NEW DELHI?Women in the Asia-Pacific region have little economic and political power, impacting economic growth prospects of developing nations, the United Nations said in a report released Monday.
According to the UN Asia-Pacific Human Development Report to mark International Women?s Day, the region ranked near the worst in the world on issues such as protecting women from violence or upholding their rights to property.
?The key message [of the report] is that to meet any development goals that a society sets, you need the full participation and involvement of women,? Helen Clark, head of the UN Development Program (UNDP), said.
The report said lack of women?s participation in the workforce was costing the region an estimated $89 billion annually.
While many women in the Asia-Pacific region had benefited from improved education, health and prosperity, they continued to face barriers to the same opportunities available to men, the report said.
Not only were rates of employment, political representation and property ownership some of the lowest in the world, indicators related to health, literacy and vulnerability to poverty were also staggeringly low compared to men.
In many countries, few women earned their own income and the legal rights of men over land, housing, livestock, businesses and financial assets were biased?leaving women vulnerable with no control over their household finances.
The absence of a female voice in the Asia-Pacific?s political systems was also a concern.
?Women politicians, particularly those with extra vulnerabilities of poverty or association with marginalized groups, have been killed, raped or faced physical threats for challenging the status quo,? the report said.
Women earn less
Women with children earned almost a third less than men and still faced too many career obstacles, a global trade union said in a report released Monday in Brussels.
The persistent imbalance in household chores could hurt women?s careers, the study of the International Trade Union Confederation said. Women with kids earned on average, 68 percent of what men made, and overall, women made 74 percent of what men brought in, according to the report.
Few women in power
While women made up the backbone of production-line workers in China and had joined professions such as medicine, journalism and teaching, their numbers were small in the centers of power?China?s ruling Communist Party, and the giant corporations that formed the core of the state-dominated economy.
One fifth of Chinese NPC parliamentarians were female, higher than the 17 percent of the US Congress who were women. But China?s parliament came under the firm thumb of the Communist Party, where real power lay. All nine members of the Party?s top ruling body, the Politburo Standing Committee, were men.
Chinese women?s economic power and wealth were still lower than men?s. They owned 20 percent of businesses, compared to a world average of 30 percent, said Global Summit of Women president Irene Natividad.
No agenda for women
In Manila, militant organizations Monday challenged presidential candidates to come up with a concrete and long-term agenda for women as they trooped to the Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) Bridge to commemorate the centenary of International Women?s Day.
Some 1,000 activists from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)-Asia Pacific, the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kaahumanu (PKKK), the Bagong Kamalayan Prostitution Survivors? Collective, the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)-Women, Amnesty International and their affiliate groups marched from España Boulevard to Mendiola Street.
A second group, composed of 2,000 members of Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Migrante, the Amihan-Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihang Magbubukid, the Promotion of Church People?s Response (PCPR), and other organizations held a separate program at the bridge.
In a statement, the CATW-Asia Pacific said not one of the presidential candidates had a concrete women?s agenda.
The groups said women workers demanded full employment with dignity and equal opportunity, food sovereignty, sustainable livelihood and agrarian reform.
Marching in Iloilo
Braving the scorching heat, some 500 members of women?s groups and militant organizations marched on the streets of Iloilo City Monday afternoon.
The protesters led by Gabriela converged on Bonifacio Drive where a program was held.
Lucy Francisco, Gabriela regional coordinator, said women should push candidates in the May 2010 elections to address women?s concerns including health, employment, housing and violence on women.
Vice presidential candidate Sen. Loren Legarda, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar and Marikina Mayor Marides Fernando attended the Women Entrepreneurship Summit of Go-Negosyo at the World Trade Center in Pasay City and gave advice to women on business and empowerment.
Legarda talked about her projects and accomplishments as a senator. She had co-sponsored the Magna Carta for Women, as well as co-authored the Anti-Violence against Women and Children Law.
Villar spoke about the livelihood program she initiated for the women in Las Piñas City.
Fernando talked about the importance of family when both parents are working.
Legarda also spoke in two other venues?Mandaluyong City Hall and at the Welcome Rotunda at the boundary of Manila and Quezon City?where she repeatedly paid homage to women who have taken on huge responsibilities as partners of men in nation-building and sociopolitical and economic progress.
?We recognize women for their achievements, regardless of their race, religion, culture, or status. We look to this day as a milestone, one in which we determine the progress we women have made in exercising our rights and our participation in the economic and political arenas,? she said.