PH joins ASEAN Ministers’ call for women in digital economy and financial inclusion

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministers reaffirmed commitment to promote the equality and empowerment of women and girls in the ASEAN region, and stressed the important role of women in the development and resilience of the ASEAN community, during the 4th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Women held via video conference on October 15, 2021. 

PCW Chairperson Sandra Sanchez-Montano represented the Philippines in the said meeting, which focused on the theme “Digital Economy and Financial Inclusion for Improving ASEAN Women’s Competitiveness”. 

The meeting was also graced by Yang Berhormat Major General (Rtd.) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports; His Excellency Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia; AMMW Chair Her Excellency Madam Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, Minister for Women Empowerment and Child Protection, Republic of Indonesia, and the Secretary General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi as well as Ministers responsible for women affairs from all ASEAN Member States.

The 4th AMMW’s theme sought to facilitate constructive discourse and build regional synergies towards creating an enabling environment for women. Secretary General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi highlighted the relevance and importance of this theme in terms of providing the necessary focus to identify opportunities for all women in the ASEAN region and the post-pandemic world.

“We have come a long way in our digital economic transformation journey since the e-ASEAN Framework agreement was first launched recognizing the imperative of digitalization in our economy and society… As far as financial inclusion is concerned, we will continue to support it in ASEAN to support our objective of people’s center economic growth particularly in harnessing the potential of women… I am pleased to note that several ASEAN Member States have been able to close several gaps in financial inclusion,” Dato Lim Jock Hoi said.

Her Excellency Madam Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati facilitated the discussion, opening with a message on how the threat of the pandemic serves as a challenge but not a hindrance to ASEAN’s goals. “It (COVID-19 pandemic) cannot stop our work or commitment for promoting gender equality and enhancing the important role for sustainable development,” Her Excellency enthused.

In her message, PCW Chairperson Sanchez-Montano who headed the Philippine Delegation noted the digital immersion of Filipinos, considering that the country has been reported as the top social media and internet user worldwide. She underscored that this high usage breeds opportunities, even amidst the pandemic, when the e-commerce adoption has grown by 4.2% from last year.

PCW Chairperson Sandra Sanchez-Montano

“Recognizing this inevitable shift of business transactions and consumer behavior, there is a great opportunity to leverage digitalization to support women’s businesses and increase competitiveness,” Chair Montano stated.

She also shared the best practices of the Philippines when it comes to digital economy and financial inclusion, to wit:  The integration of digital economy and e-commerce in long-term plans and programs, such as the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 and the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Plan 2019-2025;  cooperation and collaboration with the public and private sectors to drive collective action in women’s economic empowerment; and development of a strong legal framework that supports digitalization and women’s economic empowerment.

The 4th AMMW also took note of the progress report by the chair of the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW), including the completion of the ACW Work Plan 2016-2020, the ACW Work Plan 2021-2025, the deliberations of the 18th, 19th and 20th ACW Meetings, and other important developments.

Said event culminates a week of regular meetings and side events for the ASEAN Commission on Women (ACW) and Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC): 20th ACW Meeting, 11 October; 13th ACW +3 Meeting, 11 October; 23rd ACWC Meeting, 12 October; and the 8th ACWC-ACW Consultation Meeting, 12 October.

Results of the meeting include the Joint Statement of the 4th AMMW which encourages ASEAN Member States to review and reconfigure relevant policies and programs to ensure inclusive transformation initiatives, including equality for women in the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework;  accelerate efforts that include women in the digital economy, financial inclusion, and assets ownership, strengthen consultative platforms and mechanism that directly engage women in decision- and policy-making processes in both public and private spheres; encourage all ASEAN Sectoral Bodies to introduce gender tools and concepts that will surface and articulate the gender dimensions of their sectoral work; and improve the collection, use and analysis of gender information and sex-disaggregated data especially related to SDGs.

Prior to the 4th AMMW, side events were also conducted from the 5th to 15th October 2021 and attended by representatives from several government and non-government agencies in ASEAN: “The Beauty of Batik as a Cultural Heritage in Women’s Hands,” 11 October; Awarding of “Gender Equality” Award by Anugrah Parahita Ekapraya (APE), 13 October; Webinar on Sharing Best Practices of the Implementation of Public Private Partnership on Women’s Economic Empowerment, 13 October; Webinar “Indonesia’s Experience on Women Empowering Women in Pandemic Situation,” 14 October; Webinar “Jamu as Indonesian’s Heritage,” 14 October; Launch of ASEAN-UNESCAP Joint Report on Addressing Unpaid Care and Domestic Work in ASEAN: Policy Guidelines and Recommendations, 14 October.

Other PCW officials such as Executive Director Atty Kristine Rosary Yuzon-Chaves and Deputy Director Ma. Kristine Josefina G. Balmes also participated in the regular meetings and served as resource speakers in the side events, along with Dr Lourdesita Sobrevega-Chan, who serves as the ACWC PH Women’s Rights Representative.

The next AMMW meeting will be held in 2024 and will be chaired by Myanmar.