APRC in Melbourne – Women’s Economic Empowerment

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It was so wonderful to have free registrations for Young NCWVic members to attend the Asia Pacific Regional Council (APRC) forum on Saturday 10 October and the National Council of Women of Australia Triennial conference between Sunday 11 October and Tuesday 13 October. Ramla, Lucky, Gaurie and I from the Young NCWVic felt so honoured to be part of the conference.

The newly elected ICW-CIF President Dr Jung-Sook Kim, APRC president Dr Montip Sriratana Tabucanon, delegates and friends from Singapore, Finland, New Zealand, Indonesia and Fiji gathered together on Saturday 10 October to share their views on Women and Economy in Asia and the Pacific.

Dr Kim mentioned that the number of women on board in companies were very low in some Asian countries; however, Australia had the largest proportion of women directorship, which accounted for 11.2%. It is time to change this situation. Moreover, helping women to be more aware of business opportunities, particular in new technologies, would encourage women’s economic empowerment.

Presenter Giwo Rubianto Wiyogo spoke the experience of Indonesian women. Kowani (NCW Indonesia) cooperates with the government to create projects about the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology or ICT. However, barriers faced by women are lack of basic education and training in innovation and technology, domestic chores of women as care-givers and some social norms. When Lucky asked if there were any suggestions that could be made to women’s participation in economy in African countries like Somalia, Giwo gave two points: one is to organise workshops to educate women and the other one is to help find a source of finance to support them.

APRC president Dr Montip talked about the importance of education in promoting women’s entrepreneurship and the crucial role of ICT in bridging the gap caused by limited education opportunities. The barriers include difficulties in access to finance and the need for evidence-based policy and programming.

Rae Duff, President of NCW New Zealand, outlined their achievements in law reform, including Prostitution Reform Bill 2003, Domestic Violence Amendment Act 2013 and Paid Parental Leave Act. Human trafficking in New Zealand is now punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a NZD$500,000 fine, or both. This has meant a decrease of the number of sex workers. An interesting comment made by one of the ICW Vice Presidents Hean Bee Wee was that although these legal issues seems to be irrelative to women’s economic empowerment, these gender issues in the end will cost the economy.

Outgoing president of NCW Australia Julie Morris, the former ICW President Dr Anamah Tan and the presenter Lorraine Foster from Fuji also presented papers.  All the sessions were thought provoking, and made me think more deeply about the issue of economic empowerment of women. Imagine if women are economically independent and independent in thought, what the impact on their lives could be? Perhaps the domestic violence arising from financial problems will decrease. Underlying all presentations were about the need for women to have more equal access to education, and this sentence explains how important education is: “If you educate men, yes you educate men. If you educate women, you educate the next generation”.  (Yvette W)

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