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Rising to New Heights:
ASEAN Accelerates Efforts to Advance Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment
February 4, 2024

Rising to New Heights:

ASEAN Accelerates Efforts to Advance Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment


Over 280 representatives from across the ASEAN Political-Security, Economic, and Socio-Cultural pillars, the U.S. government, UN Women, and other ASEAN Partners joined the launch of ASEAN’s first Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework. Credit: ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT

ASEAN-U.S. cooperation catalyzes a new framework that places gender equality at the center of ASEAN’s regional recovery and development agenda. 


ASEAN has long held gender equality and women’s empowerment as valuable components of its regional development agenda, from the 1988 Declaration of the Advancement of Women in ASEAN Region to the 2017 Declaration on the Gender-Responsive Implementation of ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the Sustainable Development Goals. Recent decades have shown economic development, government measures, and the efforts of civil society have led to significant improvements in reproductive health, narrowing gender gaps in education and increasing women’s participation in the labor force. However, more than twenty-five years after the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized and exacerbated systemic, gender-based barriers to economic opportunities, social protections, and political participation faced by women and girls prior to the current public health crisis.

In order to accelerate gender equality objectives in line with COVID-19 recovery agenda, the ten ASEAN Member States (AMS), with the technical support of the U.S. Government, developed the first-ever Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework. Launched in January 2022, the ASEAN Strategic Framework provides a roadmap for ASEAN to accelerate gender mainstreaming throughout its three communities. During the launch event, H.E. Ekkaphab Phanthavong, ASEAN Socio-cultural Community Deputy Secretary-General, underscored the framework’s broad vision: “The ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework establishes concrete steps for a whole-of-ASEAN approach to lay the groundwork for longer-term structural changes. These in turn ensure that every political, economic, and societal issue of the ASEAN Community is strategically addressed with gender equity in mind.”

The ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework puts forth an ambitious yet practical way forward for integrating gender equality across the entire ASEAN Community, ahead of the next cycle when AMS will update regional development and cooperation objectives in 2025. Strengthening collaboration across the ASEAN Political, Economic, and Socio-cultural Communities, as well as with civil society and international partners, is a critical aspect of the Strategic Framework, which features activities that reinforce ASEAN’s commitment, capacity and culture around gender equality and inclusion. The design of the Strategic Framework is the result of nearly two years of development and consultation across regional stakeholders, under the leadership of the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). 

Through the ASEAN-U.S. Agency for International Development Partnership for Regional Optimization in the Political and Socio-cultural Communities (PROSPECT), the U.S. provided technical and administrative support to the ACW and ACWC throughout the development of the Strategic Framework. During the launch event, Jennifer Klein, Executive Director and Co-Chair of the White House Gender Policy Council, emphasized the importance of U.S.-ASEAN partnership and shared goals around gender mainstreaming, enhancing women’s leadership and entrepreneurship, and the Women, Peace and Security agenda, saying, “The Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework marks the culmination of years of effort on the part of ASEAN and the United States to move from gender policy commitments to implementation and the meaningful integration of gender equality across the ASEAN Community… [it] could not have come at a more critical time.”

As a strategic partner, the U.S. is committed to continuing collaboration with ASEAN, UN Women and other partners to promote the meaningful and full participation of women and girls across all aspects of society, which is essential for strengthening women’s political participation, promoting economic well-being and security, ending gender-based violence, and tackling the systemic bias that limits rights and opportunities for over half of ASEAN citizens on the basis of gender.

Learn more about the launch of ASEAN Gender Mainstreaming Strategic Framework here.

CONTACT: USAID/RDMA ASEAN Office Jakartausaidasean@usaid.gov