Korea's Minister for Gender Equality and Family has drawn attention to barriers faced by women business owners and called for strengthening gender integration in APEC activities.
Dr Hajin Chang was speaking at the opening session of the APEC Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN) Meeting taking place in Gyeongju, Korea, this week.
Dr Chang praised the contribution that women make to regional development and said more could be done to overcome the unfair treatment that women in business often receive.
"Women-owned or operated micro, small and medium enterprises are leading contributors to economic growth in the Asia-Pacific," Dr Chang said to delegates from APEC Member Economies attending the meeting.
"Yet, due to socio-cultural perceptions, small women-owned businesses continue to face difficulties in over-coming obstacles. These include gender-specific constraints which prevent women from business development and maximizing their contribution to the development of APEC economies."
Dr Chang commended efforts to incorporate gender issues into the APEC agenda and called on delegates meeting in Korea this week to build on recent achievements as they plan for future APEC events.
"APEC Leaders and Ministers have recognized that women workers and women in business are often less able to take advantage of the economic opportunities.
"I encourage GFPN Members to take this opportunity to take stock of what has been accomplished over the last years to integrate gender in APEC processes and activities and to plan strategically for the future.
"The work of this meeting will form the basis for future successful meetings and set the agenda for the following host APEC Host Economies of Viet Nam and Australia."
Dr Chang also highlighted the importance of information communication technologies as a vehicle to empower women and increase female participation in economic activity in the Asia-Pacific. She cited the Korean example where the government has implemented a national strategy to bridge the gender digital divide and help women to meet their potential as a significant human resource supplier to the digital workforce.
The APEC Gender Focal Point Network serves as a coordinating mechanism for integrating gender considerations into APEC activities. The GFPN links APEC forums and Member Economies to share information to advance the economic interests of women in the APEC Region.
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