Social gender biases in Asia have caused working Asian women to suffer greatly during the country’s financial crisis.
At a meeting of Pacific Rim leaders, delegates to a conference on women vowed to bring an end to discrimination against women workers and to provide women better job opportunities.
“Where poverty reigns, women are poorer than most men. Gender, to be sure, is a function of nature. Poverty, however, is not,” Philippine Congresswoman Bellaflor Castillo said to delegates at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.
“Sex-based discrimination has thrived because those who are in a position to make a difference have chosen to ignore it,” said Castillo.
Several officials plan to use their power to create positive change for women in Asia. Solutions to reverse unequal opportunity obstacles will be discussed by the conference of senior officials, who will pass their recommendations on to ministers attending the two-day forum in Manila, scheduled for Thursday. Proposals will then be delivered to APEC heads of state that are planning to meet next month.
When companies started closing their doors, women were the first to be laid off. Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Rosario Manalo believes women suffered first because many work in low-paying, dispensable work in the garment industry and home-based industries.
“Because of gender stereotypes, women are expected to engage in paid work on a temporary basis, such as during the time between finishing school and marriage and pregnancy,” Manalo said.
Women entrepreneurs, the owners of small- and medium-scale businesses in APEC countries, have also suffered setbacks due to the crisis because it is more difficult for them to obtain credit and loans than it is for men.
Manalo called for studies on the effects of Asia’s financial crisis on women to be carried out, and for countries to begin collecting data on women’s contribution to production and trade.