Addressing gender inequality in the Pacific
WED 29 AUGUST 2012
Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs
Pacific island countries will be given assistance to empower women and to promote gender equality, under a major new regional initiative announced today.
Announced at the Pacific Islands Forum, the $320 million Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative will expand women’s leadership and economic and social opportunities in the region.
This 10-year initiative will include measures such as:
• Provision of mentoring and training to female members of parliament and candidates to help women influence national and local politics and run in elections;
• Making markets safer places for women to work and providing business training and better access to finance for female vendors, benefiting more than 30,000 female market vendors; and
• Helping Pacific women to feel safer in the community, by expanding services for survivors of violence. This will include an increase in health services, crisis centres and shelters, especially in rural areas.
An information program to help change perceptions about the role of women in Pacific communities will underpin these initiatives.
Nations thrive when women can participate in politics, business and society as equals.
At present, women in the Pacific hold just 5 per cent of parliamentary seats and account for just one in three people in formal employment.
We know that violence against women and poor maternal health outcomes persist in this region.
Promoting gender equality is about addressing these injustices. It is also a smart economic decision.
In the Pacific region, investments in women bring dividends to the entire region, including Australia, in terms of stability, prosperity and productivity.
The International Labour Organization estimates that the Asia-Pacific loses up to US$47 billion annually as a result of women’s lack of access to employment opportunities.
In April 2012, Australia was appointed to the UN Women Executive Board.
The tenure will start from 1 January 2013 and will further strengthen Australia’s commitment to women’s empowerment. Gender equality is needed to achieve all of the Millennium Development Goals.