Insights and Analysis

Photo Blog: Critical Issue – Women’s Participation

March 5, 2014

Asia Foundation 60th anniversary seriesWhile Asian women are increasingly visible in leadership positions, political participation rates of men and women continue to be vastly unequal. In many countries, women are routinely discouraged from entering public office. At the same time, women entrepreneurs, who make up a significant portion of Asia’s small- and medium-sized businesses, face systemic barriers to success such as lack of access to credit. Meanwhile, more girls are attending primary school, but that number drops dramatically in many countries once they reach secondary and university level. This photo blog looks at these issues in the context of new findings from The World Economic Forum’s latest “Global Gender Gap Report,” which ranks gender equality in 136 countries in the areas of economic participation, education, political empowerment, and health and survival. Compiled by In Asia editor Alma Freeman.

International Women's Day

Despite what seems like a growing consensus around women’s participation in politics, still just 19.5 percent of the world’s parliamentarians are women. Lack of access to political decision-making continues to have consequences on women’s equality worldwide, including in Asia. Photo/Conor Ashleigh

International Women's Day

Bangladesh ranks 7th in the “Global Gender Gap Report” in terms of women’s political empowerment – just under Ireland, and ahead of South Africa, India, the Philippines, and Denmark. Above, women parliamentarians from Bangladesh participate in a conference in Dhaka, co-organized by The Asia Foundation, that brought together over 130 MPs from across South Asia. Photo/Conor Ashleigh

International Women's Day

While Bangladesh’s high ranking in women’s political participation is good news, its ranking drops to 121st in economic participation. On top of social, cultural, and religious obstacles, women business owners typically suffer from low levels of education and limited access to training. Photo/Matthew Pendergast

International Women's Day

With such an array of women in government, it is no wonder that the Philippines is making strides in gender equality. The report ranked the Philippines 5th out of 136 countries in closing the gender gap, the highest in Asia. Photo/Karl Grobl

International Women's Day

A young shopkeeper peers out from a jewelry stall in Manila’s Greenhills Shopping Center. Previously in eighth position, the Philippines’ improvement in the latest report is characterized by small increases in economic participation and more in wage equality. Photo/Karl Grobl

International Women's Day

High school students in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, take part in games before classes begin. Nepal ranks 130th in education attainment, below Pakistan. Photo/Conor Ashleigh

International Women's Day

Nepal did move up in overall raking due to improvements in women’s economic and labor force participation, and greater wage equality. Photo/Conor Ashleigh

International Women's Day

A new entry in this year’s index, Laos ranks 60th overall, 8th in economic participation, and 73rd in political empowerment. Photo/Marco Ryan

International Women's Day

Mongolia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and while the report ranks Mongolia second for women’s economic participation and opportunity, many women continue to lag behind when it comes to equal representation in management positions. Photo/Kristin Colombano

Mongolia’s Minister for Environment and Green Development and MP, Oyun Sanjaasuren, is one of the women who make up 15 percent of the country’s parliament. While this figure remains low, Mongolia showed improvement in terms of political empowerment, rising 19 places to 108th, due in part to a 2012 election law that introduced a quota system for women candidates. Photo/Alma Freeman


  1. Supporting local efforts to advocate for legal rights that enable women to participate fully in the political and economic life of their societies Building capacity for civil society organizations to advocate for women’s participation in political transitions and governance processes

  2. To ensure more women get elected into Parliament, individual parties will have to show commitment to women in public office and make sure women run from seats that could get them elected to parliament positions. Thanks gor sharing your valuable insights on the subject.

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