“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,” said Dr Mareva Lechat-Kitalong, Adviser and Legal Counsel, Office of the President, French Polynesia at the 14th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women.
Across the region, men outnumber women in paid work two to one and in Melanesia, women occupy just one-third of all jobs in the formal economy. Men generally earn 20-50% more than women. Women also suffer from an unequal burden of work with greater responsibilities in the home, family and community.
For Evonne Kennedy, Executive Director at the Business Coalition of Women in Papua New Guinea, family and sexual violence, sexual harassment, and workplace health and safety has affected Women’s Economic Empowerment. The Business Coalition has developed policies that businesses can adopt or adapt to their own needs. Kennedy says: “getting the buy in and leaders need to be understanding how this is impacting their organizations, and the business community at large,” is key.
The founder of French Polynesian start-up Speak Tahiti, Heiura Itae-Tetaa, told the Conference about her own experiences as a business founder: “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.”
And Adi Maimalaga Tafunai, a pioneering business leader, co-founder and executive director of Women in Business Development in Samoa, also spoke of 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.”
Women’s Economic Empowerment
The conference and ministerial called for measures to ensure:
- Women can better participate in all sectors of the economy
- The value of women’s work is equally acknowledged, valued and remunerated
- Women have equitable access to social protection polices and programs
- Informal sector workers and migrant workers have decent paid work and safe workplaces
- Barriers to women’s access to credit and financial services are reduced
- Inclusive education and financial literacy training that can help transition women to formal employment
- Protection of the rights of domestic workers and caregivers
- Unpaid care and domestic work is recognised and valued through public services, infrastructure and social protection policies
- Strengthened business leadership by women through targeted support
- Women’s education, training and employment in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and information and communications technology, and the development of pathways for them into critical industries
- Reasonable accommodation and flexible working hours for women
- Access to safe and efficient transport to and from places of work for women.
- Comprehensive maternity and parental leave that promotes equal recognition of the parenting roles of women and men, as well as safe, affordable and accessible early childhood care.