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Closing Remarks

by
DG PARD Xianbin Yao
at the
ADB Annual Distinguished Gender Month Speaker Address
Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Unlocking Gender-Based Violence- Assessing the Scope, Magnitude and Economic
Impact of Gender Based Violence in the Pacific
18 March 2016, 2-3:30 pm
Audi A, ADB, HQ
Closing Remarks
Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen and ADB colleagues,
It gives me great pleasure to make a few closing remarks at this Distinguished Gender Month
Speakers forum, hosted by ADBs Technical Group on Gender Equity and the Pacific
Department.
I have listened to Secretary General Taylors words with a degree of discomfort and trepidation,
accepting as I do, the magnitude of what women have to endure in a region with which I am
closely associated, as head of the Pacific Department. Let me say for the record, that, genderbased violence (GBV) is a crime and is not acceptable. I agree with the Secretary General that
we have to broadly address gender inequality, in order to deal with gender-based violence.
I read recently in a UNFPA report on the Sexual and reproductive health of young people in
Asia and the Pacific, that in this region one in seven girls has given birth by the age of 18, often
in the context of a high unmet need for contraception, and child marriage, with more than a third
of girls married before their 18th birthday. Up to 63% of adolescent pregnancies in the region
are unintended. Thus, millions of girls are mothers before they are ready, educated, and
working for an income, and this powerlessness often leads to a tolerance of gender based
violence.
Just as alarming, is that in Timor Leste, an astounding 81% of teenage girls believe a husband
is justified in beating his wife for at least one reason. The figures were slightly lower for Kiribati,
Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Samoa and Vanuatu, but still sobering considering how girls perceive
their mothers status. In Tonga in comparison, over 25% of girls think domestic violence is
acceptable in some circumstances.
One can quibble about the statistical accuracy of these figures. And the quality of statistics and
the survey of methodology have much room to improve, especially in the Pacific. However, it
remains critical that work be done at school with boys and girls as teenagers so that the
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intergenerational cycle of violence is not perpetuated. We must raise our children to accept that
gender based violence is wrong and this message must be repeated at home, at school and in
churches.
Previously, ADB has supported projects which have tackled different aspects of gender based
violence, including in Bangladesh and Pakistan. In Nepal, police from womens police cells,
prosecutors and advocates were trained on womens legal rights and how to more effectively
deal with gender-based violence. This has led to the establishment of efficient Womens Police
Centres, with trained specialized police officers dealing with gender-based violence.
Our newer current ADB approaches include a study and interventions to address womens
safety on public transport in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Pakistan so that women can use public
transport to get to work and school without being sexually harassed. Another technical
assistance project in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan involves strengthening the capacity of
investigating, prosecuting, and decision-making bodies to address gender-based violence.
The most promising future possibility involves a pilot in Mongolia. This will be the first time ADB
is attempting to address gender-based violence in its core operations in infrastructure, within the
context of an urban development project. If this pilot succeeds then there is potential to replicate
it in the Pacific, and elsewhere in our region.
Whilst not yet explicitly addressing gender based violence, ADB-funded Pacific operations in the
energy, transport, urban development, skills training, and financial inclusion sectors incorporate
pro-active measures for the economic empowerment of women, with specific numerical targets
for them, through project Gender Action Plans. Women's economic empowerment is closely
linked with their power to say "no" to violence against them, and improves their strategic
capacity to improve personal gender relations within the household. And this I believe resonates
well with the Secretary Generals call to broadly address gender inequality.
To help ADB staff to develop appropriate responses to gender based violence while developing
project designs, the Technical Group on Gender Equity is developing a number of Tip Sheets
for different sectors of ADB operations including for urban development, urban transport, public
sector management, health, education and so on. These will demonstrate to ADB staff how they
can integrate gender based violence responses into our core operations and lending.
There is no doubt that gender based violence is a significant development issue. The economic
and social costs of ignoring gender based violence are considerable - we ignore it at our peril. It
used to be that only NGOs, womens rights activists and specialized UN agencies dealt with
gender based violence. That is no longer the case as gender based violence is everyones
problem, including for ADB.
At a more personal level, as a father with a daughter, this issue is close to my heart. I want my
daughter to have a life of dignity, free from all forms of violence.
Secretary General Taylor, may I thank you on behalf of not only the Asian Development Bank,
but on behalf of everyone here, for coming all the way from the Pacific to address us today.
Your insights have been received with open hearts and minds and we shall take your wise
words into consideration going forward.
Thank you, vinaka vaka levu and tank u tumas!
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