Following is the text of a joint statement issued for the second Lower Mekong Ministerial meeting on July 13, 2012, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:

We, as Lower Mekong Initiative ministers and senior officials, recognize that the economic, social, and political progress of our region can only be achieved with consistent efforts to advance gender equality and the status of women and girls in the region.

We recognize that women and girls make vital contributions to economic growth and sustainable development. We affirm the right of women to participate fully in the economic lives of our nations, including as workers, entrepreneurs, consumers, and caregivers and pledge to work to ensure their full access to assets, markets, training, and other support to improve their livelihoods and grow their businesses.

We recognize that no government can succeed when the voices and talents of half its people are untapped. We affirm the right of women to participate fully in the political and civic lives of our nations – and pledge to promote their success as policymakers and civic participants, as civil servants and elected officials, as journalists and commentators, and as peace negotiators and peacekeepers.

We condemn gender-based violence and violence against women. We affirm the right of women and girls to live free from violence in the home, at school, at work, in their communities and pledge to ensure that laws to protect them will be passed and effectively enforced, that victims of gender based violence will find support and redress, and all members of society including men and boys will be engaged in community-wide efforts to prevent gender-based violence.

We recognize that families and communities are stronger when women and girls have access to quality health care, when adolescent girls can complete their educations, when women are enlisted as equal partners in efforts to conserve water, energy, and agro-forestland, and when women can participate fully in the digital and mobile technology revolutions sweeping the world.

We affirm that women and girls must be fully integrated – both as change agents and beneficiaries – into the work, activities, and goals of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), and pledge to ensure that issues concerning women and girls will be fully considered and that women will participate in the development of the LMI pillars.

We recognize that capacity building is vital to ensure that all countries can effectively promote the advancement of women and girls in society. International cooperation should also take into account, as appropriate, possible capacity building needs of LMI countries in this regard. We also encourage all countries in the LMI to share best practices on the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in order to enhance capacity of countries in the region.

We look forward to discussing the concept of a Lower Mekong Initiative gender working group comprised of men and women representatives from each of our nations to set specific goals into all of the LMI pillars and to measure our progress against these goals.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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