Women's Economic Empowerment
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has recognised the crucial role of Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE) in achieving sustainable development within the region. Since 2013, IORA has actively pursued this goal, understanding that empowering women is not just a standalone priority, but intertwined with all other areas of regional cooperation.

This commitment is reflected in IORA's second action plan (2022-2027), which outlines the strategic objective: 

"Promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, ensuring women's rights, access, and opportunities for participation and leadership in the economy, and eliminating violence and discrimination against women and girls in all its forms. Realising the full prosperity of the region requires investing in the empowerment of women and girls." 

To achieve this ambitious goal, IORA member states have collaboratively developed a work plan outlining specific activities and initiatives. This plan serves as a roadmap for advancing WEE across the Indian Ocean region, fostering economic opportunities for women, and ultimately, contributing to a more prosperous and equitable future for all

Operationalisation of WEE 

In March 2017, through the Jakarta Concord, IORA Member States unanimously decided to create the Working Group for Women's Economic Empowerment (WGWEE) to spearhead the implementation of activities promoting WEE in the region. 

Following the inaugural IORA Ministerial Conference on Women's Economic Empowerment held in Balaclava, Mauritius, in 2018, IORA member states established the Terms of Reference for the WGWEE, outlining its operational framework and mandate. 

In practice, the WGWEE functions as follows: 

  • Coordinating Country and Chair: A member state assumes the role of Coordinating Country for the WGWEE, while the same or another member state holds the Chair position for a two-year term. The Chair leads meetings, collaborates with member states on implementing the WEE work plan, and receives support from the IORA Secretariat.  
  • Composition: The working group comprises of senior officials, primarily from Gender/Women's Ministries, alongside representatives from civil society, businesses, and other relevant sectors across all IORA Mmember Sstates. 
  • Meetings and Reporting: The WGWEE convenes at least twice annually to evaluate progress on the WEE work plan. These evaluations are subsequently reported to the Committee of Senior Officials Meeting, which provides guidance and recommendations for the group's future endeavours. Additionally, the WGWEE facilitates discussions on critical issues pertaining to women. 

This collaborative structure ensures inclusive participation and effective implementation of initiatives aimed at empowering women and driving economic growth across the Indian Ocean region.  

For the 2024-2025 mandate, the Islamic Republic of Iran serves as both the Coordinating Country and the Chair of the WGWEE. 

Past Events
IORA Women’s Day Celebration: To be held on 8 March 2024
9th Meeting of the WGWEE: Scheduled for the first semester of the year 2024.
8th Meeting (Virtual, September 12, 2023):
IORA member states participated in a virtual meeting chaired by Iran. The group reviewed the WEE ...
7th Meeting (Tehran, Iran, May 21-22, 2023):
IORA member states convened in person to discuss national progress on women's empowerment and share ...
IORA Gender Pledge 40:40:20
In a significant step towards achieving gender equality, IORA Member States adopted the IORA Gender Pledge on International Women's Day 2022.

A Cross-Cutting Issue for IORA 

The WEE transcends a standalone priority for IORA; it intertwines seamlessly with all other IORA focus areas. Recognising women as active contributors across diverse economic sectors and essential to everyday life, IORA acknowledges their invaluable role and expresses its commitment towards: 


Celebrating their achievements: Highlighting and applauding the successes of women across various fields. 


Addressing barriers: Collaborating with governments to dismantle obstacles hindering women's professional advancement. 

By integrating WEE into its broader agenda, IORA strives to foster an inclusive and equitable environment where women can thrive and contribute meaningfully to the region's overall prosperity. 

 IORA and UN Women Partner for Women's Economic Empowerment (2018-2021) 

In collaboration with UN Women and supported by the Australian Government, IORA implemented a three-year project (2018-2021) to strengthen research and promote women's economic empowerment in the Indian Ocean Rim region. This initiative built upon a previous IORA-UN Women project that established a baseline study and infographic on women's economic participation in 2015 and 2017, respectively. The project focused on two key areas: 


Research: "Women's economic empowerment in fisheries in the blue economy of the Indian Ocean Rim: A baseline report" (launched December 2020) assessed women's involvement in the fisheries sector. 


"Women's Economic Empowerment in the Indian Ocean Rim: Progress and Challenges" (launched June 2021) provided an updated regional overview, identified key gender gaps, and offered recommendations for advancing women's economic empowerment. 


An interactive infographic complemented the research reports, making findings accessible to a wider audience. 


Capacity Building: 

Virtual and in-person workshops promoted the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) across IORA member states. The project provided specific guidance, networking opportunities, and support to women entrepreneurs navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


This collaborative effort contributed significantly to advancing women's economic empowerment in the Indian Ocean Rim region by providing valuable research insights, promoting best practices, and empowering women entrepreneurs. 

Selvana Mootien
Programme Officer
Zelda Vrolick