Sep 26, 2017 Last Updated 8:08 AM, Sep 25, 2017

From the 2nd of October, representatives of Pacific Island states and territories will converge in Fiji for the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of the Pacific Ministers for Women (Triennial) with the central theme ‘Economic Empowerment of Pacific Women’ and the adoption of the new Revised Pacific Platform for Action (RPPA) high on the agenda:

 “This Platform was endorsed in 1994. It was the Pacific contribution to the World Conference of Women held in Beijing in 1995,” explained Brigitte Leduc of the Pacific Community (SPC).

  “This Platform was identifying priorities for Pacific women and it covered agriculture, health, education and even violence against women. So, we’re talking about the ministry in charge of women, we’re talking about the role of civil society, we’re talking about gender statistics. There was also women’s economic empowerment, of course, and access to health and education and also women’s leadership, access to justice and the elimination of violence against women.”

 Four years on, the Triennial will receive the review report to see where the Pacific has made progress and where there are gaps.

 Tupou Vere was part of the group of civil society activists who lobbied and negotiated around the first Pacific Platform for Action in 1994, on the way to Pacific Government participation at the United Nations Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing. 

 The review of the RPPA, she says, is an opportunity to focus not just on commitments but monitoring progress:

“It will provide a framework of monitoring how we progress and that is something which we haven’t been able to do much of even at national and at regional level which is distinctively different now… and linking it to Agenda 2030 will make it much easier for us to discuss it in other intergovernmental forum where we will be meeting governments again.”

 It is also a time to consolidate global and Pacific commitments already made to women’s human rights:

“It’s an opportunity for us to revisit the agreement made at the regional conference of Pacific women, the outcome document, to the Moana Declaration to the regional disability rights framework,” explained Leduc. “It’s also to bring this all together and talking about specific measures to progress and what was discussed a lot this morning was about the importance of knowledge and raising awareness and sharing information so that’s probably going to make its way in the new Pacific Platform for Action.”

 Pacific Feminists are Rising to the Occasion: 

 Successive Triennial Conferences have provided an important space for the participation of civil society organisations and the conference will also encourage greater partnership between governments and development partners to support the participation of civil society representatives on official delegations, so that there is a stronger, more amplified Pacific voice at global discussions – namely, through the review of the RPPA.

 The Triennial was last hosted by the Government of Fiji in 2004, and Nalini Singh, the Executive Director of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement welcomes the conference back on home ground:

“We’re excited that the Triennial is being held in Fiji in our home ground and we get to welcome hundreds of amazing activists and advocates for women’s rights to our country and that we will be able to engage with many them,” shared Nalini Singh, Executive Director of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM). “Many of them are our friends and there will be many new friends.”

 “I think we have a unique opportunity right now moving on from the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) into the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals),” said Singh. “You still have the Pacific Platform for Action (PPA) as a relevant document (but) we know that we have not achieved all aspects of what we had outlined in the PPA. This presents to us a renewed opportunity to recommit to ensuring that we do deliver on all the areas that were identified in the PPA in the original document and link it to Agenda 2030 and see how governments put in their commitment towards ensuring that that is achieved and not just set aside as a licensing document that our governments have agreed to again.”

 As civil society prepares to engage in the Triennial, Pacific feminists in particular the We Rise Coalition which includes Diva for Equality, FWRM, femLINKpacific and the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) will be coming prepared with the Pacific Feminist Charter – the inaugural  Pacific Feminist Forum (2016):

 “The Triennial will be one such opportunity (to apply the Pacific Feminist Charter) because we will have those gatherings of child women’s rights advocates and activists and we believe that sharing with them the Charter will help us amplify the message of the region,” outlined Singh. 

 The Charter outlines positions on leadership, intergenerational practice and climate and ecological justice, as well as at the core stressing the value of diversity in within the Pacific feminist movement:

 “The Pacific Feminist Forum has now just become this symbol of the Pacific Women’s Movement,” continued Meghan Cooper of the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA). “It’s not just an event it’s the symbol of the mobilizing of Pacific feminists or feminists from across the Pacific to this one moment in time and how you were then able to turn the mobilization of those women into a common document that has some pretty progressive stuff in there.”

 “If you’re looking at geopolitics of our region and the population that live in the unique islands of our region, the unique challenges that we are experiencing… I’m really hoping that the reviewed PPA still has the key,” said Singh. “The structural barriers that we have towards women’s empowerment and gender equality as well as touching the key emerging issues that we have in the region - for example in relation to climate change, we are looking at our ocean as the key for ecological wellbeing that will link to livelihood and nutrition and safety as well.”

“It seems like there are new challenges that are not acknowledged in the PPA, the main one just being ecological degradation but then how that intersects with so many other issues that are raised in the PPA and we know that that’s such a big prevalent issue in the Pacific,” added Cooper. “We know that that is changing weather patterns and the implications of that would be really nice to see that kind of integration of the effect of that in the Pacific more integrated into the PPA… (and) the second thing was also that’s just the intersectionality was more recognition of the diversity of women that exist in the Pacific in many ways so there’s the sexual orientation gender identity, the different histories, the different ethnicities, all of those aspects of intersectionality - to see that better reflected in the PPA.”

 “So, I hope that the emerging issues are also being addressed together with the issues that we have entrenched in our region,” concluded Singh. 

A PACIFIC network of peacebuilders committed to progressing commitments to gender inclusive conflict prevention and human security plans to continue more than a decade of work by celebrate the knowledge and strength of their leaders of the network and the role they play in empowering young women: “It’s been ten years since we’ve been working together as part of our first ‘1325’ network that started in late 2006 and formalised in 2007,” shared Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, Executive Producer-Director of femLINKpacific and the Chair of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC).

“It’s a decade of peacebuilding practice in the Pacific progressing 1325. It’s a good time to reaffirm our collaboration and strategise for the next decade.” During the network’s annual Pasifika Peace Talanoa event, organised as part of the Gender Inclusive Conflict Prevention and Human Security project support by the Pacific Islands Forum Non State Actors programme funded by the European Union. GPPAC Pacific works to foster collaboration on gender, preventative action and human security in peace and security forums in the Pacific region including in humanitarian contexts and to network and develop a gender inclusive regional early warning and early response (EWER) framework with human security and protection indicators to prevent the resurgence of conflicts.

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POOR data collection continues to be a resource challenge in Papua New Guinea in the provision of maternal health care delivery, education and child support programmes. This has led to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) urging the government there to prioritise data collection if it is to strategically place services. In her first trip to the country, the Assistant Secretary General to the UNICEF Deputy Director, Fatoumata Ndiaye, said data is fundamental to any strategy.

Ndiaye and Karin Hulshof, UNICEF’s Regional Director for East-Asia and the Pacific visited Papua New Guinea for two days travelling to Goroka and Aziana village of Obura in the Wonenara district. They also met with Prime Minister Peter O’Neil.

“Without accurate data, making policies becomes very, very difficult. And data should be linked up with budget and accountability,” Ndiaye said.

The visit revealed the need for government to properly collect and collate data. “For the government to plan if there are going to be more schools we need to know where is the density of the population, we need to know how many children are supposed to be living there, so the schools can be built in the right size and we don’t have a student teacher ratio of 100 students with one teacher…so there has to be data accrual.”

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Step up in women’s rights

IN recent years, there has been increased awareness on gender-based violencerelated issues in the Pacific, in particular relation to violence against women (VAW). But it was difficult to gauge the overall impact of this effort on the lived experiences of Pacific women. In a snapshot, 11 Pacific Island countries (PICs) now have some form of family protection or domestic violence legislation, and several more have similar bills under consultation or waiting to be tabled in Parliament.

According to Martin Child, Senior Human Rights Adviser at the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), there has absolutely been improvement in the state of women’s human rights in the Pacific in recent years. He said significant increases in many countries in the number of incidents reported to authorities was generally taken to be a positive sign as it signaled increased trust in the police and courts, empowerment of women to speak against their attackers, and improved functioning of the justice chain.

“We have seen the establishment of national gender policies in several countries, significant increases in the capacity of national women’s machineries, and a slow but steady trend of increasing women’s political participation and representation,” he said.

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THE successive natural disasters that impacted the Fiji Islands in the first months of 2017 are a clear signal of the future – greater climate unpredictability, persistent droughts and stronger cyclones, resulting in more complex and frequent humanitarian emergencies. Increasingly, complex and frequent disasters are confronting an existing humanitarian system of response that is not properly prepared to cope.

What is required is more transformative, gender-inclusive agenda for humanitarian response which will ensure the rights and specific needs of women and girls in all their diversities affected by natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies are addressed in national plans, strategies and responses - including disaster risk reduction policies. Additionally, women should not only be portrayed as victims of natural disasters and climate change. Rather, they are equal partners in designing strategies and agreements on how to tackle related issues.

As we reflect on the year since Sever Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston, it is time for reaffirming women as first-responders. It is also a time for government to not just commit, but highlight how they will work with women’s civil society to meet the representation targets in decision making processes.

 

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