In the past, women’s energy was mostly poured into the family and household and traditional thinking is littered with maxims such as “men are breadwinners; women are homemakers”. With society’s gradual opening up and the drive for more diverse realities and inclusive conceptualizations, gender imbalances and stereotypes have been progressively challenged by women, with the aim of restoring their intrinsic personal rights, their autonomy, their power.
Since the 1970s, feminists have advocated for the concept of “women’s empowerment”, but progress has been slow. In fact, women’s empowerment has been backsliding under COVID-19, during which women have been amongst the primary victims, since the industries that were most deeply affected by the pandemic included tourism, catering, wholesale and retail industries, where women are highly concentrated, while lockdown and quarantine measures intensified the occurrence of domestic violence. Women have been the pillars of social stability in global development and women’s power is now difficult to overlook. Thus, the world must now consider how to fully incorporate women as a driving force of global economic development momentum in the post-pandemic era.
For the most part, Taiwan’s allied countries are developing countries, where cultural and economic factors mean that women are far more greatly affected by the pandemic. To support these women, Taiwan helps partner countries to advance women’s economic empowerment, for example through the “Assisting the Economic Empowerment of Women in Latin America and the Caribbean in the Post-Pandemic of COVID-19 Project”. Hence, this issue of Development Quarterly has been themed “Women’s Empowerment and International Assistance” to highlight the importance of this subject. In this issue, we invite experts and scholars in related fields to analyze how to help women in developing countries achieve economic empowerment, exploring topics from the connection between women’s empowerment and SDG achievability, to the meaning of gender equality in international assistance.
For this issue’s special report “The impact of Taiwan’s women empowerment projects in Latin America and the Caribbean”, we interviewed the Vice Minister of MIPYMES of Paraguay, Mr. Isaac Godoy; the Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Security of Paraguay, Mrs. Carla Bacigalupo Planás and the TaiwanICDF Secretary General Ambassador Timothy T. Y. Hsiang, to share with readers how we are assisting women in Latin America and the Caribbean region to recover from the economic downturn in the post-pandemic era, through assistance projects with technical cooperation from the perspective of both sides of the cooperation.
Women make up over half of the world population, yet, in the past, discrimination and oppression against women in countries with relatively conservative social concepts and public sentiment have
often prevented women from actively participating in the global labor market. After the outbreak of COVID-19, women were the first victims of the economic recession. If women can participate in the economic recovery in the post-pandemic era, not only will they improve global economic development but they will also contribute to the achievement of global SDGs. Thus, in this issue, we invite you to think about how “women’s power” could be the new normal in the post-pandemic era.
Women’s Empowerment as a Launching Pad for Achieving SDGs
(Francesca I-Ku Chen, Senior Specialist at the Chinese Management Association)
The United Nations’ SDGs have entered their midterms and after 8 years of implementation and the far reaching impacts of COVID-19 in these last few years, we need to rethink the meaning of women’s empowerment with a brand-new vision. Including gender equality as the pivotal axis, interwoven through various interdisciplinary topics, benefits us with rich variations for analysis. The article takes women’s empowerment as a starting point and gender equality as the core of its argument, proposing that they could be instrumentalized to advance peace, prosperity and inclusive growth, when placed at the center of international cooperation projects.
The Significance of Women in Global Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth
（Yi-Wen Su, Analyst at the Taiwan WTO and RTA Center）
From the COVID-19 pandemic arose health, economic and social crises never seen before, countless lives and livelihoods were threatened and the economy was seriously affected. Although the global economy is now recovering, the US-China trade war and the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war have caused global supply chain instability, which is impeding the sustainable recovery of many economies. Given that women play many crucial roles in world value chains and the promotion of economic recovery and sustainable growth, “gender and economy” was emphasized as a key topic by the main international organizations, to accelerate economic recovery and achieve SDGs by promoting “women’s empowerment.”
Microfinance and Women’s Empowerment
(Mayeesha Yu-hwei Tseng, Assistant Research Fellow at the National Research Institute of Chinese Medicine; Mujibul Alam Khan, Bangladeshi social activist）
The elimination of poverty and gender equality are paramount goals for the sustainable development of human society. This article discusses how women’s empowerment can be practiced through microfinance, examining Grameen Bank’s “16 decisions”, a set of guidelines for regulating microfinance clients. For microfinance institutions, women’s empowerment could be both the means to,
and a purpose of, achieving institutional financial sustainability, therefore it is a worthwhile investment to provide medical services and to encourage female clients to allow their children to receive an education, to maintain a small family size, refuse dowries, resist child marriage, protest against social injustice, expand the scale of their businesses and participate in public affairs; all of which could directly improve the capabilities and status of women. Although some microfinance institutions are criticized for sacrificing social goals for over-commercialization, they are generally seen by poor women and their families as advancing upward social mobility.
Gender Quotas and International Assistance
（Chang-Ling Huang, Professor at the Department of Political Science, National Taiwan University）
More and more countries explicitly incorporate gender equality as a value or condition when providing international assistance, to promote the enshrinement of gender equality as a universal value. In terms of women’s empowerment, women’s participation in decision-making was notable in Taiwan’s gender equality development experience and is worth the government taking into consideration when providing international assistance. This article explains the trend of gender quotas being adopted internationally and the process of their implementation in Taiwan. It then continues on to provide political suggestions from an institutional design perspective, pointing out that if we make gender quotas a factor when formulating international assistance policy, that’s to say, if we integrate women’s participation in decision-making into Taiwan’s foreign aid policy, we could advance gender equality in recipient countries and deepen the significance, value and influence of Taiwan’s own gender equality policy.