‘Shaping Pacific development', speech at the Pacific Islands Forum
WED 29 AUGUST 2012
Thank you very much to the Secretary General. I’m pleased to stand here today with my fellow Pacific leaders and with Michelle Bachelet, from UN Women, for an important announcement about gender equality in our region of the world, in the Pacific.
We stand here today wanting to enter a new partnership for gender equality.
We know gender equality is not a marginal issue. It’s not just about fairness to women, but it’s also about economic development and empowerment.
We know that societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating as equals; that’s a key indicator of social governance.
We know that food security is advanced by enabling women to work in the agricultural sector.
We know that if there was a better distribution between men and women of agricultural work, that up to 150 million more people would be nourished around our globe.
And we know, too, that a key indicator of economic advancement is the full inclusion of women in the life of a nation.
So gender equality is the right thing to do; it’s also the clever thing to do, and I am delighted that leaders are working here at the Pacific Island Forum for change and for gender equality in our region. Today, through a declaration on gender equality that will come from the Pacific Island Forum, and through the initiative that I’m announcing today, we will see further change.
Now whilst we have been working on gender equality in our region, there’s no doubt that significant challenges still remain in the Pacific as significant challenges remain for countries around the world:
In the Pacific, women hold five per cent of parliamentary seats. That’s compared to a global average of 18 per cent;
women account for just one in three people in formal employment across substantial parts of the Pacific;
And violence against women and poor maternal health outcomes are only too prevalent in our region of the world.
But we also know change is possible, and change is occurring here and internationally.
Some countries in the Pacific have achieved gender parity in primary education.
Working in partnership with regional governments, UN Women is making a difference through things like the Pacific Markets Program.
And we do know that there are nations, including Papua New Guinea, that have taken important steps forward to including women in their parliament. So change is possible.
Today I am pleased to announce that we will support further change through a partnership of more than $300 million over the next decade.
These funds will be directed to a number of purposes to increase the inclusion of women in the lives of nations in the Pacific.
Most specifically the work that this money will fund will include: empowering women to participate in the political life of their nation by enabling training and support for women who want to involve themselves in leadership processes. This money will go towards assisting the Pacific Markets Program that’s already making a significant difference.
It’s a simple idea, but if women can bring their produce to market, if they can bring their economic labors to market, they can earn money which makes a difference for them, for their families and ultimately for their nation.
In order to do that, markets need to be safe spaces with lighting, with water supply, sanitation and waste disposal, and women need to be able to participate in the governance and leadership of market places. And so this money will help finance such initiatives.
This money will assist with survivors of violence overcoming the experiences that they have lived through and finding safety and protection. And underpinning all of this work will be information campaigns and programs through churches, local governments and at markets to change perceptions of women’s roles and women’s lives, and men’s roles in communities to assist women and men to live together as equals.
The Pacific is already on its way to empowering women, but this is the work of generations. Australia is pleased that we are able to support a decade-long partnership, and I have no doubt that we will continue to see further change for women in the region in which we live.
Thank you very much.