Women in Southeast Asian countries are urged to play more role in the government sector as an effort towards equality to men, ASEAN Foundation Executive Chairman Makarim Wibisono said here on Wednesday.
"Women must contribute to the efforts of realizing ASEAN Community by 2014. They have vision and voice that need to be heard to build this region," Makarim said during a dialog session held at ASEAN Foundation building here on Wednesday.
In the discussion which taken the theme of Enhancing Women`s Role in the Working System of Governance Makarim criticized the number of women lawmakers in Indonesia that is still under the country's target of having 30 percent of women representation in the parliament.
Meanwhile Indonesia's Minister for Women Empowerment and Child Protection Linda Gumelar on a written statement said it is still hard to raise the number of women lawmakers as political parties have the privileged to appoint lawmaker candidates that they will support in general election.
She expressed hope Indonesia's general election which will be held in 2014 will bring more women participating in the government or parliament office.
As to call for ASEAN countries to increase women's role in decision making processes Linda said human resource development will help women in improving their ability to do more in either government or parliament sector.
Earlier Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that women's empowerment in ASEAN needs to be upgraded.
"It is possible for women to contribute to any sector. However, we haven't been given the same chances as men in the region. This is more of a cultural problem in the society rather than an economic one," she pointed out.
She cited the example of Myanmar, where women contribute significantly to the economy, but much less to the political sector. She acknowledged the presence of discrimination in the political sector, but added that women are often unaware of it. "In the parliament, for example, there are far fewer women than men," she observed.
Suu Kyi also mentioned some ways to tackle the cultural problem of women's empowerment in ASEAN regions, namely, to encourage women to assume leadership roles in political parties and to provide incentives to families that keep their girls in school.
Meanwhile, Helene D. Gayle, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United States-based NGO CARE, cited numerous studies showing that empowering women can have a multiplier effect on the community - in terms of improved health, higher literacy rates and a reduction in extreme poverty - to a greater extent than can be achieved through other development initiatives.