social and community groups
and the private sector, in the implementation of the Plan.
84. At the regional level, under General Assembly resolution
32/197 of 20 December 1977, on the restructuring of the economic
and social sectors of the United Nations system, ESCAP was
directed to serve as the main general economic and social centre
within the United Nations in the Asian and Pacific region.
Therefore ESCAP has overall responsibility for coordinating
regional measures in support of the implementation of the
regional Plan of Action; its role includes the following:
(a) Assisting countries in the formulation and
implementation of national plans and policies for the advancement
(b) Providing training to enhance the skills of staff from
government agencies as well as non-governmental organizations in
areas covered by the Plan;
(c) Organizing research in relation to the advancement of
(d) Facilitating intraregional exchanges of experience and
(e) Disseminating regional information;
(f) Regularly monitoring and evaluating the implementation
of the Plan.
85. In order to promote regional cooperation in the
implementation of the Plan, ESCAP should organize
intergovernmental subregional meetings and periodic consultations
among the national focal points. Owing to the important
influence of culture on the position of women, subregional
consultations will facilitate the exchange of experience and
expertise among countries with similar social and cultural
backgrounds. ESCAP should also convene meetings of senior
officials occasionally to consider special issues related to the
implementation of the Plan. The Executive Secretary of ESCAP is
requested to seek the necessary funding for ESCAP to perform
these tasks, and the United Nations system is likewise requested
to review its funding allocations to ensure that such funds are
made available. In addition, ESCAP is encouraged to integrate
appropriately the priorities of this Plan with the work programme
of all divisions of ESCAP. The concerned bodies and specialized
agencies of the United Nations and other intergovernmental
organizations will also coordinate their various activities in
support of the Plan to maximize its impact and optimize the
utilization of resources.
D. Financial arrangements
86. Governments are encouraged to extend their utmost efforts to
ensure that adequate budgetary, personnel and other resources are
made available in order to ensure the effective implementation of
national plans of action for the advancement of women.
87. Intergovernmental organizations, including the United
Nations bodies and agencies, should mobilize financial and
technical resources as much as possible in support of the
regional Plan of Action. Donor countries and agencies,
development banks and intergovernmental funding organizations are
urged to give the highest priority to allocating resources to
support activities for the advancement of women under the Plan
and to support the implementation of national plans of action.
Noting the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 20:20
compact on human development (i.e. 20 per cent of developing
country budgets and 20 per cent of industrial country aid are
allocated to human priority expenditure), donors are encouraged,
after appropriate consultations with their respective partners,
and taking into account women's participation and needs, to make
efforts to increase the proportion of their official development
assistance allocated to the social sector and especially to
poverty alleviation. Donors are further encouraged to coordinate
their efforts both to avoid duplication and to maximize the
effectiveness of their resources. In prioritizing funding and
technical assistance, donors should consider the needs of the
least developed countries in the region and the poorer areas
within each country.
E. Monitoring and evaluation
88. Participating Governments are encouraged to set targets and
monitor the implementation of the Plan of Action on a regular
basis, for which additional mechanisms should be created where
89. ESCAP should monitor the implementation of the Plan of
Action for the Advancement of Women through, among other things,
the preparation of the "Statistical compendium on women in Asia
and the Pacific". ESCAP should also provide technical assistance
to member countries in developing output indicators of the
advancement of women based on national priorities in order to
monitor the implementation of national plans of action.
90. The ESCAP secretariat will report to the Commission at its
fifty-first session, and at each session thereafter whenever
necessary, on the status of the implementation of the Plan. The
report will include a statistical report detailing the specific
measurable targets for the advancement of women adopted by
participating Governments in national plans of action for the
advancement of women and on national progress in achieving those
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