Taiwan, Australia, Canada, Japan and the US yesterday cohosted a virtual Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF) workshop on women’s participation, the first with Australia as a full partner in the framework.
“The GCTF program has come a long way since it first began in 2015, with Japan joining as a full partner in 2019. Now in 2021, we are glad to welcome Australia as a full partner,” American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Sandra Oudkirk said at the opening of the workshop, titled “Road to Parity: Women’s Participation in Public Life.”
“Taiwan is a model to us all for empowering women’s participation and leadership in the political process,” she said.
Screengrab from the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Facebook page
“Last year, Taiwan re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for a second term, while a then-27-year-old woman, Lai Pin-yu (賴品妤), became Taiwan’s youngest legislator to join a legislature that has the highest rate of female representation in Asia, accounting for over 40 percent of its members,” she said.
In the US, women make up just over one-quarter of members of the US Congress this year, Oudkirk said, adding that this was the highest representation of women in the branch’s history.
US President Joe Biden in March established the White House Gender Policy Council to advance gender equity and equality in domestic and foreign policy development and implementation, she said.
Despite the successes, “we all still have a long road ahead of us to achieve parity, which is what brings us together today,” Oudkirk said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing gender inequalities with its immense strain on healthcare systems, increased economic stressors, greater political and economic insecurity, and a rise in gender-based violence, Australian Representative to Taiwan Jenny Bloomfield said.
However, it also presented an opportunity to reflect on the role of women, and empower them as change-makers, innovators and leaders, she said.
“In Australia, we have been making significant progress — women represent 51 percent of all members in the Australian Senate, 49.5 percent of all positions on Australian government boards, and more than one-third of positions on the boards of Australia’s largest companies,” she added.
However, women continued to be underrepresented in positions of influence globally, she said, adding that international partnerships, including through regional forums such as APEC, would be key to meeting this challenge.
“Taiwan has been a valued APEC member and contributor for 30 years,” Bloomfield said. “I am particularly proud of our work together in the APEC Women and Economy Sub-fund, through which Australia, Taiwan, the US and New Zealand help to institutionalize support for women’s economic participation across the region.”
US Senator Tammy Duckworth, who visited Taiwan in June, offered a recorded speech ahead of a panel on women in politics, while guests from Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Canada and Sweden participated as panelists, the AIT said.
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