On the 16th of March 2017, Asia-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) delivered an oral statement at the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) which was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 13 to 24 March 2017. Working within the priority theme of “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”, ARROW delivered a statement that reinforces the role of universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in achieving economic empowerment.
Oral Statement: 61st Session of Commission on the Status of Women
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen. The relegation of women and girls to inferior positions in the family, community and state, and undervaluing of women’s economic contributions reinforce the limited achievement of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Often, a woman’s role is fixed to care for her husband and family and she cannot have aspirations beyond the achievement of marriage and reproduction.
The Asian-Pacific region is home to 4.3 billion people, equivalent to 60 per cent of the global population. While economic growth remains steady not everyone enjoys its dividends.[i] Despite declines, poverty remains the reality for millions, especially women and girls, even in countries that have made the most progress.[ii] Women and girls also face additional barriers that prevent access to essential resources and services. Hunger and undernourishment remain the reality amongst many.[iii]
The overall health of women, including young women, affects contributions to a country’s economy. Harmful traditional practices such as FGM and child and early marriage prevail. [iv] Free access to comprehensive SRHR information and services continues to be challenging and access to safe abortion services and post-abortion care is restricted in many parts of the region. Maternal mortality and morbidity continue to be problematic.[v] Gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence, as well as discrimination and stigma of LGBTQ people is widespread, including in the workplace. The consequences of unintended pregnancy for young women include stigma, isolation, school expulsion or drop-outs, forced marriage, violence, honour killing, and suicide. Access to comprehensive sexuality education is limited, deprioritized, and focuses on abstinence education.[vi] [vii] Currently, caring for children, elders and the home, which is a lifelong burden, is mainly unpaid work done mostly by women[viii].
Women often cannot make choices regarding their SRHR, which continue to be dictated by traditional gender norms and roles. Systemic patriarchy ensures that they have low participation, and remain in low skilled, insecure and unsafe jobs. They have limited access to productive resources, including land and access to credit[ix], have low or disparate wages, and disproportionately suffer the effects of trade liberalization.[x] Discriminatory inheritance and divorce legislation also do not guarantee their rights. We know that access to property can increase income earning potential and bargaining power, and change power dynamics[xi] that can help achieve SRHR and protect against violence.
Member states must:
• Create more inclusive and accountable political economies and shift from a market based, male-led, neo-liberal model. This includes reforming policies that assume growth leads to equality, to those that ensure rights, entitlements and SRHR.
• Ensure adequate allocation of GDP for health, including prioritising comprehensive SRHR information and services, including access without stigma and discrimination.
• Recognise and translate into action that women and girls are not a homogenous group and their experiences of barriers to economic empowerment vary. Include consideration of the life-cycle of women and create a supportive environment that ensures the right to work if, when and how she chooses to. Address the specific needs and interest of particular groups, such as domestic, migrant, home-based, informal sector, rural and sex workers.
• Recognise the influence of socio-cultural and religious attitudes and norms on access and empowerment and put safeguards in place. This includes addressing legal and socio-cultural barriers and ensuring access to information and services, including ICTs.
• Recognise and address domestic and care needs and promote shared responsibilities. Change gender norms and roles, invest in care infrastructure and services, including social protection, and improve the low status, pay and working conditions of carers.
1. Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Malaysia (ECOSOC acred.)
2. Abdul Momen Khan Memorial Foundation, Bangladesh (ECOSOC acred.)
3. Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre, Pakistan (ECOSOC acred.)
4. Empower India, India
5. Coastal Development Partnership (CDP), Bangladesh
6. Rural Women’s Social Education Centre (RUWSEC), India
7. Channan Development Association (CDA), Pakistan
8. Naripokkho, Bangladesh
9. Association of Youth Organizations Nepal (AYON), Nepal
10. BARGAD , Pakistan
11. Youth Advocacy Network (YAN), Pakistan
12. SERAC, Bangladesh
13. Forum for Dignity Initiative (FDI), Pakistan
14. Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Nepal
15. Sindhica Reforms Society, Pakistan
16. Aware Girls, Pakistan
17. Rutgers WPF, Pakistan
18. Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN), Nepal
19. Light House, Bangladesh
20. Khpal Kore Organisation, Pakistan
21. Penita Initiatives, Malaysia
22. University Health Sciences, Lao PDR
23. Visible Impact, Nepal
24. Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan, Indonesia
25. Rahnuma Family Planning Association, Pakistan
26. Family Planning Association of India (FPA India), India
27. JAGO NARI, Bangladesh
28. Aahung, Pakistan
29. Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka
30. Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON), India
31. Public Advocacy Initiatives for Rights and Values in India (PAIRVI), India
32. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia
33. Blue Veins, Pakistan
34. Huvadhoo Aid (HAD), Maldives
35. Freedom Foundation, India
36. Radanar Ayar Rural Development Association, Myanmar
37. Beyond Beijing Committee, Nepal
38. Asia Catalyst, New York
39. Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
40. Psychological Responsiveness NGO, Mongolia
41. Forum of women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan
42. CHETNA, India
43. People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty, Mongolia
44. “Development Observer” NGO Coalition of Mongolia, Mongolia
[i] Das 2016. Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Asia:
A Regional Profile. ARROW. http://arrow.org.my/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Regional-Profile-Universal-Access-to-SRHR_Asia.pdf
[ii] UNESCAP 2016. Statistical Abstract. http://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/SDGs_01_SYB2015.pdf
[iv] UNFPA, UNESCO and WHO. 2015. Sexual and Reproductive Health of Young People in Asia and the Pacific. A review of issues, Policies and programmes. UNFPA: Bangkok. Accessed September 10, 2016. http://unfpa.org.mn/publications/UNFPA_SHR_YP_AP_2015.pdf
[vi] UNFPA, UNESCO and WHO. 2015
[vii] ARROW’s and partner research in India and Bangladesh 2016.
[viii] See http://www.icrw.org/issues/employment-and-enterprises/
[ix] See http://www.icrw.org/issues/employment-and-enterprises/
[x] See http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidtrade/Papers/gibb.pdf
[xi] See http://www.icrw.org/issues/assets-and-property-rights/