International Women’s Day is marked on 8 March every year as an opportunity for advocacy and creating awareness on issues that affect the lives of women and girls around the globe. This year’s theme is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”.
Globally, women and girls carry high burden of household work, compared to that of men and boys. While these efforts are generally unrecognized, unrewarded and taken for granted, what is most worrisome is that they diminish opportunities for women and girls. These hours of household work tend to reduce their opportunities for learning, paid work, sports, engagement in civic or community leadership and contribution to the formal economy.
Worldwide, only 50 per cent of working age women are represented in the labour force, compared to 76 percent of men. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of working women are concentrated in low-pay and low-skill occupations.
The world of work is changing rapidly, with technological advances and globalization. However, to a great extent, women have been left on the sidelines with no access to the opportunities brought about by these advancements. It is, therefore, a responsibility of governments, international organisations, the civil society and individuals alike, to step up efforts to achieve gender equality at work place and elsewhere to ensure that women too reap the full benefit of the unprecedented opportunities brought about by the changing world of work.
Since its inception, issues related to women have figured prominently on the SAARC agenda. Moreover, during successive Summit meetings, the SAARC Leaders have unequivocally expressed firm commitment to amleliorate the condition of women and girls across the region. In line with the Leaders’ directive, the internalised version of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), namely, the SAARC Development Goals (SDGs), contain four Goals devoted to the cause of women. In the meanwhile, established in 2015, the SAARC Gender Policy Advocacy Group (SAARC GPAG) is currently working on developing a three-year Action Plan for the Member States. For the first time in SAARC, this Action Plan is intended to address “Recognition of the female heads of households, unpaid care work and women in the agriculture sector” as a strategic action area.
As we observe the International Women’s Day today, I reiterate SAARC’s commitment to achieve Gender Equality across South Asia. I would also like to take this opportunity to call upon all the stakeholders to accelerate efforts for Gender Equality towards a Planet 50-50 by 2030, by ensuring that the world of work, works for all women as well.
Amjad Hussain B. Sial
Secretary General, SAARC
Kathmandu, 08 March 2017