CARE Australia has welcomed the Government’s commitment to women and girls’ empowerment in the Australian aid program, following the announcement of a new initiative to strengthen women’s trade opportunities in Asia-Pacific.
Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, today announced the initiative – which will strengthen trade promotion of women exporters across the region – during the APEC Women and the Economy Forum in Beijing.
‘Access to economic opportunities increases a woman’s sense of pride, purpose and decision-making power. Initiatives such as this are to be commended, as they recognise the critical role women’s empowerment plays in the region’s economic development,’ said Jenny Clement, CARE Australia’s Country Programs Manager.
‘By investing in programs that provide economic opportunities for women, not only will the region’s women be better able to meet their own needs but the entire region will benefit with increased productivity and fewer families living in poverty.’
In APEC countries including Papua New Guinea, CARE works with coffee companies and growers to increase productivity and strengthen family business management practices so that men and women from coffee farming families can work together to grow their income.
Ms Clement said the benefits of creating economic opportunities such as these for some of the world’s poorest women were immense.
‘When a woman does not have the same level of participation as her partner, not only does she miss out; so does her country. The Asia-Pacific region – our region – loses between $42 and $47 billion each year because of restrictions on women’s employment.
‘If women had the same access to farming supplies as men, for example, the agricultural output in 34 of the world’s poorest countries would increase significantly, leading to an estimated 150 million fewer people going hungry each day.’
Ms Clement added that while the statement from Ambassador Stott Despoja was recognition of the value of investing in women’s economic development, it was being made on the back of a $7.6 billion cut – almost 10 per cent – to Australia’s aid program over the coming five years.
‘While we welcome this demonstration of the Government’s commitment to women and girls, the reality of cuts to foreign aid means that fewer families living in extreme poverty will be able to see the benefit of initiatives such as this.’