Mar 24, 2017 Last Updated 12:15 AM, Mar 15, 2017

Let’s stop violence against women

It has been more than 100 years since a proposal that a celebration of and for women be held every year in every country on the same day was tabled at the second international conference of working women in Copenhagen by Clara Zetkin, as the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party Women’s Office. And this month, we will mark the occasion of International Women’s Day in March with various activities across the globe. The UN declares an International Women’s Day theme and for 2013 it is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women (VAW)”.

Violence against women in the Pacific: The United Nations Population Fund Pacific Sub-Regional Office (UNFPA PSRO) which works with 14 governments in the region has been involved in national prevalence studies to measure the magnitude and patterns of violence against women, as well as its consequences and risk factors. The UNFPA supported studies have been implemented in Samoa (2000); Solomon Islands (2008); and Kiribati (2008). The same study methodology was also used by women NGOs in Vanuatu (2008); Tonga (2009); and Fiji (2010). Currently, the UNFPA, with AusAID funding is supporting five more studies in the region. read more buy your personal copy at

How the islands govts are faring

Despite being natural team players, Pacific women are too often left watching from the sidelines according to the results of ‘gender stocktakes’ in several countries. The stocktakes identify factors that block their full participation in national affairs, especially in the business of governing. High-ranking officials from 15 Pacific Islands countries discussed opportunities for strengthening national capacities to advance gender equality at all levels at a key regional meeting organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), with support from the United Nations Population Fund and UN Women.

A gender stocktake measures a government’s capacity to mainstream gender throughout its policies and activities, examining legal and policy frameworks, political will, organisational culture, accountability mechanisms, technical capacity and resources directed to gender issues. It does not review or assess specific efforts at mainstreaming, but simply analyses the degree to which an enabling environment exists and identifies ways to fill gaps. The approach is based on the premise that gender perspectives should be considered in all government activities, rather than being the sole responsibility of ministries or departments for women.

The Regional Gender Mainstreaming Stocktake and Gender Statistics meeting built on an earlier 2009–2010 SPC gender stocktake in six countries (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Tonga), which highlighted gaps and entry points for advancing gender equality in those countries. Nine other Pacific governments (Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) are interested in the second phase of the stocktake and their delegates were also in attendance. read more buy your personal copy at

In the past few months, the Pacific has lost two champions of women’s rights—Ruth Lechte and Susan Parkinson. “Equality, Development and Peace”, the motto from the UN Decade for Women, sums up their passions. They were early feminists, action women not afraid to speak out. In contrast with many early Europeans, they became Fiji citizens and made life-long contributions to the region, although both would be quick to point out that they received much more from the Pacific than they ever gave. The YWCA was the vehicle for their contribution so no story can be told without linking it to the extraordinary early achievements of the YWCA in Fiji and the region.

Parkinson, was brought up on her family’s sheep farm at Te Hopai, in New Zealand’s Wairarapa Valley. Her father, Edward Carlton Holmes, formerly of Matahiwi, near Masterton, was a leading figure in the community. He had strong links with the local Maori as a benefactor and friend. Following graduation from Otago University in New Zealand, employment in Wellington and Leeds in England, Parkinson received a scholarship for postgraduate studies at Cornell University in the United States. read more buy your personal copy at

‘It is also the clever thing to do’

The participation of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the post-Pacific Islands Forum dialogue this year proved especially appropriate since the role of women had been for once pushed to the fore. Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard—the only woman among the 15 leaders—announced a A$320 million ten-year programme to help empower women in the Pacific. The measures—also involving other donors including New Zealand and the World Bank— include mentoring and training women members of parliament and candidates, making markets safer places for women to work, providing business training and better access to finance for women selling market goods, and expanding women’s crisis centres, especially in rural areas.

“It’s not a marginal issue,” she said in a marquee into which islands leaders crowded. “Gender equality is not just the right thing to do. It’s also the clever thing to do.” It’s also, she said, about economic development. “And we all know change is possible.” Other leaders queued up to agree with her. Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna said; “It’s an issue of great social importance in our region.” Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said his government was introducing legislation so that at least 10 percent of parliamentarians would be women.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said: “It’s a very timely initiative. PNG is a very male-dominated society. There’s a huge task ahead of us.” His government is also legislating to guarantee women seats—in this case 22, in addition to the present 111 MPs recently elected, of whom just three are women. He has appointed one of them, former journalist Loujaya Toni, as Minister for Community Development. Julie Soso became the first woman to be elected in the most populous region of PNG, the Highlands, and the first woman governor—of Eastern Highlands. read more buy your personal copy at

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