During her keynote at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2017, Myanmar State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi centered her vision of prosperity for all on women economic empowerment and human capital development.
Suu Kyi was amongst the state leaders to be invited by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council to impart their own perspective on achieving inclusive growth in the region. To open the summit, Suu Kyi touched on ASEAN economic milestones paralleled with Myanmar’s distinct view on development and the central role women play.
“Since 2004, ASEAN’s GDP growth has reached 5%, outpacing that of any other region. Myanmar, as a member of the ASEAN family has been growing rapidly as we roll out rigorous reforms and structural changes in every sector. I would also like to mention that our young entrepreneurs are amongst the most vigorous of them all. I am very much happy to discover that in the recent seminar of young entrepreneurs, 49% of them are women,” Suu Kyi shared to delegates, eliciting applause.
Suu Kyi underlined the importance in investing on people-based initiatives and solutions in their nation’s course towards development and integration amidst years of isolation and turmoil. “As a responsible member of the ASEAN family, we will work together to be more connected and integrated economically and socially. In the process of such integration, human capital, and intellectual resources play a pivotal role in filling the gap between diverse ASEAN countries at different stages of economic and social development,” Suu Kyi said.
From this, Suu Kyi further elaborated on her people-based vision, founded on unleashing women’s latent economic power. “More and more women entrepreneurs have emerged to participate vigorously in [Myanmar’s] transformation, demonstrating the increasing importance of women not only in the social but also in the economic sphere,” she said.
Many women entrepreneurs are classified as MSMEs; Suu Kyi recognized the multitude of challenges MSMEs face, and for women in this sector, there is the added crutch of gender discrimination. And gender discrimination leading to a gender gap in various opportunities is a stark reality many feel in the ASEAN.
“To achieve positive changes in women’s rights, it is important to increase number of girls enrolling in primary and secondary schools , improve the participation of women in the labor force, ensure better maternal care outcomes, provide social protection measures, and promote the role of women in decision making,” she proposed as steps to move towards gender equality.
Suu Kyi wrapped up her keynote by challenging the current popular view on development. “What is empowerment for? What is development about? Is it simply to develop our countries materially or to develop ourselves to become better human beings?,” she said, “Myanmar, as a young democracy started with many, many challenges has become fully aware to the need for development of peoples as human beings not just economic powerhouses.”