New partnership to empower Pacific women
30 August, 2012
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a new 10-year $320 million initiative to help improve the political, economic and social opportunities of Pacific women. Photo: AUSPIC
Slideshow: Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development
Magistrate Linda Rau at Kila Kila Village Court in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Michael Wightman / AusAID
Video: Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development
Infographic: Women in the Pacific—Challenges and opportunities
Magistrate Linda Rau presides over Kila Kila Village Court, located outside Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. Linda was appointed a village magistrate in 2005 and works at the village level to remain close to local justice needs.
Linda was the first female magistrate in her village and her role sends an important message about the contribution women can make to their community if given the opportunity.
Gender inequality remains a significant development challenge for many countries in the world, including those in the Pacific. Nations are unable to reach their full potential when half of their citizens are excluded from important leadership and economic opportunities. But as Linda demonstrates, change is not only possible—it’s already happening.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard today announced a new 10-year $320 million initiative to help improve the political, economic and social opportunities of Pacific women. This initiative, Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development, will provide practical support for change at national and local levels. It will work in partnership with governments and civil society groups across the region to develop policy changes needed to support gender equality.
The initiative will also directly benefit communities by supporting better local services, improving local markets, and increasing education and awareness through churches and other organisations. This work will help change perceptions about women’s and men’s roles in communities, and assist women to participate as equals in day-to-day life.
Women in the Pacific are under-represented in many decision-making settings. They hold just 5 per cent of the region’s parliamentary seats, compared to nearly 25 per cent in Australia. But while this figure is well below the global average, recent achievements by the region’s female politicians are encouraging.
In the past few months alone, an additional four women have been elected into Pacific parliaments. This includes three in Papua New Guinea and one in Solomon Islands. Both cases were landmark victories. For the past 15 years, Papua New Guinea has only had one female parliamentarian, Dame Carol Kidu, who retired earlier this year. Solomon Islands has not had a female member of parliament since 2001, when Hilda Kari was defeated after serving three terms.
Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development will build on the momentum for greater gender equality already being seen in the region. The initiative will provide mentoring and training to female members of parliament and candidates so they can influence national and local politics and run more successfully in elections.
Marketplaces will also be improved to offer better facilities and services for women, meaning better support for female vendors and a safer work environment. Women make up the bulk of workers at Pacific markets. Supporting women in their entrepreneurial activities will lead to more opportunities to increase family incomes, build assets, and reduce poverty.
In addition, Pacific governments will be supported to put more domestic violence legislation in place to protect survivors of violence and punish offenders. Women survivors of violence will also receive better access to medical services, counseling, safe shelters and justice over the course of the initiative. These changes will benefit all of society.
Sustainable development will only be possible when women can participate in political, economic and social opportunities as equals. As Linda Rau, the newly-elected female parliamentarians, and countless male and female advocates across the region are showing, the Pacific is already on its way to empowering women. But this is the work of generations, and Australia will continue to work in partnership with Pacific leaders and communities to improve the lives of the region’s people and their future.
Watch this video on YouTube
Women in the Pacific—Challenges and opportunities
Download Women in the Pacific—Challenges and opportunities (PDF 146kb)
Infographic: Text version
Did you know?
- Women hold just 5 per cent of the Pacific's parliamentary seats.
- But the greater the number of women in parliament the lower the level of corruption.
- Every 1 per cent increase in female parliamentary representation raises economic growth by 0.16 per cent.
- More that 60 per cent of women in some Pacific countries have experienced physical or sexual abuse.
- Many women injured as a result of domestic violence now have a permanent disability. This can further limit their participation in social, political and economic life.
- Women who are free from violence contribute to economic growth, have better health outcomes, gain more leadership and education opportunities.
- Women are excluded from employment opportunities all across the globe.
- The Asia-Pacific region loses US$47 billion each year due to women's limited access to the job market.
- Agriculture output could increase by up to 4 per cent if production resources were distributed evenly between men and women... putting more food into the mouths of families and communities.
This benefits all of society.
Last Reviewed: 30 August, 2012