Countries must continue to pursue reforms that will empower women as it is vital for them to develop their human capital, according to Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
“The empowerment of women toward economic and social development can be significant not only in my country but throughout our region and throughout the world,” she said during the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Business and Investment Summit 2017 held in Parañaque City on Sunday.
Suu Kyi added that by recognizing this potential, countries must create an integrated environment where women can unleash their economic power.
“Actually, empowering women is a form of human capital development,” she said.
Suu Kyi added that there is a growing recognition that the well-being of a nation is not only a function of its wealth and natural resources but also of the knowledge and skills of its people.
She said the experience of newly industrialized countries such as South Korea and Singapore shows that increase in knowledge and skills bring about better economic outcomes both for individuals and nations.
“The quality of human resources of a country certainly has a bearing on its economic development. Human capital is therefore a key to social and economic development of countries,” Suu Kyi added.
She said developing human capital can be done through education and training, adding that education has an important role to play in the development of human capital.
Suu Kyi urged countries to rethink the goal behind their strategies for women empowerment and human capital development.
“Are we thinking only in material terms? That power is economic power and capital is economic capital? What is development about? Is it simply to develop our countries materially or to develop our people to be better human beings?” she said.
“Perhaps it is time we think about these things because Myanmar, as a young democracy struggling with many challenges, has become very aware of the need to develop people as human beings and not just economic powerhouses,” Suu Kyi added.
“As we go forward trying to empower women and to develop our human capital, perhaps we should think about why we are engaging, where we are heading, and where we wish to be,” she said.
Suu Kyi, a politician, diplomat and author, is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the first and incumbent State Counselor, a position akin to a Prime Minister, according to published reports.
“The Lady,” as she has been known, led the NLD to a majority win in Myanmar’s first openly contested election in November 2015.
The win came five years to the day since her release in 1995 from house arrest, which she endured for 15 years.
She was put under house arrest again in September 2000, when she tried to travel to the city of Mandalay in Myanmar (formerly Burma) in defiance of travel restrictions.
Suu Kyi was released unconditionally in May 2002 but was imprisoned the next year after a clash between her supporters and a government-backed mob.
In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for being “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless.”