Gender equality in the Pacific: Reduce discussions and increase action

Jessica Collins

Last year, former Marshall Islands president Hilda Heine congratulated Fiamē Naomi Mataafa, who was elected Prime Minister of Samoa. Heine said the victory of Fiamme Mataafa was “a victory for women in the Pacific”.

Even extraordinary. Fiame Mataafa is the first female prime minister in a country where traditional rules of political leadership can prevent women from standing as candidates for election.There, one of the ten villages is a woman MatthewOr the village head, and only Matthew You can be elected to parliament. Only 7% of Samoa Matthew In the last survey conducted in 2015, she was a woman. It is unlikely that there will be a female PM in Samoa.

However, Heine’s comments showed a far greater victory than Mataafa’s local victory. Throughout the Pacific, women have the lowest level of political leadership in the world, with only two women, Heine and Mataafa, head of government in the Pacific Islands region (other than Australia and New Zealand).

This month, high-level political women from Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) member countries hosted the annual Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Conference (PIFWLM) prior to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Conference. This was a historic moment for the voice of women in the Pacific and is now enshrined in the PIF’s regional decision-making process.

In his keynote speech to PIFWLM, Mata Afa said the conference is important for the pursuit of gender equality across the Pacific. Her message for this first event was clear. Now that it’s time for leaders to “move beyond rhetoric,” we need to focus. how Enhancing the achievements of women and girls without leaving anyone behind.

Mata’afa marks an era of change, with female leaders in the Pacific driving more action. Certainly you need. An assessment of the Australian Gender Equality Program for women and girls in the Pacific shows that it has been in place for about 10 years and has shown little improvement in social issues such as domestic violence.

Photo provider: AP / TPG image

In this photo taken from a video provided by the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong is holding a joint press conference with Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiamena Omimataafa in Apia, Samoa, on Thursday, June 2, 2022. ..

The program “Pacific Women Shaped Pacific Development” has combined approximately 180 gender equality initiatives in 14 Pacific island countries. The program is currently being restarted as Pacific WomenLead. This is a women-led initiative in the Pacific, where women leaders in the Pacific are in a position to redesign, make decisions and advise. The new design framework suggests that women will focus on taking the lead. This means that the focus will be on helping victims of violence (who received most of the money in previous programs).

This program requires that women in the Pacific need to be safely empowered in an environment that supports women’s leadership, and that leadership initiatives need to extend to all communities, regardless of access to business or parliamentary networks. It may take into account that there is. How this program is implemented depends on the Pacific women who lead it and serves as an example of what Mata Afa wants.

There is ample room for more (or more effective) action to help support women’s representation in politics across the Pacific. Short-term initiatives often do little to help move the needle to the problem. For example, in Papua New Guinea, where there are no women in parliament, women comment: “We talk about women only during elections … and I think that’s the problem. There were five years when we could have done more.”

In some Pacific island countries, there are workshops run by donor countries, such as a two-day US workshop to help build women’s resilience in political campaigns. There are also initiatives to help women gain experience in political leadership, including the Practical Assembly. However, these types of initiatives have not reached their needs. The Tongan parliament is described by the organizers as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience for women to sit in a parliamentary place close to reality.” The realistic setting is not enough and more needs to be done in the long run to ensure that these women make real decisions in the real parliament. Regardless of where the election cycle is, we need to continue our program to enhance women’s political leadership.

Women’s economic empowerment is also the key to unleashing gender equality in the Pacific. However, in order to achieve financial empowerment for women, childcare options need to be addressed. As more families move to the center of the city for work, they leave behind the most traditional form of childcare, an important village social structure that provides access to extended families. In urban areas like Suva, Fiji, there is a shortage of formal and informal childcare, and families find it difficult to fully participate in the workforce. Providing a low-cost community center to learn earlier, or an employer-backed formal childcare policy, including childcare, frees women into more financial participation and recovers from the economic impact of the pandemic. We will support you towards.

Remittances (money sent from overseas workers to homes) are an essential form of income for Pacific island nations. They provide money for household necessities such as emergencies, school fees, and seeing a doctor. But importantly, they also provide the capital for women to start a business. Transfer fees from Australia to the Pacific are still one of the highest in the world. Lower fees will increase access to capital for more women to start a business, reflecting more opportunities for financial empowerment.

Mataafa’s call to reduce discussions on gender equality and increase action in the Pacific is encouraging and clearly poses a major challenge. Having a new Australian Government that is willing to listen more and respond more effectively is another step in the right direction towards a more gender-equal, stable and prosperous Pacific Ocean.

This article was originally Lowy interpreter.. News Lens is allowed to republish this article.

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