President Tsai: Taiwan making great strides in gender equality

The Fourth World Conference of Women's Shelters (4WCWS) kicked off at the Kaohsiung Exhibition Center in southern Taiwan on November 5. The four-day event has gathered around 1,400 government and NGO representatives from over 100 countries to share ideas on how to strengthen women’s shelters and end violence against women. President Tsai Ing-wen and Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung both attended the opening ceremony to show their support.  

Co-organized by The Garden of Hope Foundation (GOH) and the Global Network of Women's Shelters (GNWS), the conference is the world's largest international meeting on the protection of women's rights and the prevention of violence against women. This is the first time that the conference has ever been held in Asia.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, President Tsai expressed her gratitude to GH and noted that through the combined efforts of activists in the women’s movement and the government, Taiwan has made great strides in gender equality in recent years.

She stated that, "In 1998, we enacted the Domestic Violence Protection Act. In 2002, we passed the Act of Gender Equality in Employment to foster equality in the workplace. In 2004, we passed the Gender Equity Education Act to ensure gender equality in schools, and began instilling gender equality concepts from a young age."

She stressed that as a responsible member of the international community, Taiwan is working to achieve true gender equality. Moreover, after a long and difficult process, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage this May, she added.

Citing statistics released by the Gender Equality Committee of the Executive Yuan, the president pointed out that Taiwan ranks highest in gender equality in Asia in accordance to standards stipulated by the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index. In the World Bank’s “2019 Women, Business, and the Law” report, Taiwan also topped the list in Asia, she said.

President Tsai ended her speech on a hopeful note, saying she believes that global conferences such as the 4WCWS will help free more women and children from the threat of violence, and help them to finally enjoy life with dignity and equality.

The theme of this year's conference is "Impact and Solidarity." Foundation CEO Chi Hui-Jung, who was named Chair of the Global Network of Women's Shelters in March 2018, explained how the conference aims to use the sharing of knowledge, exchange of ideas, and mutual support to bring forth impactful change.

Emerging issues such as the protection of women with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and migrant women, as well as the weaponization of sexual violence by the Hong Kong police cracking down on protesters, all highlight the importance of global solidarity, stated Chi.

Five key issues will be discussed over 7 plenary sessions, 63 workshops, and 13 side events. Renowned advocates from around the world in attendance include Mexican actress and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Yalitza Aparicio, "The Vagina Monologues" playwright Eve Ensler, Congolese shelter City of Joy co-founder Christine Schuler Deschryver and many other distinguished guests.