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Women's Commission

The Women's Commission was set up on January 15, 2001 as a central mechanism to promote the well-being and interests of women in Hong Kong. It is tasked to identify women's needs and address matters of concern to women in a holistic and systematic manner. It has developed a long-term vision and strategy for the development and advancement of women in Hong Kong. The Women's Commission takes a strategic overview of women's issues, advises the Government on policies and initiatives that are of concern to women and seeks to ensure that women's perspectives are factored in (or mainstreamed) during policy formulation.

Chaired by a non-official member and comprising another 21 members, the commission's mission is 'To enable women in Hong Kong to fully realise their due status, rights and opportunities in all aspects of life.' To this end, the commission has adopted a three-pronged strategy of creation of an enabling environment, empowerment of women and public education. Special working groups have been set up to take forward work in these areas. It also performs three strategic functions in championing women's causes, inspiring and catalysing changes and mobilising community resources.

In respect of creation of an enabling environment, the commission has secured the Administration's agreement to introduce gender mainstreaming in different policy areas incrementally. The aim is to integrate women's needs and perspectives in formulation and implementation of public policies, programmes and legislation. An analytical tool in the form of a checklist (i.e. the Gender Mainstreaming Checklist) has been developed. Since 2002, the checklist has been applied to 14 policy areas or programmes. Plans are being prepared to roll out the checklist to more policy areas on an incremental basis, and to review the implementation of gender mainstreaming. In addition, since 2001, gender-related training has been provided to over 700 civil servants of different grades. All bureaux and departments have designated "Gender Focal Points" to serve as the contact/resource person for his/her organisation.

In the empowerment of women, the Women's Commission aims to better equip women for life's challenges and to create an enabling environment for women to develop themselves. The commission has reviewed and suggested improvements to a number of services for women to ensure their appropriateness, adequacy and quality. It promotes development of new service models and good empowerment practices. To enhance women's participation in advisory and statutory bodies (ASBs), the commission has obtained the Administration's agreement to take gender composition into account in making appointments to these bodies. A gender benchmark of 25 per cent has been set as an initial working target for appointments to ASBs. A proactive approach is being taken to reach out, identify and cultivate potential female candidates, and women's participation in ASBs (excluding official and ex-officio members) has improved: from 21 per cent in December 2003 to 23 per cent in December 2004. The Administration will continue to work in this area.

A major step in the capacity building of women was the implementation in March of an innovative and flexible learning mode, the Capacity Building Mileage Programme. The programme seeks to enhance women's all-round abilities and promote positive life skills. The programme is being implemented on a three-year pilot basis in partnership with a local tertiary institution and a radio station, with funding support from the Lotteries Fund and supplementary learning activities organised by NGOs. Since the launch of the programme, responses from women have been enthusiastic. Twelve radio courses and three face-to-face courses were conducted. The total number of enrolments was 3 480, which exceeded the first year's target of 2 100, not to mention the large audience reached through the radio programmes. Students says they have benefited from the courses in terms of increased interest in learning and enhanced confidence and knowledge in resolving problems in daily life.

To enhance communication with the non-governmental sector and to create synergy, the commission seeks to establish partnerships with NGOs through its various activities. In this connection, a planning forum was held in November to exchange views with women's groups and other interested parties on the future work direction. A framework of collaboration with NGOs and other interested parties has also been developed to facilitate cooperation. The commission will continue to collaborate with the non-governmental sector to promote the realisation of women's full potential and elimination of gender prejudices, and to strive for a more prosperous and better future for all.