JAKARTA, 1 March 2021 – Women and girls across South-East Asia who are members of an ethnic minority, live in a rural location, or suffer from poverty are at greatest risk of being left behind despite the region’s recent progress in gender equality, according to a new report by ASEAN and UN Women.

The ASEAN Gender Outlook: Achieving the SDGs for All and Leaving No Woman and Girl Behind is a regional flagship publication jointly produced by the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW), the ASEAN Secretariat, and UN Women. Launched today, the study provides fresh data that shows the need to continue investing in the most vulnerable women and girls in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The study, which holds a gender lens up to each of the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda, confirms that when two or more forms of discrimination overlap, barriers increase. New data shows that the challenges and discrimination faced by women and girls are almost all compounded if they are members of an ethnic minority, live in a rural location, or suffer from poverty. Thus, those furthest from achieving the SDGs are often women and girls facing disadvantages across several dimensions at once.

“The data for this study is a positive step towards designing more targeted policies at the regional and national levels to empower all women and girls and build their resilience especially in face of current challenges” said H.E.Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General of ASEAN. “This report shows that we need to strive beyond one-size fits all solutions” he added.

Empowering women and girls will also require targeted support far beyond SDG 5 on gender equality, the report notes. Although some countries in the ASEAN region see rates of women’s representation in parliaments and managerial positions that are higher than global averages, evidence shows that gender inequalities are still barriers to achieving other SDGs, including those that have not traditionally been explored from a gender perspective, such as SDGs 6 and 7 on water and energy, and SDGs 11 to 15, on cities, infrastructure, climate, oceans and land.

“Any gender policies or initiatives by Member States must include a focus on those who live at the intersection of two or more of these compounding factors, if we are to make sure no one is truly left behind in the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda,” said UN Women Regional Director, Mohammad Naciri. “These interventions need to support women and girls across all dimensions of Sustainable Development, well beyond SDG 5,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made all of this more urgent, while it also presents an opportunity to build back better. More men have lost their lives in some countries, but by any other metric it has hit women harder, as they have lost more jobs, taken on more housework, and suffered degradation of their mental and physical health while often being unable to access essential care and support services. Women are therefore central to the pandemic’s recovery process, and their leadership will be key to progressing towards the achievement of the SDGs for all.