Promoting women’s economic empowerment in the Indian Ocean Region

Natasha Stott Despoja












Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja AM will lead an Australian delegation to an Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Women’s Economic Empowerment Dialogue from 17-19 August 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

More than 100 women and men from business, government, academia and civil society from all 20 IORA countries””across Africa, South and East Asia and the Middle East””will attend the Australian sponsored event.   The event will focus on the tourism and textiles industries, as women in all countries are engaged in these sectors.

IORA member states comprise around 30 per cent of the world’s population ”“ over 2 billion people. It is a region of great diversity but all member countries face challenges in supporting women to participate equally in their economies.

The region includes countries with some of the lowest rates of women’s labour force participation in the world and many countries still do not have equal inheritance laws between men and women for land and property.

IORA foreign ministers agreed, at a meeting I hosted in Perth in November 2013, that the empowerment of women and girls in the region is a high priority.

The Dialogue will deliver practical recommendations that I will take back to the next IORA Ministers’ meeting, which I will chair in Perth, in October 2014.

Women’s full economic participation has been a key driver of economic growth over recent decades.   When women are equal participants in their economies, all people benefit and enjoy increased living standards.

Addressing the barriers to women’s empowerment must be central to economic growth strategies.This involves tackling financial constraints such as lack of access to credit and low wages, and helping women move into paid employment and running their own businesses.


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