Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article Government Homepage
Speech by PSHWF at Tenth Anniversary Commemoration of the
Fourth World Conference on Women

    Following is the speech by the Permanent Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Mrs Carrie Yau, at "Beijing 2005: the Tenth Anniversary Commemoration of the Fourth World Conference on Women" today (August 30):

Madame Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

     I am honoured to be here representing the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to review the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.  

     Over the past decade, with the collaborative efforts of the Government, the Women's Commission, women groups and all sectors of the community, we have made concrete achievements in respect of the twelve critical areas of concern under the Beijing Platform for Action. Due to time constraint, I am going to highlight today our achievements particularly in a few critical areas and the challenges ahead of us.

     We believe women should have a healthy life in order to be able to fully develop their potential and enjoying health is a fundamental right of every person.  Women's health is therefore a priority area of the HKSAR Government. We provide comprehensive, affordable and quality health services for women at all ages and with different medical needs. Over the past decade, government expenditure on health services increased by 51%. We have set up the Maternal and Child Health Centres to provide antenatal and postnatal care and family planning services to women free of charge. They can also enjoy the health promotion and disease prevention services from the Women Health Centres at an annual fee of about US$40 (HK$310) only.

     Infectious disease now poses a global challenge since virus respects no border. We need a safe environment for women to fulfill their potential. We therefore put emphasis on health protection and the prevention of infectious diseases as one of our work priorities. The HKSAR Government has set up the Centre for Health Protection in 2004. Here, I would like to introduce our efforts in the prevention of AIDS. Since September 2001, we have introduced the Universal Antenatal HIV Testing Scheme, under which all pregnant women will receive free HIV antibody test on a voluntary basis. The Scheme enables us to provide support to HIV infected women and their families as early as possible, and also to reduce the chances of transmission of the virus to their babies. We have used 12 different languages in the publicity materials to facilitate promotion of the Scheme among people of difference races in Hong Kong.  

     We also attach importance to the prevention of non-infectious diseases. Since the International Women's Day on 8 March 2004 we have launched a territory-wide Cervical Screening Programme. Under the Programme, participants will receive a cervical smear test at a mere cost of about US$13 (HK$100) to better prevent cervical cancer. In addition, the Government is now amending the law to prohibit smoking in indoor workplaces and public places so as to protect the health of employees, including the female working population, from second-hand smoking.  

     Looking forward, the ageing population will be one of the challenges for Hong Kong. In 2004, 51.8% (about 3.57 million) of Hong Kong's population were women and their life expectancies were averaged at 84.7 years. How to continue to provide quality health services at affordable prices and suitable to women of all ages whilst maintaining the sustainability of the health care system will be a big challenge for the HKSAR Government. We are now reviewing our medical service model and consulting the public on their views.

     Now, let me turn to the development of education and training in Hong Kong. Since 1978, nine-year free universal basic education has already been implemented in Hong Kong. Girls and boys are entitled to equal access to education opportunities. Over the past decade, the overall government expenditure on education increased by 66%. At present, it is common for women to receive tertiary education and indeed, in recent years more than half of the university graduates are female students. This lays a strong foundation for women to participate more widely in the economy, political arena, power and decision-making.  

     Overall, we have made remarkable progress in terms of women's participation in education and other aspects. However, some individuals may still face a lot of difficulties. Women who are at their middle ages or less educated may encounter difficulties in seeking employment or further education opportunities. In this regard, the Government has established the Employees Retraining Board to provide retraining to eligible workers to assist them to adjust to changes in the economic environment. Up to May 2005, the Employees Retraining Board has so far provided counseling, retraining courses, placement services and follow-up services for 860,000 workers.    

     To eliminate sex discrimination and promote gender equality, the Government established the Equal Opportunities Commission in 1996. Furthermore, the Government has established the Women's Commission in 2001, which sets an important milestone in the history of women development in Hong Kong. Since its establishment, the Commission has been playing a strategic role and formulating strategies for the advancement of women development, identifying women's needs, addressing all matters of concern to women and also advising the Government on policies and initiatives of concern to women. Approaching from the institutional, personal and societal aspects, the Women's Commission works to promote gender mainstreaming, empower women and educate the public in order to promote the advancement of women development in Hong Kong.

     The HKSAR Government has rendered its full support to the Women's Commission. The Government will continue to strive to provide an enabling environment for women and empower them in all aspects, as well as to eliminate any gender bias and stereotype in the society.  

     Last but not least, I wish to thank all the organisers, particularly the All China Women's Federation, in bringing all of us here for this meaningful event. I also hope that we will continue to maintain close liaison with the representatives from within the country and around the world, and to exchange and learn from each other to achieve the goal of promoting women's rights and interests. Let us build upon the spirit of the Fourth World Conference on Women and join hands to strive for gender equality.  

     Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Issued at HKT 20:36


Print this page