Pacific Island progress towards equality highlighted in new report

New York

Joanna TemotaAs the world marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the international roadmap for gender equality, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is proud to release the Pacific regional report on progress made since 1995.

Launched overnight at a side event during the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, the Beijing +20 report is one of the most significant reports released in recent years, highlighting progress and setbacks in 16 Pacific Island countries and territories.

In his foreword to the report, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, the Hon. Enele Sopoaga, points out that the Pacific Islands region cannot afford to miss out on women’s contributions, particularly in areas such as climate change adaptation.

“If half of our population is held back by discrimination and human rights violations, our preparedness and resilience to environmental degradation are seriously jeopardised,” the Prime Minister said.

Significant breakthroughs for Pacific Island women include ending the silence on violence against women and girls, increasing their access to justice, and opening dialogue at the regional level and in countries on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

“The effects of these reforms on the advancement of Pacific women is evident in a variety of contexts and is demonstrated in many ways, including in their contribution to culture and science, their economic dynamism and leadership in communities,” SPC Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, said.

“Despite this, the fact is that in the Pacific we still have a long way to go and this new report reveals mixed progress and some areas of deep concern,” he said.

The region has also made progress in offering equal access to education for boys and girls and better access to health services.

However, 12 critical areas of concern identified 20 years ago in Beijing are still priorities and should be maintained at the forefront of the global, regional and national development agenda.

For example, women’s access to paid work is still highly affected by discriminatory practices, traditional beliefs, and economic structures. Women's labour force participation has, in many cases, declined rather than improved in the last decade, by as much as 30 per cent.

Women’s political representation in the Pacific Islands region is the lowest of any global region. Despite progress made over the last two decades, a lack of sexual education and access to contraception, and exposure to unwanted or abusive sexual relationships, account for high levels of teenage pregnancy in the region.

Speaking at the launch, Samoa’s Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, the Hon. Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua, called for renewed commitment to gender equality in Pacific Island countries and territories as part of meeting development challenges.

“We ought to renew our commitment and refocus our efforts to ensure that our women and girls enjoy their human rights and have improved quality of life as members of society today, tomorrow and in the future ahead of us.”

Media contact: Blandine Mollard, [email protected]