Recognising the fact that providing greater opportunities for the economic participation of women stimulates increased economic growth and is crucial for sustainable development, IORA is committed to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
IORA agreed to establish women’s economic empowerment as a special area of focus at the 13th Council of Ministers Meeting in Perth, Australia on 1 November 2013. The Perth Communiqué reflected the decision of IORA Foreign Ministers to “work together to ensure that the people of the Indian Ocean region have access to the best possible levels of education. The empowerment of women and girls in the region is a high priority for IORA.”
Several subsequent Ministerial and Thematic Ministerial Declarations have further advocated for women’s empowerment such as the 2014 IORA Ministerial Economic Declaration which stated that “the prosperity of the region will only be realised fully by investing in the empowerment of women” and the 2015 Ministerial Padang Communique, which reaffirmed “commitment to the importance of women’s economic empowerment as an effective driver of economic growth and development”.
Highlights to date include:
- IORA Foreign Ministers issued the IORA Declaration on Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Bali, Indonesia (October 2016). This declaration formalizes the Member States commitment to the empowerment of women and girls as central to realising inclusive and sustainable economic growth (see below).
- Prime Ministers and Presidents further strengthened the Association’s commitment during IORA’s 20th anniversary celebrations in the Jakarta Concord for ‘Promoting Regional Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable and Prosperous Indian Ocean’ along with an accompanying IORA Action Plan for 2017-2021 that sets out initiatives to drive this important cross-cutting agenda forward (March 2017).
- So far, five capacity building events have been held in India (2014, 2017), Indonesia (2016), Malaysia (2014) and Seychelles (2016). These focused on topics such as the tourism and textiles sectors; poverty alleviation; mobilizing markets and commitments, women in business and entrepreneurship. These events have provided invaluable opportunities for networking and sharing of best practices and laid the groundwork for the Ministerial Declaration.
- Publication of a first-ever baseline survey of women’s empowerment along with key trends and critical issues facing the region published by UN Women, with support from the Australian Government, entitled Enabling Women’s Contributions to Indian Ocean Rim Economies (October 2015).
- The Journal of the Indian Ocean Region had a special issue focusing on women’s economic empowerment in the Indian Ocean Region (March 2017).
- All IORA Special Fund applications and project guidelines now require gender sensitivity in their planning and implementation and must demonstrate to direct benefits to women.
- Efforts to promote the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) resulting several companies signing around the Rim, including in the first-ever signatures from Madagascar and Iran (October 2016).
Looking to the future, the IORA Action Plan also identifies women’s economic empowerment as a key priority area and sets out flagship initiatives to be achieved between 2017-2021 to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. These are to establish an IORA Working Group on Women’s Economic Empowerment and a Women’s Business Forum in the Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF); cooperation with UN-Women and relevant organisations for capacity building and information exchange; champion initiatives to increase women’s economic empowerment such as the Women’s Empowerment Principles; implement training and capacity building programs; and to organise activities strengthening women's economic capacity and participation in business.
Declaration on Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment
Notably, on 27 October 2016 in Bali, Indonesia at the 16th Council of Ministers Meeting, the IORA Declaration on Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment was adopted. This declaration upholds important principles which recognise the empowerment of women and girls as being essential to the economic and social prosperity of the IORA. Member States pledged to promote women’s human rights by affirming that the following:
- Women’s economic empowerment is a foundational element of gender equality and the full and equal realisation of women’s human rights.
- Women’s full and equal participation and leadership in the economy are vital for realising gender equality and empowerment of women that will make a crucial contribution to progress across all goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda.
- Higher female earnings also lead to greater investment in children’s health and education, which likewise contribute to longer term economic growth.
- Many women in IORA Member States are engaged in the informal economy, without adequate job or income security and inadequate social protection.
- Women make a significant contribution to peace and security, which are key ingredients for advancing economic prosperity.
- Women’s voice, participation in leadership and decision-making is important in our quest for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment and sustainable economic growth.
The Jakarta Concord
Promoting Regional Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable and Prosperous Indian Ocean, was a key outcome from the Leaders’ Summit held in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the IORA in Jakarta, Indonesia on 7 March 2017 and reflects the commitment of the IORA Members at the highest level to re-affirm the principle of gender equality and empowerment as central to realising inclusive sustainable economic growth.
Workshop on Women’s Entrepreneurship and Skill Development
New Delhi, republic of India
IORA Women in Business Symposium: Implementing the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs)
IORA Women's Economic Empowerment Event: Mobilizing Markets and Commitments to Gender Equality in the Indian Ocean Rim
Mahé Island, Seychelles