Pacific women leaders urged to support each other, and all women

Vainetutai Rose Brown

“From the beginning, we were created to stand by each other, to support each other. It is through the patriarchal design that got us here today where we must also find the solution.”

That was the message from Vainetutai Rose Brown, Cook Islands Minister of Health, for ministers, civil society organisations and young people at the opening of the second Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting (PIFWLM) in Suva today.

Brown is chairing this year’s PIFWLM under the theme ‘Our Pacific Way: Strengthened Commitment to Gender Equality, Equity and Social Inclusion.’

A key component of the meeting will be the tabling of the revitalised Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration (PLGED). “Since the inaugural PIFWLM meeting in June 2022, the Secretariat has undertaken a consultation process to revitalise the PLGED,” said Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna.

“These consultations have shown that while we have made some progress, there is still much more to be done,” Puna said.

Issues like Gender-Based Violence “affects our homes and places of employment, and limits opportunities for the most vulnerable,” Puna highlighted.

“However, global evidence demonstrates that gender-based violence, particularly violence against women and girls, is preventable within years.

“It is not impossible, and we have many years of work to draw on…There is no place for violence in our region, and it is on all of us to make that a reality.

Niue’s Minister for Natural Resources, Mona Ainuu, said this year’s PIFWLM “is an important opportunity to recognise our women and children and those who are often overlooked, persons with disabilities and older persons, and how climate change affects them.”

“It is important to ensure and facilitate their active, meaningful participation in all stages of climate change and disaster actions. This is so any funding, actions and support is to reach and meet the needs of the most marginalised and the grass roots community,” Ainuu added.

Vainetutai Rose Brown said the outcomes and recommendations from the two-day meeting “will ensure our voices on gender equality, equity and social inclusion are heard at the highest levels.”

“But I think we should think beyond the leaders’ meeting and consider how we can have our voices heard at all levels, from our leaders to our homes. How do we make the outcomes of this meeting make sense to the everyday woman? I ask officials and drafters to think about this. If we want to make meaningful change on the ground we need to change our approach.”

“Let’s work consciously on the use of terminology and acronyms. Let us speak a language we all can understand – that is true inclusivity, that is true leadership, that is the Pacific Way,” Brown emphasised.