Manila, Philippines: Women are the main power behind ASEAN’s success as one of the world’s greatest economic powers, but women also face many challenges to further advance the region. Thus Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi conveyed, during the ASEAN Women in Business Breakfast Meeting, on the sidelines of the AMM meeting in Manila, 6 August 2017.
Minister Retno, who attended together with Myanmar and Vietnam Foreign Ministers and a number of the most influential businesswomen in Southeast Asia, presented a special presentation highlighting the roles and challenges facing women in ASEAN as significant contributors to the economic growth in the region.
ASEAN Women in Business Breakfast Meeting is an informal meeting held on the sidelines of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Manila hosted by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and the Philippine Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano.
“The population of women in the ASEAN region reaches more than half of the 600 million people of ASEAN, besides women also own and manage about 33% of 66% SMEs in four ASEAN countries”, said Retno explicitly explained the magnitude of the women’s role in turning the wheels of the economy, in particular for small-medium enterprises that become one of the pulse of the ASEAN economy.
ASEAN is the 6th largest economic power in the world and the 3rd largest in Asia. ASEAN also recorded a combined GDP value of US $ 2.55 trillion and in 2015 with economic cooperation between ASEAN countries it reached the most stable position of 24% of the total trade in goods.
Such successes, according to Retno, could have been achieved, but not without challenges. There are still many problems faced by women in ASEAN.
“The income gap, the large number of women working in the informal sector that are vulnerable to exploitation, the difficulty in getting access to capital and market information for businesswomen are part of the challenges faced by women. These challenges require the cooperation of ASEAN countries to find the best solution,” Retno affirmed.