Bangkok (Thailand), 8 December 2017 - In South and Southeast Asia, gender inequalities are pervasive: while the literacy rate among men in South and Southeast Asia is at 87.5%, for women it is 79.6%. 80.8% of men actively participate in the labour market but only 57.9% of men. 76.7% of Members of Parliament are male whereas only 16.6% are female. Given women's specific social, political and economic roles, they are also more vulnerable to specific types of corruption, such as sexual extortion. Regarding public life and participation in decision-making, corruption and clientelism have been found to discourage women from participating in political processes and public life. Women's legal rights are also threatened through corruption, when the judiciary is corrupt but where women lack access to financial means.
Understanding corruption's linkages to gender equality issues and how it impacts women's empowerment is part of the broader process of advancing women's rights and at the same time crafting more effective strategies to combat corruption. As higher levels of gender equality and women's participation in public life are associated with better governance and lower levels of corruption in many countries, focusing on and empowering women must form an important part of this agenda. Therefore, to celebrate this year's International Anti-Corruption Day in Bangkok, Thailand, UNODC and UNDP jointly organised a symposium on "Celebrating women fighting corruption in South and Southeast Asia".
High-level female panellists Ms. Heide Mendoza, Undersecretary General of the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services and formerly in charge of the Commission on Audit of the Philippines, and Ms. Neten Zangmo, former Head of Bhutan's Anti-Corruption Commission and President of the Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party, shared their experiences of fighting corruption as a woman in leadership. "As a woman, you have to be daring! We need to use our courage to speak out against malpractices in our countries", said Ms. Heide Mendoza. Andi Sri Ulva Baso Paduppa, lieutenant in the Sectoral Police force in Makassar, Indonesia, highlighted how being a role model led to reduced corruption in her own police section. "When I participated in the training program 'I am a woman against corruption' of the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), I realised how bad corruption is. Since then, I have promoted the "drawer-less desks- initiative" at my own institution, encouraging my colleagues not to accept bribers - and it worked!". Recognising the role women play in addressing corruption in their work institutions and communities, UNODC will develop program activities to strengthen women's role in fighting corruption in Southeast Asia.