ASEAN Committee on Women

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has maintained its efforts and support in the promotion of the status of women and has participated actively in the regional and international arena pertaining to the advancement of women. Specifically carrying out these thrusts is the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) which serves as the primary coordinating and monitoring body of theASEAN on key regional priorities and cooperation in women’s issues and concerns.

The ACW has organized numerous regional workshops, seminars, training sessions and consultative meetings that provided venues for government officials, civil society organizations, professionals and other stakeholders to exchange views, share experiences and build commitments and a common understanding on various gender issues. One of the most notable of these assemblies is the ASEAN-High Level Meeting on Gender Mainstreaming within the Context of CEDAW, BPFA and the MDGs held in November 2006. It was during this meeting that the Joint Statement and Commitment to Implement Gender Mainstreaming was adopted by ASEAN member countries.

The ACW was also among those that drafted the Terms of Reference for the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) which was inaugurated during the 16th ASEAN Summit in 2010.


What is the ASEAN and the ACW?

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a geopolitical and economic organization of 10 countries in Southeast Asia. Its aims and purposes include the acceleration of economic growth, social progress and cultural development among its members, the protection of peace and stability in the region, promotion of active collaboration and mutual assistance, promotion of Southeast Asian studies and maintenance of close beneficial cooperation with other regional and international organizations.

The ASEAN was established in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration  by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam then joined in 1984, Viet Nam in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in1999, making the current 10 Member States of ASEAN.

The ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) carries out the coordination and monitoring of theASEAN’s key regional priorities and cooperation in women’s issues and concerns. ACW’s roots can be traced way back 1975 when efforts towards establishing an ASEAN involvement in women’s issues began during the ASEAN Women Leaders’ Conference. In 1976, the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Women (ASW) was established and was renamed the ASEAN Women’s Programme (AWP) in 1981. However, it was in 2002 that the on-going ASEAN cooperation on women’s issues was restructured and called the ACW.

The ACW which holds its regular meetings annually is guided by two operational documents:

  1. Work Plan for Women’s Advancement and Gender Equality (2005-2010), which is rooted from the 1988 Declaration on the Advancement of Women in ASEAN.
  2. Work Plan to Operationalize the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (2006-2010), which builds on existing national efforts, moves forward the priorities of the other Work Plan and integrates all relevant priorities and measures into a consolidated action plan on violence against women.

The ACW also works in close partnership with the ASEAN Confederation on Women’s Organizations (ACWO) and several international organizations like Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in working for gender equality and advancement, and eliminating violence and discrimination against women.


Other ACW Accomplishments and RP Participation

Since its inception, the ACW has come up with several projects, programs and activities for the advancement of women. Some of the ACW’s major undertakings include:

The Philippines, as an ASEAN member state has adopted the ACW’s ideals along with the other international treaties on women that the country has acceded to. In the almost decade long existence of the ACW, the Philippines have actively participated in its affairs and has channelled efforts towards the achievement of the Committee’s goals. 

During the 9th ACW Meeting in November 2010, the Philippine delegation highlighted the Philippines’ achievements in terms of gender mainstreaming through its enactment of laws for the protection, promotion and fulfillment of women’s human rights, executive policies on gender and development (GAD) budget, GAD audit and the local GAD Code, gender responsive governance, economic empowerment of women and other enabling mechanisms.


ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children

The ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) was inaugurated during the 16th ASEAN Summit held in Ha Noi, Vietnam last 07 April 2010. The Philippines, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Philippine Commission on Women (formerly known as the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women) actively participated in the establishment of the ACWC. It aims to uphold, promote, protect, respect and fulfill the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and children in the ASEAN.

The creation of such entity in the ASEAN is in line with the UN CEDAW and UN CRC which all ASEAN Members States have ratified, the Vientiane Action Programme 2004-2010, the ASEAN Charter, and the Cha-am Hua Hin Declration on the Roadmap for the ASEAN Community.

The Terms of Reference of the ACWC (link to TOR) tasked the PCW as member of the ASEAN Committee on Women, and the DSWD as member of the SOMSWD were tasked to facilitate the selection of the Philippine Representatives to the ACWC.

The PCW developed and disseminated to civil society and government guidelines on the selection of ACWC Philippine Representative for Women’s Rights. In the selection of nominee, the nominating agency/organization should consider the following criteria for technical competence:

  1. Expertise and competence in human rights, particularly of women’s empowerment, gender and development;
  2. Extensive experience in the promotion and implementation of the CEDAW at the national and international levels;
  3. Depth of knowledge on the national, regional and international issues facing women;
  4. Global perspective on how CEDAW is being effectively implemented;
  5. Familiarity with the ASEAN human rights system and ASEAN entities on women such as, but not limited to, the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) and ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR); and
  6. Demonstrated commitment to human rights particularly through engagements at the national and international levels on the promotion and protection of human rights of women.

Other requisites  include the following: articulate, diplomatic and has good negotiation and listening skills; analytical; has energy and persistence to review voluminous documents; balanced and independent; has strong leadership skills; has integrity and probity; has strong motivation, commitment and dedication; has concern for the poor and marginalized sectors; is in good health; has not been convicted for the commission of violence, or other human rights violations; must commit to present annual reports in multi-sectoral forums convened for the purpose; and must be widely endorsed by a network of NGOs and/or by the government.

On 08 February 2011, President Benigno Simeon Aquino appointed Professor Aurora Javate-De Dios as Philippine Representative for Women’s Rights to the ACWC.

Professor Aurora Javate-de Dios was a former member of the CEDAW Committee, the expert group which reviews State parties progress reports on their compliance to CEDAW.  She was also the former Chairperson of the then National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (now PCW). She is currently the Executive Director of the Women and Gender Institute (WAGI) of Miriam College, an Associate Professor in International Studies, and former dean in the same college.  Active in the women’s NGO movement locally and internationally, she is the President of the Board of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International and convener of CEDAW Watch Philippines.  In addition, she is the women NGO representative to the Interagency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).