Apr 25, 2017 Last Updated 9:25 AM, Apr 12, 2017

“THE fluttering of the tent in the wind just takes me back to that night,” said Eta Tuvuki, 37-year-old single mum. Her story is just one reminder that the recovery following Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston is not just about economics but also should ensure long term psychosocial support for adults and children “Going to the garden is a way we work together as a family,” she explained, relating that her children are traumatised and relive the experience of TC Winston when they saw all the damage to their home before their eyes.

Participation for Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery remained the focus as our focus group discussions continued with a core group of women leaders in Rakiraki who have been actively involved in our Women’s Weather Watch campaign particularly since TC Winston. Key preparedness priorities include food and water security. “When we were having our (village community) meeting last month, that’s what we’ve been trying to discuss to plant kumala for this cyclone season coming because that can stand us during cyclone and after cyclone,” said Salome Raqiyawa, 38 years old and member of the Nalalawa Women’s Club in Rakiraki.

“We will start planting it in November.” Lessons learnt from TC Winston include access to daily weather updates as well as information-communication systems which enable communities who cannot access radio stations to receive information to support preparedness, highlighted Raqiyawa, whose home is in a ‘broadcast black spot’ and continues to rely on femLINKpacific’s Women’s Weather Watch SMS updates.

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Unsung heroines

Helen Hakena: Bougainville, PNG: HER village Ieta was burnt to the ground on the 28th of May 1990. The entire village had to plea to neighboring communities for safety and security. Young women were taken and raped. Authority was in the hands of the rebels. Helen Hakena, now the executive director of Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

She has fiercely fought for the protection of women and children’s human rights during the 10 year long “Bougainville conflict”, being one of the key women leaders in Bougainville during the crisis who brought about peace. During which, one of the biggest challenges she faced was trying to influence both sides to lay down guns and join the peace process. There were multiple reasons and causes of the Bougainville conflict, compensation claims by the land owners of the Bougainville Copper mine which was not paid by the government of PNG, and damage to the environment among the few.

Then came the struggle for independence. In May 1990, Helen was seven months pregnant. She gave birth prematurely “as a result of being scared and frightened in an old abandoned bank.” She remembers two other pregnant women give birth in the same bank that day. However, they were not so fortunate and one of them took her last breath on the table while she watched and heard their cries for help. “There was no incubator for my son. Every morning, my baby was placed out in the sun to keep him warm – 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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