With the 38 degree hot wave in Bangkok, Thailand on 17th November, 2014, stepping into the UN Conference Centre with excitement, curiousness and tension, I started my exploration of the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) Beijing +20 Review.
The core of the APRC is on “Assuring Sustainable Development Goals: Challenges in transforming women and girls in Asia and the Pacific”. Three different workshops — Gender and Climate Change; Economic and Climate Change and Economic Empowerment of Women – have been offered to attendees to give further discussions.
The most impressive part is a presentation in the third workshop made by Shelley Siu, who is the founder of the Singapore Shawl. As a creative social enterprise, it provides employment and additional skills development for marginalised women. Shelley trained and then employed the sick and disadvantaged women, which have helped many women built up their confidence and changed their life. She and her company are also active fund-raisers, and her exquisite hand-embellished shawls have helped to raise substantial amounts through fashion shows and auctions to the Breast Cancer Foundation and DSM (World Food Program) etc. Undoubtedly, the Singapore Shawl has touched the lives of breast cancer survivors, single mothers, home-bound care-givers, retirees, the retrenched and unemployed.
I suddenly realised that the “Economic Empowerment of Women” is not an abstract concept, but it influences women’s ability to lift themselves from poverty and gain more options to improve their lives. All human beings, irrespective of gender, must have equal opportunities to seek out economic opportunities. Fortunately, we have Shelley to share her philosophy of how to run her company. Or in other words, we note the role of entrepreneurship in women’s economic empowerment and call for action to promote and support entrepreneurship.
Two-day discussion has offered the opportunity for delegates from different countries to tell attendees what the observations, challenges and recommendations on each topic. However, the most splendid part is the third day when everyone can sit together to give a review of forward-looking policies to address challenges in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in Asia and the Pacific, and opportunities for accelerating the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in the post-2015 era, which is the Beijing +20 Review. It is amazing that more and more volunteers, no matter women or men; no matter where they are from, care about worldwide women’s issues and make their own contributions. (From Yvette Wang)