Leadership, wage gaps, safety, health and care work are five areas of gender disparity in the Pacific islands region that require innovative action given their profound effects on societies and individuals.
That is the message from the Pacific Community (SPC) as the region marks International Women’s Day today (8 March).
In line with the international theme for the day “Pledge for Parity”, SPC is calling for greater debate on ways of closing gender gaps in the Pacific and concrete ways of addressing them.
Despite critical advances, Pacific women and girls are still faced with cultural, social, economic and institutional barriers to developing their full potential, according to a progress report on implementing the Beijing Platform for Actionreleased by SPC in 2015.
“The Pacific Community is committed to ensuring that Pacific people benefit from sustainable economic development, are empowered and live long and healthy lives, regardless of their gender,” Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said.
“Parity should be promoted at all levels and in all sectors, from public governance to changing nappies.
“From local contexts to the international arena, Pacific women and men are hard at work to shape more egalitarian societies and their efforts should continue to be acknowledged and supported through responsive policies and programmes.
“To see Hilda Heine’s election as President of the Republic of Marshall Islands, which represented the first election of a female head of state in a Pacific Island country, and the recent appointment of Fiame Naomi Mata'afa as Samoa's first female deputy prime minister is extremely encouraging.
“We also need to look at risks Pacific people face from a gender perspective, from non-communicable diseases to women’s unacceptable exposure to domestic violence or men’s vulnerability to road injuries, because those risks stem from the roles and attitudes expected from men and women,” Dr Tukuitonga added.
Data shows that diabetes prevalence in the Pacific Island region is higher among women than men, with the exception of Solomon Islands and Niue, according to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
The region-wide epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is aggravating the burden of care that women already face, with evidence of women leaving the workforce to provide full-time care to family members.
The resulting social, cultural and economic impacts on the lives of women and their families are staggering, and are likely to challenge some of the progress made on women’s advancement.
The themes will be the focus of dialogues taking place today at SPC offices in Noumea and Suva.
Media contacts: Brigitte Leduc, SPC Gender Equality Adviser, [email protected]
Lauren Robinson Acting Media Relations Team Leader, [email protected] or +679 337 9250
Majuro, Marshall Islands - South Australia's former director of public prosecutions and more recently justice of the High Court in the Solomon Islands, Justice Stephen Pallaras QC, last week (22-26 February) shared his experiences on taking leadership on domestic violence in the region with newly elected parliamentarians of the Republic of Marshall Islands.
The exchange, jointly supported by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was part of the Marshall Islands 2016 induction for its members of the Nitijela.
Speaking at the workshop, Justice Pallaras said, "During my time in court and the 40 years of practice in criminal law, I have heard all the excuses. Some will say it’s traditional, cultural; we’ve always done it this way. Some men have told me I have the right to beat my wife, have sex with her, I have paid the bride price and therefore she is mine. Other men have told me that they are entitled to have sex with my daughter because I am the man.”
In the Marshall Islands a Family Health and Safety Study (2014) found that 69 percent of women interviewed aged between 15 and 49 revealed they had experienced sexual and, or, physical violence. The majority of these incidents go unreported and of those that are reported, only a handful of cases end up in the courts.
Justice Pallaras implored the Marshallese parliamentarians to stand up and influence the direction of their nation.
“The scale and dimensions of this problem are not simply personal, they are financial, they are social, they are national, they are international and more, they are human. It will take people with leadership, vision and courage. Are you one of them?”
“Don’t tell me it’s not your problem. Don’t tell me it’s a women’s problem. It is a national problem about which the citizens are entitled to look to and expect their leaders to be working their absolute hardest to resolve, and moreover it is a human problem,” Justice Pallaras added.
According to Justice Pallaras, “The true measure of a country’s greatness is how we treat each other as human beings. A measure of a leader’s effectiveness, of a politician’s commitment and integrity, is not what they say. You will leave your mark on this nation, if you leave a mark, by what you do. Doing is a quantum leap from imaging.”
Australia’s Labour Federal Member, Hon. Alan Griffin, also joined the SPC and UNDP team to give support and advice to the Nitijela.
SPC’s staff supported the Nitijela in understanding the treaties Marshall Islands has previously ratified, namely Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC), Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
SPC’s Deputy Director of the Social Development Division, Mark Atterton said, “this was an excellent intervention and it was clear that the members of the Nitijela, old and new, were outraged by the statistics we presented and committed to support local NGO Women United Together Marshall Islands (WUTMI) in their service for a women’s counselling centre and sheltered accommodation. This was a great outcome of the induction programme.”
SPC supports all 22 Pacific Island member countries and territories in building a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. SPC’s work in this area is supported by the Government of Australia and European Union.
Media contact: Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 330 5994.
The Pacific Community (SPC) is offering its prayers and practical assistance as Fiji rallies to assess the scale of the impact of tropical cyclone Winston.
The Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, has written to Fiji’s Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon. Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, offering to deploy specialist SPC teams to assist the Fiji Government’s response, based on the nation’s needs in the wake of the powerful cyclone.
Dr Tukuitonga said the 390 SPC staff based in Fiji are believed to be safe, although the homes of several employees are known to be damaged, with one colleague in the Lautoka area losing the roof off his home.
SPC’s offices in Fiji – in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa – are closed today.
“As per our long-standing practice in this disaster-prone region, the Pacific Community stands ready to deploy disaster response teams and provide technical assistance as needed to reinforce the Fiji Government’s capacity,” Dr Tukuitonga said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the government and people of Fiji, including our many colleagues and development partners who are based there,” Dr Tukuitonga said.
While the extent of damage at SPC offices and project sites is yet to be determined, Dr Tukuitonga confirmed the globally-significant tissue culture collections at SPC’s Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees in Suva are unaffected, as the building is intact and there is a back-up generator maintaining the temperature in the storage laboratories.
Media contacts: Julie Marks Pacific Community Communications Director, [email protected] or +687 80 74 95
NOTES TO EDITORS: The Pacific Community is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. We are an international development organisation owned and governed by our 26 country and territory members. We respond to our member governments’ requests for assistance following disasters and provide a range of ongoing services to improve disaster preparedness and response in the region. See www.spc.int.
Photo courtesy Fiji Government and UN OCHA: Fiji Government aerial survey of eastern islands following tropical cyclone Winston
Ms Mafi is an awardee of the 2016 Greg Urwin Awards presented this week to five outstanding Pacific Islanders.
A Legal Officer with Tonga’s Ministry of Justice, Ms. Mafi looks forward to the placement with SPC in March and hopes that her placement will contribute to her plans to advocate for the rights of children within the Tongan criminal justice system.
SPC’s Deputy Director of the Social Development Division, Mark Atterton said the Regional Rights Resource Team is delighted to support Ms Mafi build her capacity in her specific area of interest in human rights.
“We welcome Ms Mafi to SPC and look forward to working with her over the next six months. Ms Mafi will be focussing on the rights of children in Tonga which will have a wider learning implication for all countries in the Pacific. The rates of abuse of children in this region are alarming and it is often such pieces of research that can be a real catalyst for change and the protection of children. We thank the Australian Government, the Pacific Leadership Program and the Urwin family for making this placement possible,” Mr Atterton added.
Ms Mafi is determined that the placement will assist her identify legal provisions that will eradicate legally mandated violence against children which she believes will raise awareness in Tonga on the long term harm that violence causes for children; violence within society and violence within the legal and criminal justice system.
She also hopes that her placement will equip her to train relevant stakeholders, on identifying laws to be amended.
Ms. Mafi holds a Masters of Law from Queen Mary University of London, a Professional Diploma in Legal Practice and a Bachelor of Law both from the University of the South Pacific. She has been a Legal Officer with Tonga’s Ministry of Justice since 2012.
The Greg Urwin Awards are an Australian Government-Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) joint initiative.
The Awards were established in 2008 to honour the memory and the legacy of the former Secretary General of PIFS and a former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu, the late Mr Greg Urwin.
The Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Ms Margaret Twomey, yesterday hosted an event to congratulate the five new Greg Urwin awardees for 2016.
Present were Mr Wylie Clarke, son of the late Greg Urwin and Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), to congratulate the Greg Urwin Awardees and wish them well for their placements.
SPC works to build a culture of human rights and assisting nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards.
Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 330 5994
Useful link: www.spc.int/rrrt/
No one can take away your rights.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism allows UN Member States to declare their actions taken to improve human rights in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.
Palau was reviewed by the UN Council today in Geneva.
Its delegation was led by their Minister for Community and Cultural Affairs, the Hon Baklai Temengil Chilton, and accompanied by an SPC Human Rights Advisor, Romulo Nayacalevu.
SPC organised a mock session for the Palauan delegation earlier this week in Geneva ahead of today’s review.
According to Mr Nayacalevu: “Palau has been preparing for months for this report including submitting its report to Parliament before its final endorsement and transmission to the UN Human Rights Secretariat in Geneva.
“This is the first time a UPR report has been submitted to Palau’s Parliament, as well as any Parliament in the Pacific. As such, Palau’s report has the support of the people of Palau through their elected representatives,” he said.
Meanwhile, SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team, in partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, presented a mock session for the Solomon Islands delegation in Sydney, Australia, on Wednesday.
The Solomon Islands’ delegation, led by their Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Milner Tozaka, was en route to Geneva for their review, due to take place next Tuesday (26 January).
The UPR process highlights positive human rights developments and challenges in countries, and at the same time enhances dialogue with the international community, often resulting in prioritising actions to address the crucial human rights issues in those countries.
This is the second time Palau and Solomon Islands are reporting to the UN Human Rights Council through this process.
In 2015, SPC provided technical assistance to government and civil society groups in Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Palau and Solomon Islands, in preparation for their respective reviews.
Samoa and Papua New Guinea will also be reviewed before the Human Rights Council this year - the final Pacific Island states to be reviewed under the Second Cycle of the UPR (2012–2016), also with technical support from SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team.
SPC supports all 22 Pacific Island member countries and territories in building a culture of human rights, and assists nation states to commit to, and observe, international human rights standards. This work is funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Australia.
Media contact: Jilda Shem, SPC Communications Officer, RRRT, +679 330 5994, [email protected].
Addressing Discrimination and Inequality in Solomon Islands - a report by Equal Rights Trust
A new report published today by the Equal Rights Trust exposes the extent of discrimination and inequality experienced by groups including women; persons with disabilities; lesbian, gay and bisexual persons; and persons living with HIV in Solomon Islands.
Stand Up and Fight: Addressing Discrimination and Inequality in Solomon Islands also concludes that a tendency for people to identify strongly as members of kinship groups or residents of a particular island, rather than as Solomon Islanders has promoted difference and fostered ethnic tension.
The report argues that if Solomon Islands is to move on from the conflict which afflicted the country between 1998 and 2003, its people must stand up and fight traditions which exacerbate difference on the basis of ethnicity, gender, disability and sexual orientation.
In particular, the report highlights widespread discrimination against women which is directly connected to gender stereotypes portraying women as inferior to men.
“We found that women are effectively second-class citizens in Solomon Islands; they are invisible in all areas of politics and government and do not participate equally with men in any area of life. Violence against women is alarmingly widespread and widely accepted by both men and women. When in 2012 I asked a group of 16 women in Honiara to say if they had experienced partner violence, they all said yes, without exception,” said Executive Director of the Equal Rights Trust, Dr Dimitrina Petrova.
The report investigates patterns of ethnic discrimination, finding that in a country which presents itself as “homogenous”, there are serious concerns about discrimination between those of different wantok (the Pijin for “one talk”, a community group based on shared linguistic and cultural heritage).
Dr Petrova continued, “Our research found compelling evidence of concern amongst Solomon Islanders that those in positions of power abuse their authority and make corrupt decisions in favour of their wantok group.”
In addition to discrimination against women and discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, the report finds that: persons with disabilities are perceived as “cursed” and denied equality of participation in education, employment, healthcare and other services; lesbian, gay and bisexual persons are subject to severe social stigma and are largely invisible in society as a result; and persons living with HIV lack access to services, including health services, as a result of fear fuelled by prejudice and ignorance of the disease.
Stand Up and Fight is published in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) – Solomon Islands Country Office and the SPC Regional Rights Resource Team and is launched at a time of great opportunity for Solomon Islands. The country is entering its thirteenth year of constitutional reform and a draft constitution is currently the subject of consultation. The report outlines how Solomon Islands should reform its Constitution to increase protection for the rights to equality and non-discrimination. It calls on all those affected by discrimination to use the reform process to stand up and fight for equality for all. It also makes a number of other recommendations including the repeal of discriminatory laws and the enactment of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation.
The report is published on the eve of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Solomon Islands on Monday 25 January - a process which seeks to address threats posed towards the protection of human rights in the country under review. The Equal Rights Trust has written to states participating in the Review urging them to make recommendations based on the report’s conclusions and recommendations.
London, 20 January 2016
Check out the Diploma on leadership, governance and human rights at the University of the South Pacific
The Agreement includes several key elements that are of particular importance to the Pacific region, including recognition for pursuing a temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels, a strengthened mechanism for loss and damage, and the provision for scaled up and simplified access to climate finance for small island developing states.
The Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) agencies have been working as “One Team” to support Pacific island countries with technical assistance during the lengthy negotiation process.
Mr. David Sheppard, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), commended the leadership and tireless efforts of Pacific Leaders in Paris who were truly inspirational throughout COP 21 and noted: “I was extremely proud to be with our Pacific Leaders in Paris and to hear the voices of the Pacific on climate change, in this important global platform.”
Small Islands around the world worked together, demonstrating the importance of Pacific collaboration with other regions, through the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), “AOSIS has been instrumental in mobilising a collective voice in the sea of lengthy and intense negotiations, which is evidenced in the position of 1.5 degrees and a mechanism for loss and damage, being included in the final text of the Paris Agreement,” Mr Sheppard noted.
Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, was in Paris for the COP 21 meeting and agreed, saying “This agreement provides a strong outcome for the Pacific. While there were great gains the real work starts now. We must work together to secure climate change finance for the island nations to support Adaptation activities.”
“Pacific Leaders and their delegations did an amazing job in representing their people and future generations of Pacific islanders. The way in which the CROP agencies worked alongside them highlighted to me once again just how much can be achieved when the region works together towards a common goal.”
The Paris Agreement includes aspects that are legally binding, and includes a five year review of emissions to determine the ability to meet the long term global goal, to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change."
Other key measures include: to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century; to review progress every five years; and a commitment towards US$100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future. Small island states, together with least developed countries, have special status with regard to financing and reporting under the Paris Agreement.
The inclusion of “loss and damage” in the Agreement is a significant step towards recognition of the loss and damage that results from the adverse effects of climate change (including extreme weather events and slow onset events) and acknowledgment of the suffering of vulnerable states including small island countries and territories in the Pacific.
Another key implication from Paris will be an overhaul of historic proportions for energy policies worldwide and a huge investment in renewable energy and cleaning up the pollution now being emitted to the Earth’s atmosphere. In the Pacific - this will signal an acceleration of the existing efforts of Pacific island countries and territories to shift to renewable energy. Globally, every country will now have to commit to reducing emissions.
Key factors on the success of COP 21 for the Pacific were the open and transparent manner in which the Government of France led the COP itself and their extensive consultations with stakeholders, Pacific voices and the AOSIS, building upon the lessons learnt from Copenhagen in 2009.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Professor Rajesh Chandra, welcomed the outcome of COP 21 and noted: “The Paris Agreement is a historic win globally, and seeing how the Pacific has been able to influence the COP 21 negotiations, while also working as the 'moral centre', is a great show of our abilities and the collaborative potential we have across the region and amongst our CROP agencies."
“It is a great testament of what can be achieved by our island nations, which will be especially important as the world begins to work towards the goals that are set out in the Agreement," said Professor Chandra
CROP agencies through the PIFS, SPREP, USP and the Pacific Community (SPC), worked closely and effectively together at COP 21 to support Pacific delegations.
The Director-General of the Pacific Community, Dr Colin Tukuitonga noted: "The Paris Agreement is an achievement of David and Goliath proportions and our Pacific leaders and delegations must be commended for fronting this monumental challenge with sterling leadership, unwavering commitment and a strong, united voice.”
“Against immense odds, the concerns and resolve of small island states are echoed in the pages of this agreement and I would also like to acknowledge the effective cooperation by all partners within the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific towards lending vital support to our leaders in their quest for a successful outcome in Paris," Dr Tukuitonga added.
Further information about the final Paris Agreement from COP 21 can be found here: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf
For more information about the CROP agencies contact:
Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme
Director- Strategic and Corporate Communication
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
University of the South Pacific
(1) Pacific Leaders at the COP 21 Paris