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ASEAN leaders debate women’s empowerment in digital age

Padaung woman in Inle Lake, Shan State. (Douglas Long/The Myanmar Times). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

HANOI, Jun 27, 2020, VNS. Vietnamese Prime Minster Nguyễn Xuân Phúc on Friday chaired an ASEAN Leader’s Special Session as part of the 36th ASEAN Summit on Women’s Empowerment in the Digital Age, Vietnam News reported.

The video conference was held as an initiative of Việt Nam to affirm ASEAN leaders’ commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and to enhance the role of women in building the ASEAN Community.

In his remarks, PM Phúc highlighted the role played by women and their contributions to humankind’s efforts to respond to challenges and promote development in each ASEAN country.

“There remains inequality and discrimination against women, however, which inhibits their development and contributions to the community,” he said.

The PM underlined the need for ASEAN to take action to utilise women’s potential and create conditions for them to use their strengths and contribute to development in regional countries and the ASEAN Community, especially in the digital age.

According to the UN, women account for only 2 per cent of the total number of negotiators and mediators in the world but are indispensable in co-operative processes that help create sustainable peace and security.

“The ASEAN Community has affirmed its goal of developing into a community in which everyone is treated equally and the rights of women are promoted and protected,” PM Phúc stressed.

“ASEAN members have effectively implemented plans and programmes as well as mechanisms on women, towards building a people-centred ASEAN Community,” he said.

Addressing the gathering, Chairwoman of the Vietnamese National Assembly Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân, also Chair of the 41st General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA 41), said she highly valued the initiatives and commitment of ASEAN in promoting the role and rights of women and women’s empowerment.

She proposed measures to make progress even more effective.

Ngân expressed her belief that ASEAN would continue to take advantage of the region with the world’s fast internet growth to enhance the position of women, especially those in leadership positions.

ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi underlined the significance and timing of the session as it took place amid challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The special session not only reaffirmed ASEAN’s commitments to realising equality for all but also shone light on the indispensable role of women as drivers of urgent change in the digital age, he said.

Participants discussed measures to promote and uphold the role and contributions of women as well as women’s empowerment in the digital age, and how to facilitate their participation in building an ASEAN Community based on the three pillars of politics-security, economy, and socio-culture.

Ways were also sought to promote ASEAN women’s contributions to efforts to maintain peace, security, stability, sustainable development, and multilateral co-operation in countries and the region.

Future of ASEAN

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc on Friday called on the youths of ASEAN to be more proactive, creative in common activities and unite to promote ASEAN’s image to the world.

Presiding over an interface between ASEAN leaders and ASEAN youths as part of the 36th ASEAN Summit, he said the young generation was a key element making contributions to building a prosperous ASEAN Community.

“ASEAN has made major achievements over the half-century since it was established. The achievements were made thanks to the joint efforts of all people, including important contributions of youths, who account for one third of ASEAN’s population.”

He said the government leaders trust ASEAN’s young generation. Their enthusiasm, dynamism, creativity and the idea of ‘dare to think and take action’ will be a valuable resource to help the ASEAN Community overcome difficulties.

He spoke highly of diversified youth co-operation among ASEAN countries and between ASEAN and its partners, praising ASEAN youth’s 2020 priorities for encouraging and creating conditions for youths to learn, express their voice and make positive contributions to society.

Secretary of the central Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union and chairman of National Committee on Vietnamese Youth Lê Quốc Phong said ASEAN governments had issued a number of assistance policies for young people in disadvantaged circumstances. Thanks to the governments’ attention, ASEAN youth indexes in education, health care, employment, start-ups and involvement of youth in social activities have made remarkable improvements.

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