Investing in women’s and children’s rights towards a safe and inclusive ASEAN Community

JAKARTA, 25 April 2024 – Investing on empowering women and children is crucial to scale up efforts to promote and protect women’s rights and children’s rights in the region. On the occasion of the 28th ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) Meeting, the representatives emphasized the need for bold steps to create a safe and inclusive ASEAN Community for all women and children.     

“Upholding the rights of women and children throughout the lifecycle is paramount in enabling a safe, gender equal and inclusive ASEAN Community,” according to Soukphaphone Phanit, Permanent Secretary of Planning and International Cooperation Department, Lao Women’s Union, as ACWC Chair and Lao PDR’s ACWC Representative for Women’s Rights.

ACWC has prioritized addressing emerging challenges facing women and children, ensuring that ASEAN address trafficking in persons, cyberviolence, disability rights, women prisoners’ right, economic empowerment, gender equality and social inclusion in climate action planning, legal identity of women and children, child labour, and child early and forced marriage, among others. As such, gender transformative actions and child-empowering approaches need to be embedded in the ASEAN Community Vision 2045.

“More than ever, it is imperative for ASEAN to enhance its cooperation and increase its investment on promoting and protecting women’s and children’s rights and building community resilience through intensifying partnerships and collaboration across the three ASEAN Community pillars together with external partners, private sector and civil society”, added Phanit.

The ACWC reaffirmed its strong commitment to ending violence against women and children in all its forms through the roll-out of key ASEAN regional guidelines that were successfully completed and launched by ACWC in 2023. These include the i) ASEAN Guidelines for Provision of Protective and Support Services for All Child Victims and Children in Contact with the Law as a Result of Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, ii) ASEAN Guidelines for Harmonised and Comprehensive National Legislation against All Forms of Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and the iii) ASEAN Guidelines for Developing National Standard Operating Procedures for a Coordinated Response to Violence against Women and Girls that will be launched on 22 August 2024. 

In shaping a better future for all women and children in ASEAN, the ACWC has embarked on reviewing the implementation of the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (ASEAN RPA on EVAW) and the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Children (ASEAN RPA on EVAC) as well as the development of its successor plans of action.

The ACWC recognised the important role and active support of ASEAN Dialogue and Development partners as well as International Organisations in realising ASEAN’s commitments to promoting and protecting the rights of women and children. The ACWC Open Session was attended by the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (UN SRSG on VAC), UNICEF, UN Women, UNHCR, Australian Mission to ASEAN, UK Mission to ASEAN, USAID, WWF and CRC Asia. The 28th ACWC Meeting was attended by the representatives for women’s rights and children’s rights from all ASEAN Member States with Timor-Leste as observer, and representatives from the ASEAN Headquarters.