16 days of activism against gender based violence: Yvonne Te Ruki Rangi o Tangaora Underhill-Sem, Associate Professor, University of Auckland
“In the Pacific, there are frequent flourishes of recognition for the economic achievements of women. Women running successful internet businesses, women-run businesses securing international contracts; women being appointed to corporate boards; women in male dominated employment sectors; women harvesting bumper agricultural crops; women innovating in the creative industries; women organising cooperative work. These achievements are worthy of recognition because they surface possibilities for future Pacific societies and because they rightfully highlight the remarkable nature of such success.
At the same time, we are too frequently reminded of enduring tragedies of gender-based violence, extensive sexual harassment of women in the workplace, significant gender pay gaps, the lack of affordable and accessible child care, inequitable tax systems for working women, and poor working conditions for women. These realities require continued considerable attention to those directly and indirectly affected. They also remind us of how far we are from realising our shared aspirations to be citizens of nations we can be proud of because all flourish equally.
A key question to ask when contemplating the success stories against the tragedies and hardships is how can we make these successes somewhat less remarkable and much more transformative of stubborn patriarchal norms. To answer this, first, we need to recognise the diversity of economies and economic practices that exist in the Pacific. Second, we need to consider how to protect this diversity in the face of the expansive and dominating nature of capitalist economies where the foremost incentive for economic activity is to deliver profits to shareholders. This requires a pincer movement; on the one hand working to ensure formal economies uphold to the rights of women workers and on the other hand working to foster economic activities based on shared values of generosity, care, respect and reciprocity.”