ACWC gender lens lead ASEAN efforts in upholding women and children’s rights

JAKARTA, 2 March 2023 – For the first time since the pandemic, the 26th ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) Meeting took place in-person at the ASEAN Secretariat.

The two-day meeting – attended by representatives of Women’s Rights and Children’s Rights from ASEAN Member States (AMS) – provided a venue to discuss regional strategic efforts to address pressing issues and emerging challenges on the rights of women and children including ending gender-based workplace exploitation, regional guideline for developing national Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for a coordinated response to Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG), mainstreaming gender equality and social inclusion into climate action planning, enhancing gender-responsive treatment on women prisoners, and accelerating women migrant workers’ economic empowerment, among others.

These efforts that were reflected in the ACWC Work Plan 2021-2025 ensure that gender equality and social inclusion are mainstreamed in line with upholding the rights contained in the Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

“More than ever, raising the voices of women and children in discussing gender-based issues and in identifying solution-focused actions are key in ensuring that ASEAN’s initiatives by 2025 would achieve long-term gendered impacts and results, with no woman and child left behind,” said Yanti Kusumawardhani, Indonesia’s Representative on Children’s Rights and Chair of ACWC.

The ACWC will institutionalise gender mainstreaming efforts across the ASEAN Community pillars through its leadership role in establishing the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Steering Committee (AGMSC), together with the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW). They reaffirmed their commitment to utilise a whole-of-ASEAN approach in implementing the ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework (AGMSF).

They further supported Indonesia on the roll-out of the ASEAN Do-No-Harm Guide for Frontline Responders: Safeguarding the Rights of Victims of Trafficking in Persons – launched on 11 January with the support from the ASEAN-ACT.

The ACWC will continue to implement the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace and Security (ASEAN RPA on WPS) with stronger advocacy and capacity-building efforts, especially in the security sector as well as ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on Ending Violence against Women (ASEAN RPA on EVAW) and will organise the Launch of ASEAN/WE STRIVE Campaign for Ending Gender-Based Workplace Exploitation; Observance of the International Women’s Day 2023 on 10 March 2023 featuring online platform for  private sector companies to pledge, conduct, and share emerging practices on preventing abuse and gender-based exploitation to women in the world of work. 

ACWC’s use of digital technology and greater participation of the private sector to step-up its advocacy strategies have contributed to Indonesia’s Chairpersonship of ASEAN in 2023, which is guided by the theme: “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”.

Moving ahead, the ACWC shall endeavour to leverage measures that will increase child participation in ASEAN initiatives through the development of a regional framework on child participation. “In shaping the future of ASEAN beyond 2025, the ACWC has a crucial role to be at the forefront in driving closer regional cooperation among relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies in promoting and protecting the rights of women and children, especially the disadvantaged, those living in vulnerable situations as well as, using rights and gender perspectives,” Kusumawardhani added.

The ACWC will also continue to address the violence against children issues and enhance the cooperation among relevant sectors for child protection through the planned initiatives this year including the development of the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Child Labour, and 2nd ASEAN-ICT Forum.

The Interface Meeting between ACWC and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) – preceding the 26th ACWC – showed their commitment to work together on ensuring alignment and complementation in promoting and protecting the rights of women and children including enhancing gender-responsive treatment of women prisoners and ending gender-based workplace exploitation. ACWC and AICHR agreed to explore joint initiatives on ending violence against women and children, implementation of ASEAN’s commitments on the human rights of women and children, and the social impacts of climate change, among others.

In forging ahead, ACWC Representatives explored opportunities for robust partnerships and cooperation with ASEAN partners, especially in enhancing institutional capacity and effectiveness of ACWC as an ASEAN consultative body.