The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Activator Malaysia launch event

WeEmpowerAsia is a UN Women programme that seeks to increase the number of women who lead and participate in business in seven countries including Malaysia

H.E Michalis Rokas, Ambassador-Head of Delegation, European Union Delegation to Malaysia

Ms. Katja Freiwald, Regional Programme manager, UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Participants joining us online today

A warm welcome from the United Nations in Malaysia.

I am especially pleased to be here, albeit virtually, at this The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Activator Malaysia launch event with so many members of the business community.

We are now in the first month of 2021, just nine years to the 2030 deadline of the SDGs. The clock is ticking and the UN Secretary-General launched the UN Decade of Action last year to accelerate progress on SDGs. And as we all know, the SDGs will not be achieved if 50% of our population are still left behind. And private sector has a critical role to play in this regard. Businesses, big and small, can significantly help move the needle on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives, economies and businesses and reversed progress on the SDGs.

And within this storm, women have been disproportionately and significantly affected. We are witnessing the biggest setback to gender equality and women’s rights in a generation.

Data from UN Women and UNDP show that social protection systems have largely overlooked the needs of women—as victims of domestic violence locked down with their abusers, as unpaid caregivers in families and communities, and as workers in jobs that lack economic security.  Women’s unemployment have increased as compared to men.

The World Bank has reported more women-owned businesses closing in this pandemic than men’s. The crisis will worsen economic loss, including the 160 trillion U.S. Dollar loss in wealth globally from gender earning gaps.

As we chart out the pathways for recovery, the full and equal participation of both genders is the only way to ensure that we have the best solutions, that no one is left behind, that we can build the future want, together.

Based on the Department of Statistics data as of June 2020, Malaysia’s Female Labour Force Participation rate is at 55.1 per cent compared to Male Labour Force Participation at 80.3 per cent.

Women also only make up 24 per cent of managers sitting at the top positions. Hence, much more needs to be done.

Women still earn less than men. In 2020, Malaysia ranked 104th out of 149 countries in the WEF Global Gender Gap report--four places lower than its 2018 standing.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Achieving women’s full potential is essential if we are to recover from the economic damage of the pandemic.

 It is against this backdrop that I turn to the chief executives and heads of organizations as sources of optimism and resolve. Your commitment and the changes that you make to align your businesses much more closely to the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 5 to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women – will significantly drive progress on the 2030 Agenda

The Women’s Empowerment Principles or WEPs provide a unique roadmap for businesses to fulfill women’s rights. With more than 4,000 WEPs signatories to date, there are many examples of organizations taking real steps to narrow the gender gap.

Everyone can be an ally for gender equality. Inclusion is exactly what the SDGs are about. And partnership on our shared aspirations for a more equitable and sustainable world through targets set out in the SDGs, is key to its achievement. 

The United Nations in Malaysia has a strong focus on gender equality and also engaging the private sector for more sustainable development, as well as facilitating collaboration among various stakeholders, such as Bursa Malaysia, to create an overall enabling environment for women’s economic empowerment in Malaysia.

As such, I would like to congratulate UN Women and all partners involved in the launch of this UN Women WEPs Activator campaign which, through the EU-funded programme WeEmpowerAsia in collaboration with LeadWomen, is now bringing together business, governments and civil society, to work in all new ways. Removing the barriers that keep women on the margins of our economic and social life must be a top priority for us all.

It is therefore, encouraging to see so many companies participating today, and I wish you all a very successful event and start to your journey in implementing the Women’s Empowerment Principles.

I am equally excited that we have with us the Malaysia awardees of the first-ever UN Women Asia-Pacific WEPs Awards! We have seen wonderful engagement and some great examples coming from these companies, and I am pleased to hand the floor to the EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation to Malaysia, His Excellency Mr. Michalis Rokas, to recognize the winners of the 2020 UN Women Asia-Pacific WEPs Awards for Malaysia.

 Thank you.

Speech by
Stefan Priesner
Resident Coordinator
Stefan Priesner
UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women