As the world marks International Women’s Day on 8 March, it is an opportunity for us to reflect on the status of women in the Pacific region.
Message from the Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dr Colin Tukuitonga:
This year is also the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an international framework for gender equality that covers 12 critical areas, not least poverty reduction, ending violence against women and increasing access for women to power and decision-making. Back in 1995, it was endorsed by 189 countries, including 14 Pacific Island nations.
In the past two decades, we have made significant gains in terms of access for women and girls to education and health care, and we are now breaking the silence about violence against women.
We can acknowledge the efforts of governments and Pacific Island leaders who are advancing legislative reforms to transform discriminatory laws and practices in order to assert and protect women’s rights. Governments in our region are also showing a keen interest in strengthening their capacity to address gender inequality.
We can note the commitment of civil society organisations who are advocating for better services and information to empower women. We can be inspired by men who are taking a stand and becoming change agents in their communities, working with other men to stop violence against women and support women taking on many different roles, as community and church leaders, as sports personalities and as business leaders.
Despite this, the fact is that in the Pacific we still have a long way to go. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) will shortly issue the latest Beijing+20 Regional Report which reveals mixed progress and some areas of deep concern.
For example, the prevalence of violence against women remains alarmingly high in our region. Women are still under-represented in the paid labour force despite gains in health and education. The Pacific has the lowest number of women in leadership positions of any region in the world, with an average of 13.6 per cent of women parliamentarians across 16 Pacific Islands countries.
“Make It Happen” is the 2015 theme for International Women’s Day. As an international development organisation owned and governed by its 26 members, SPC has a responsibility to deliver services that respond equitably to the needs of women and men of all ages.
We continue to seek ways to improve our capacity to effectively deal with the diversity of needs, concerns and priorities of both women and men across the Pacific. On a personal level, I am among more than 80 SPC staff who are supporting the White Ribbon campaign by pledging never to condone violence towards women.
At the end of last year, our organisation endorsed the SPC internal gender mainstreaming strategy 2015-2017 with the purpose of supporting our Pacific Island members in achieving gender equality and sustainable development objectives, for example by empowering women, increasing women’s participation with men in decision making processes at all levels, and working to reduce gender inequalities in accessing and controlling development resources and benefits.
SPC will continue its efforts to mainstream gender considerations into our development programmes and to build government capacity in addressing a wide range of gender-related issues across all sectors as part of our call to make the pursuit of gender equality everyone’s business.
Now is the time to change old habits and step up our efforts so that our daughters and sons, and granddaughters and grandsons, can actively and equally take part in decisions that shape our societies and ultimately fulfil their aspirations for the benefit of the entire Pacific Community.
Marking International Women’s Day 2015
In Tuvalu, the International Women’s Day celebrations include a disaster risk reduction awareness session targeted at women and girls in Funafuti and all the islands of Tuvalu.
This is spearheaded by the Tuvalu Gender Affairs Department and funded by an international initiative, the Building Safety and Resilience in the Pacific Project, backed by a partnership between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the European Union and SPC.
Tuvalu’s Gender Department is a member of the National Steering Committee for the Building Safety and Resilience in the Pacific Project, along with the country’s emergency services, all of whom will be part of this awareness programme.
“This is a collaborative effort of the government of Tuvalu, the EU and SPC to ensure that the messages we’re giving out to people are consistent. More often these agencies go alone to these communities to create awareness and now as a team of agencies our messages will be stronger, the people of Tuvalu will be aware of all the agencies involved in DRR and more importantly the human touch, the get to meet the people behind the scenes,” said National Disaster Management Office and BSRP NSC Chairman Sumeo Silu.
The awareness sessions will target all communities as well as schools all over Tuvalu.
Additionally, SPC has this week launched a Facebook community called the Pacific Women Information Network (PACWIN).
It will extend the reach of the long-established PACWIN network and promote the exchange of views, analysis and information on the status of women, girls and gender equality in the Pacific Islands region.
For example, people can take part via Facebook in a six-month interactive discussion on the Beijing Platform for Action and Me that will result in progress and gaps on gender equality in the Pacific being taken to the United Nations General Assembly in September.