Sultan of Brunei attends summit on women's uplift

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam consented to attend the Global Leaders Summit on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment yesterday at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, United States of America.

During the Summit, His Majesty consented to deliver a titah, read a press statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

His Majesty first expressed appreciation to the President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping and to Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon for the invitation.

His Majesty stated that the Chairmen's opening remarks were inspiring and forward-looking.

His Majesty then extended his warmest congratulations to the President of the People's Republic of China for his initiative to convene the meeting, together with the UN-Women.

His Majesty stated that the meeting was timely as it coincided with the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

In the titah, His Majesty commended China's leadership on gender equality and women's empowerment.

"Even after 20 years, the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action remained a powerful source of guidance and inspiration, as well as a progressive blueprint for the advancement of women everywhere."

His Majesty also commended the contributions of Mexico, Denmark and Kenya to the important issue.

His Majesty expressed that he was pleased to learn that globally, women's development has achieved tangible progress.

The Sultan further stated that Brunei Darussalam's experience on the issue is based upon the country's longstanding policy to provide universal access to education.

His Majesty said that in the 1950s, under the wise and visionary leadership of His Majesty's late father, Sultan Haji Omar `Ali Saifuddien, education was made free to all children, irrespective of gender.

His Majesty was also pleased that last year, the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap report ranked Brunei Darussalam seventh in terms of girls' enrolment in tertiary education.

With the pace of globalisation, His Majesty stated that lifelong learning has been given serious attention.

His Majesty stated that girls and women have equal opportunities to upgrade their knowledge and skills, particularly in evolving areas like ICTs.

"Women have attained high positions in various professional fields such as medicine, legal, education, business and engineering, with progressive education and equal opportunities for employment."

His Majesty added that in the past decade, the participation of women in the workforce had increased from 59 per cent to over 70 per cent.

"With women making up of almost half of Brunei Darussalam's population, their contribution to the national development is of great significance."

His Majesty further stated that women have equal access to health facilities, free for all citizens.

"Over the past two decades, women's life expectancy had improved to about 80 years. Women are also increasingly active in business ventures through various credit financing schemes."

His Majesty was also pleased to note that more than half of Brunei Darussalam's Small and Medium Entreprises (SMEs) are owned by women who have achieved economic self-reliance.

His Majesty also stated that the country is making efforts to protect women's rights through legislation and plans of action which will be reviewed as and when necessary.

Regionally, as stated by His Majesty, Brunei Darussalam is part of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children.

ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children was also adopted during Brunei Darussalam's ASEAN Chairmanship in 2013.

His Majesty further stated that Brunei Darussalam's continued efforts to fulfil its international responsibilities are shown by its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

His Majesty stated that although Brunei Darussalam has come a long way, there is still so much to be done to realise the full potential of women in nation-building.

"Thus, a balance between the roles of men and women, and their partnership are essential."

Concluding the titah, His Majesty was pleased to reaffirm Brunei's commitment towards implementing the objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action.

Prior to this, His Majesty held talks with the US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York.

A press statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office said that the monarch discussed bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues with Kerry during a meeting at Lotte New York Palace Hotel.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Accompanying His Majesty during the meeting were Second Finance Minister Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abd Rahman Hj Ibrahim and Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng.

Accompanying His Majesty during the summit were Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Haji Abd Rahman Haji Ibrahim, Second Minister of Finance at the Prime Minister's Office; Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and His Excellency Dato Paduka Haji Abdul Ghafar Haji Ismail, Permanent Representative of Brunei Darussalam to the United Nations. - Rafidah Hamit