Asia has world’s worst gender gap

In the Asia-Pacific region, more needs to be done to enforce women’s rights. The 2010 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) illuminates the problems and offers avenues for improvement.

Though the region has achieved considerable economic growth, cultural and social norms still prevent women from rights such as owning property, reporting abuse, education, employment et cetera. Overall, they have less education and poorer health. However, the report says, gender gaps within Asia-Pacific’s sub-regions are disproportionate. East Asia and the Pacific are moving forward, while South Asia has come to a standstill on many issues, including adult literacy, economic participation and health.

Even in countries with large improvements there remain serious issues. Although India has made progress by increasing women in government positions, it and China still account for over 85 million of the 100 million “missing” women who have died from improper medical care or who were aborted as redundant babies. Changing the social attitudes, particularly in South Asia, is the only way to create lasting results, the UNDP states.

If not for the sake of justice, then at least the economic rewards that come with gender equality should drive change in the Asia-Pacific region, the report explains. The advantages of employing women are astounding. According to the report, the lack of women’s participation in the workplace in Asia-Pacific costs the region approximately $ 89 billion a year. Also, women who are educated and hold professional jobs in, for example, government, bring new insights and solutions.

The UNDP report gives several recommendations, including a revamping of education systems. Ways to combat the gender stereotypes include teacher training and revised or new teaching materials. Moreover, crimes against women have to be taken seriously by the judiciary.

Training legal workers on the needs of marginalised groups as legal workers as well as making access to the legal system easier for women are considered musts. Despite many gains Asia-Pacific has made, with some countries formally committing to gender equality, there is still much to be done, the report states. (Andrea Herbst)

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