Dear Asia Society Australia Members, Supporters and Friends,
From the Kolkata widows breaking years of tradition to celebrate Holi to the young women leading the protests in Thailand; from two female Japanese lawmakers making a pitch for the nation’s top job to the movement to expose the culture of sexual harassment in Australia’s Parliament: women are changing Asia and paving the way for the next generations of leaders.
To shed light on these changes, we are dedicating this year’s edition of Disruptive Asia to women and girls.
Last year – amidst the pandemic, economic crisis, and geopolitical tensions – we asked our readers not to lose sight of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In 2021, COVID-19 and the threat of new variants continue to wreak havoc across the global economy, challenge democratic ideals and values, break the old and create new political alliances. Less understood is the current and future impact of this pandemic on reaching one of the main SDGs: achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.
It’s 2021 and gender discrimination is alive and well. In Australia, women earn 20.1 per cent less than men in the same job, they represent only 33.7 per cent of ASX 200 board members, they hold 27 per cent of Australian ministerial positions, and one in four women has experienced violence by a partner.
The figures are similar, and in some cases worse, across the region. And while there has been progress over the last decades, the pandemic has intensified existing inequalities in health, education, access to employment, governance, and security.
To shift the dial on gender by 2030, it is imperative to put women and girls at the centre of the regional and global recovery efforts and build a more inclusive and resilient society.
Asia Society Australia wants to be part of this effort. In Disruptive Asia: Women and Girls, we examine successes, setbacks, best practices, and stories of Asia’s journey to gender equality. We will highlight opportunities for Australia to contribute to building a more gender-inclusive region and propose policy recommendations to achieve it.
We are conscious that twenty essays in this year’s edition cannot capture the complex and multilayered story of profound changes affecting or led by women in our region. But we hope it will provoke debate, showcase diverse voices and be a start of the ongoing conversation about gender equality in Asia and Australia’s role in this movement.
Convenor, Disruptive Asia 2021 Edition
Asia Society Australia