Framework for Action on Economic Empowerment of Women

Asia-Africa Forum on the Economic
Empowerment of Women, Bangkok, 16-18 July, 1997

The participants in the Asia/African Forum on the Economic Empowerment of Women, having met in Bangkok from July 16 to 18, 1997, acknowledged:

(a) The progress made in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995; the Tokyo Declaration on African Development, 1993; the recommendations of the first and second Asia/Africa Forums in Bandung, 1994, and Bangkok, 1997; and, the work of the First Global Women Entrepreneurs' Trade Fair and Investment Forum in Ghana, 1996;

(b) That significant further actions, including affirmative action, were needed from all key actors in the economic empowerment of women -- government agencies, non-governmental organizations, regional and international organizations, donor countries, female entrepreneurs and women in the labour force -- to develop policies, programmes and projects, including strengthening of legal mechanisms and institutional frameworks, to address key constraints on the economic empowerment of women in Asia and Africa;

(c) The creativity, productivity and entrepreneurship of women in Asia and Africa and their capacity to further develop their skills, capacities and productivity;

(d) The need for an integrated approach to women's economic development;

(e) The need to recognize the differing needs of women in rural and urban areas, in the formal and informal sectors, in agriculture, manufacturing and services;

(f) The need to lobby Governments and official agencies to strengthen legislation to protect the rights of women in the labour force;

(g) The need to push for Governments to include representatives of female entrepreneurs in all relevant trade and commerce structures;

(h) The supreme importance of peace and the recognition of women's roles in its promotion and maintenance; and,

(i) The need to promote the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The Forum identified the need for an enabling legal and policy framework and action to address five priority areas to promote women's economic empowerment:

Increased access to educational and training opportunities, and encouragement of positive socialization to promote self-development and enable full utilization of opportunities;

Improved access to credit and finance;

Improving access to management and marketing skills and appropriate technology;

Building and strengthening networks among female entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations, relevant governmental organizations, regional and international organizations; and,

Increased Asia-Africa cooperation.

The Forum recommended:

1. Education, Training and Socialization

(a) Recognition that education and training were essential for women's economic empowerment, particularly for poor women, but inadequate, by themselves, to ensure that goal;

(b) The full incorporation of gender-analysis and gender sensitization in all education and training;

(c) The provision of legal literacy training and awareness-raising for women in the labour force, focusing on their rights as employees;

(d) Programmes for women to encourage self-confidence, advocacy and negotiation skills;

(e) Making marketable and profitable designs and prototypes available to female entrepreneurs through international agencies;

(f) Educational and training policies should address women's needs by providing flexibility in courses and schedules to take into account their domestic and professional responsibilities;

(g) Full use should be made of information and communication technology, including television, interactive video-conferencing and satellite transmissions, to deliver courses to large numbers of women in both urban and rural locations, and to share existing satellite communication networks;

(h) Education and training should be provided to women in the places and institutions, in which they gather for other purposes, such as markets, where courses can be delivered in a motivating environment, in which skills and knowledge learnt can be immediately applied;

(i) Publicizing the central role of women in national economies and of "success stories" of female entrepreneurs through a wide range of media, to assist in changing public attitudes towards women's involvement in economic decision-making and encourage women to become entrepreneurs; and,

(j) In the new economic environment of globalization, liberalization and increased competition; (i) provision of gender-sensitive training of officials and representatives in the governmental, non-governmental and private sectors to promote women's interests in relevant regional and international forums; and, (ii) provision of training in marketing, export development and joint venture promotion to female entrepreneurs and relevant associations.

2. Improved Access to Credit and Finance

(a) Policies to encourage existing financial institutions to extend credit to women in all sectors of the economy;

(b) Development of mechanisms to provide collateral for loans for women without individual resources. These may be established at the national level by associations of female entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations or Governments;

(c) Reform of property and land rights to guarantee women's basic economic rights; and,

(d) Promotion of microfinance schemes, including group financing without collateral and savings/credit facilities, within the framework of experience about the need for careful planning, well-trained scheme staff and effective monitoring to ensure success.

3. Building and Strengthening Networks

(a) Formation and strengthening of networks of female entrepreneurs in influencing all levels of policy formulation;

(b) Advocacy and promotion to ensure inclusion of women's economic empowerment as a goal of all major international economic agreements;

(c) Recognition of the effectiveness of modern information technologies in developing and promoting cooperation, particularly regionally and internationally; and,

(d) Increased participation of female entrepreneurs in existing networks, such as chambers of commerce and industry, Government structures, major regional and international trade and financial structures. A critical mass of women representatives of recognized umbrella NGOs should be included in formal deliberations on trade and finance.

4. Improving Access to Management and Marketing Skills and Appropriate Technology

(a) Promotion of improvements in technologies to prepare, process and preserve food to aid women as the primary food producers and significantly improve their economic conditions;

(b) Provision of mechanisms to assist women to use modern information technology, including appropriate technological know-how, to access essential global information and market their businesses internationally;

(c) The establishment of "incubator centres" as single places at which female entrepreneurs can obtain a wide range of training, information and services and at which their businesses can be nurtured;

(d) Mentoring of younger and less-advantaged women; and,

(e) Recognition of the need to build on women's existing technological capacity and utilize local research and development resources.

5. Asia-Africa Cooperation

(a) Establishment of sustainable, ongoing networks of female entrepreneurs, gender-based non-governmental organisations, women in the labour force and government officials from Asia and Africa. Participants committed themselves to actively working towards such networks through their personal efforts, utilising where necessary their personal resources, as well as encouraging and supporting efforts by international agencies to further develop such efforts;

(b) Establishment of sustained information and trade development mechanisms such as study visits, networking opportunities and conferences, particularly in the food processing, packaging and information technology sectors, to develop a critical mass of women entrepreneurs;

(c) The development of "cooperation triangles" to expose members to the technology available and in use in countries with relatively more advanced technology;

(d) The support of multilateral and bilateral donors and regional organisations in implementing these programmes; and,

(e) The exploration of complementarities of business strengths to develop cooperation.

Immediate Follow-up Actions

The Forum recommended:

(a) continued advocacy in governmental and private sectors to increase awareness of women's economic rights and gender sensitivity;

(b) the creation of networks of women entrepreneurs and representatives of women's non-governmental organisations from the two continents, to facilitate joint ventures through visits and information-sharing;

(c) documentation of the success stories of female entrepreneurs in Asia and Africa;

(d) the initiation of a series of study tours to develop a critical mass of knowledgeable women in the sectors of textiles and food security; and,

(e) the creation of a network of information centres in Asia and Africa, equipped with state-of-the-art technological infrastructure, possibly functioning as incubation centres, to ensure expansion of economic opportunities for women on the two continents on a sustained basis;

(f) the organizers of the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development, to be held in 1998, should be requested to take into account the recommendations from this Forum contained in this Framework for Action.

The key implementers of follow-up activities, in collaboration with donor countries, will be:

(i) the participants in the Forum;

(ii) the co-organizers of the Asia/Africa Forum, including the Governments of Japan and Thailand, UNDP and UN/OSCAL;

(iii) the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA);

(iv) the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); and, (v) relevant regional and subregional organizations.