A Pacific delegation comprising of one minister, six senior officials from various government ministries and a representative from women with disabilities will be funded to participate at this year’s 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to be held in New York from 4-15 March.
CSW is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.
‘Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls’ is this year’s theme and the Pacific delegation hopes to utilise the opportunity of this global event to represent common experiences of the Forum Island Countries.
“The 2013 Pacific Islands Forum Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Tracking Report has noted that only Cook Islands, Niue and Palau are on track to achieve the broader goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women,” says Seema Naidu, Gender Issues Officer of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). “It’s imperative that we have senior officials from the region participating at the Commission on the Status of Women so that they become champions in our region and for their nation.”
The MDG Tracking Report also showed that women’s representation in parliament in the Pacific is the lowest of any region in the world and maternal health and access to sexual reproductive health services and rights remain a key barrier to achieving women’s empowerment. Except for Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tonga, all Forum Island Countries are on track to achieve gender parity in education. Higher education for young women in the Pacific is unfortunately not leading to better employment outcomes due to gender barriers in labour markets.
The Tracking Report drew attention to women with disabilities and their limited rights and access to fundamental services. It also highlighted the vulnerabilities and security issues faced by this particular group.
The seven Pacific delegates that will be fully funded by the Forum Secretariat’s Strengthening Pacific Women’s Engagement in Global Forums Initiative are:
Ms Tangariki Reete, Honourable Minister for Women, Kiribati
Ms. Ethel Sigamanu, Permanent Secretary, Women, Youth and Children’s Affair, Solomon Islands
Ms. Polotu Fakafanua Paunga Director for Women, Kingdom of Tonga
Ms. Molly Helkena, Under-Secretary Internal Affairs, Republic of Marshall Islands
Ms Asita Molotti, Director of Women Affairs, Tuvalu
Mr. Rob Wong Sin, Senior Programme Officer, Samoa ; and
Ms Savina Daulaasi, Women’s Representative, Pacific Disability Forum
In congratulating the Pacific delegates, Ms Andie Fong Toy, Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat said, “Your participation and representation of our region in this global event is of great significance. This is an opportunity to focus global attention to particular vulnerabilities faced by women and girls in our Pacific communities. As MDGs expire next year, we in the Pacific should capitalise on lessons learnt in progressing the MDG goals with particular focus on women and girls. Achieving gender equality and empowering women, will remain a key priority as agreed to by the Forum Leaders through the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration”
The Office of Women Australia continues to provide valuable support to this project including funding for the Pacific delegates. This year new partners such as the British High Commission and the Pacific Disability Forum have allocated specific funding to support participation from Kiribati and women with disabilities representative.