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Our Ocean, Our Heritage, Our Future

Isabelle Sachet French Polynesia
Honourable Isabelle Sachet, Minister for Family, Social Affairs & Women, French Polynesia

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The Pacific Ocean lies at the heart of Pacific women’s identities, ways and knowledge, and is a source of cultural and material empowerment.

It was with this knowledge that more than 1000 people participated in the 14th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women in April. From across the Blue Pacific continent and beyond, government delegations, civil society, development partners, academia, the private sector and other stakeholders logged in or convened in small groups to talk about issues critical to the future of Pacific women.

The Triennial was followed by the 7th Meeting of Pacific Ministers for Women on May 4. Again participation represented a wide range of SPC members – Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.

So after four days of discussions, what were the outcomes and what is the way forward?

The meeting produced a large number of action points requiring cooperation and collaboration across all sectors of Pacific societies.

As host, French Polynesia’s Minister for Women, Hon. Isabelle Sachet said, “The added challenges of COVID-19 and climate change on women and girls within our various countries, will make our work even harder. However, we have taken a bold step by accepting this Outcomes Document.  In 3 years’ time we will look back at this process and what we agreed on through this virtual meeting with pride.”

“This work is for all women and girls in the Pacific. Those who carry most of the responsibility for holding our societies together during the pandemic, be it at home, in health care, at school, markets and across all fields. For the women and girls who face or are at risk of gender based violence. For the women and girls who experience poverty and struggle to have economic security and protection. For the women and girls who are constantly impacted by climate crisis. For the women who strive to combine professional lives with increased burdens of unpaid care. For the women and girls living with disabilities. And for women and girls in all diversity,” said Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa.  

This work should be strengthened by an Australian Government pledge of A$170 million (US$132 million) to strengthen gender equality initiatives over the next five years.

“If we ensure women’s economic security, we ensure their safety. We promote their health and wellbeing that’s only of benefit to women and girls but to their entire communities,” said Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Women Marise Payne while announcing the support.

“The focus that you all showed today is a testament on the key priority that your governments place on addressing gender equality in our region,” said the Director General of the Pacific Community (SPC), Dr Stuart Minchin at the end of the conference. “There needs to be greater ownership of this Outcomes Document.  We need to work together to ensure that we bring life to its words.  The commitment shown by you during the Conference and in today’s Ministerial Meeting reassures me that you have every intention to take ownership.”

A TIME FOR ACTION ON

Women in leadership and decision-making

Globally the Pacific has the lowest representation of women in local governments and national parliaments.

“We can see women hold 9% of Board Chair positions 22% of board director seats and 12% of CEO positions across the Pacific. This compares quite favourably with global averages, but those global averages are themselves very low,” the Asian Development Bank’s Sarah Boxall told the conference.

The meetings agreed to:

  • Adopt measures to increase women’s participation in all levels of leadership and decision-making
  • Support ongoing efforts of the private sector to create and strengthen leadership pathways
  • Actively involve women and girls in crisis response and recovery decisions
  • Ensure women’s access to essential services during crisis situations

Sex, age and disability-desegregated data and statistics

“Data and statistics that adequately reflect the lived realities of all women and girls of the Pacific — gender statistics for short — are critical and indispensable tools for developing evidence-based policies, legislation and solutions to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls,” says Fiji’s Minister for Women, Mereseini Vuniwaqa.

The meetings agreed to:

  • Establish mechanisms to identify gender-sensitive and socially inclusive sex-, age- and disability-disaggregated data and statistics gaps, and plans to address and fill gaps
  • Ensure National Statistics Offices are given the responsibility and resourced to lead the culturally responsive collection, management and analysis of SADDD and work with decisionmakers to inform policy and planning.

Intergenerational dialogue and marginalised groups dialogue and perspectives

  • Ensure national plans, policies and legislation are developed through participatory processes that include the perspectives of all marginalised groups in the community, including women and youth

Collaboration and communication

  • Work with partners in media and communications to ensure messages consistent with gender equality and women’s rights.
  • Strengthen coordination and partnerships in all measures taken to advance gender equality and women’s rights, including ongoing dialogue and collaboration with civil society, traditional and faith-based leaders and organisations, and communities.

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