Brunei and Canada: building societies where women can shine

2016 podium discussion participants.

Despite having reached gender equality in secondary and tertiary education, women in Brunei Darussalam have yet to realize the same level of economic participation and political empowerment as that of men.

  • High Commissioner Marina Laker speaking during the podium discussion: Entrepreneurs – Women – Technology: Crossing the Glass Border.
    High Commissioner Marina Laker speaking during the podium discussion: Entrepreneurs – Women – Technology: Crossing the Glass Border.

Like elsewhere in Asia, women face significant hurdles to leadership, full and effective participation and decision-making due to legal, social, and cultural barriers. While boasting one of the highest rates of GDP per capita in the world due to its oil and gas wealth, Brunei needs to transition from a factor-driven to an efficiency-driven economy.  The 2016 Global Competitive Index listed problematic factors that the country will have to address in this regard, including female participation in the labour force (ranked at 96 out of 138 countries).

Women in Brunei are not provided equal opportunities in the formation and implementation of government policy and despite their high level of educational attainment, are gravely under-represented on corporate boards, senior management in the public sector and in Brunei’s Legislative Council. All of Brunei’s government ministries are headed by men except for the Attorney General’s Office.

Partnering for Women’s empowerment

The High Commission of Canada in Brunei and the Embassy of Japan partnered to host a podium discussion that focused on opportunities for women entitled ‘Entrepreneurs– Women – Technology: Crossing the Glass Border.’ 

“Entrepreneurship has proved to be a catalyst for economic growth in almost all countries globally. Equally as important is the critical role that women play in the growth of an economy.”
Canadian High Commissioner Marina Laker

More than 100 Bruneians, 95% of whom were women, attended the event. Representatives from the Brunei government (Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport), members of the diplomatic community, post-secondary students and business women also took part in the discussions.

Canada’s Women in Technology (WIT) Initiative, and the Business Women in International Trade program were showcased as examples of the Government of Canada’s commitment to gender equality and empoweringwomen.

A questions and answer session was lively and allowed for interaction between participants. A female CEO of Brunei’s BAG Networks (a joint venture between the Brunei government and Accenture) commented that the country needed more women in decision-making and policy-making roles, a theme that resonated throughout the discussions.

Canada’s leadership

Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which set international standards for eliminating gender discrimination.

Canada is committed to advancing gender equality, the empowerment, promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls.

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