Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE):  A Development Game Changer

Suva

“Women's economic empowerment is a development game changer. The more women participate in a formal or informal economy, the more prosperous families, communities, and countries become. This game changer has significant financial rewards…,” Dr Mareva Lechat-Kitalong, Adviser and Legal Counsel, Office of the President, French Polynesia speaking at the opening of the Women’s for Economic Empowerment (WEE) plenary session at the 14th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women.

The plenary was one of the sessions on day one of the triennial and generated rich discussions from 22 delegates from the Pacific.

The WEE plenary focussed on discussions on how Pacific women could overcome their obstacles through the experiences, advice and practical solutions shared by inspiring women from the region who have overcome these hurdles.

Panellists Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen from Tonga, Ms Evonne Kennedy from Papua New Guinea, Ms Heuira Itae-Tetaa of French Polynesia, Ms Adi Maimalaga Tafunai of Samoa and Ms Una Valenitabua of Fiji were invited to share their experiences and actions they have taken in their organisations and communities to empower women.

Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, Director General, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) said, “We know that women play a critical component of the workforce as highlighted, three quarters in the processing facilities, so it doesn't just make ethical sense for women to have an equal opportunity as men, but also it makes good economic sense to fully leverage the role that women can bring.

Dr Tupou- Roosen, underlined, “we must increase our efforts among the lessons that we've learned, that is, challenging the status quo means creating systems structures and processes that are wholly inclusive. And this involves greater research and broader data collection and analysis.”

Evonne Kennedy, Executive Director, Business Coalition of Women, PNG said, “at the business Coalition for Women, of the key areas that we've been finding that has impacted women's economic empowerment is violence. So, family and sexual violence, gender-based violence, sexual harassment, but also workplace health and safety. These have a significant social cost to business and the economy and women carry large part of the burden.”

“So our key focus has been to identify solutions for the business community, developing a suite of policies that companies can adopt or adapt to suit their needs. The key is also getting the buy in and leaders need to be understanding how this is impacting their organizations, and the business community at large,” she added.

Ms Heiura Itae-Tetaa, Founder of Speak Tahiti, French Polynesia spoke on her understanding of women’s economic empowerment sharing on innovations and technology that she has adopted with her business. “To be an island woman in the middle of the Pacific is an asset. And I do believe in the potential of island communities and I am deeply convinced as I've proved it that our language, our culture is our wealth and that it can actually be the key to opportunities.”

In response to the question “Are there reliable data on women's economic empowerment or is there an absence of quantitative data and why is it difficult to obtain such data?”, Adi Maimalaga Tafunai, Executive Director, Women in Business Development Inc, Samoa replied that “Statistics are available on women's economic empowerment, but I don’t feel there's enough data available for women in the non-formal sector where we work.”

Tafunai also mentioned the importance of culture. “The Pacific is made up of about 22 island countries which means 22 cultures and every one of our cultures does things in different ways, and it'll be important for us if we're going to look at gathering the data that we pay attention to this work focusing on our women, our youth, our people with disabilities and the way the culture focuses on them.”

At the end of the plenary the conference delegates made recommendations on specific actions on women’s economic empowerment to be included in the Triennial Outcomes, to be endorsed this week by the Ministers for Women during their 7th Meeting.

Key actions were a combination of recommendations drawn from National Consultations that took place the past month in several Pacific Countries and Territories and the plenary session itself.

The session on Women’s Economic Empowerment is one of three plenary sessions of the 14th Triennial conference of Pacific Women registering more than 1000 delegates across the Pacific through a combination of in person and virtual discussions from the 27-29th April,2021.

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