The Asia Pacific region has seen significant progress in gender equality in recent years in a number of areas, such as education and political participation. From 2000-2016, the number of out-of-school girls in primary and secondary school dropped by 67 million. 1 The number of females in tertiary school rose by 41 million. From 1990 to 2018 the proportion of women in national parliaments has risen from 8 per cent to18 per cent.
"COVID-19 is directly affecting our lives and mental health. In my family, women normally do all the cooking which means that we must go to the market where it is crowded, putting us at greater risk." -Baifeun, Lao PDR
Unfortunately, in other areas, Asia and the Pacific have seen a decline in equality. According to UNESCAP, women’s economic empowerment has remained nearly stagnant3 and those who are young and in the informal labour market are expected to be hit the hardest. The East Asia Pacific Region is one of the only regions in the world where rates of teenage pregnancy are increasing in low-and-middle income countries.
Any emergency risks increasing existing discriminations and incidents of violence. It also risks losing progress so recently made for girls and young women. The COVID-19 Pandemic is an emergency on a scale not seen for nearly 100 years. The impacts will be far reaching and, if we’re not careful, long-term. We are already seeing the effects in increasing reports of domestic and gender-based violence, school closures, and the shutting down of the informal economy. All of these necessary public health strategies severely threaten the progress made in gender equality, and risk losing even more ground on the fight for girls’ rights.
We have an opportunity to mitigate the negative impacts of this global pandemic, particularly those negative impacts to progress on gender equality and girls’ rights. We need to listen to those most impacted by the loss of rights and gender equality. Girls. In Plan International Asia Region’s Report, Hear it From the Girls, we do just that. We have reached out to girls across the region to hear their stories. We are working to learn lessons from their experiences and respond to their specific needs during this time. We recommend listening as we hear it from the girls themselves.