Tuesday 5 August 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Nadi, Fiji –
Reliable information on the reality of men's and women’s everyday life is critical in order to develop better policies and programmes that address the specific needs of both men and women.
In the Pacific region, many countries lack the capacity to produce statistics that show the different experiences and needs of men and women, resulting in policies that are not adequately addressing their needs. Policy makers need to understand the different roles, rights and responsibilities of men and women in, for example, water resource management in a community in order to adequately address the community needs in a government water and sanitation policy.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), in collaboration with other development partners, is working with Pacific Island countries (PICs) to address this lack of capacity.
At a regional workshop this week (4–8 August) organised by SPC at the Novotel Hotel in Nadi, over 70 people – human rights focal officers and representatives of national statistics offices and women’s ministries from 13 countries of the region – are discussing how to improve the production and use of gender statistics and other relevant statistics for human rights reporting and to support effective policy development and monitoring at the country level.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Fiji Government Statistician, Mr Epeli Waqavonovono, said that statistics are not complete if they do not reflect the realities of women and men’s lives.
'Statistics provide decision-makers with critical information on a range of topics from public health to politics to human rights. All these are areas in which women’s and men’s needs and experiences are frequently very different and if you do not gather information with these gender differences in mind, you are not seeing the full picture,' Mr Waqavonovono said.
'In addition, around the region, government ministries and divisions in charge of women’s affairs; other arms of government, such as those involved in reporting on human rights conventions and treaties; regional and international organisations; community-based and civil society organisations; funding agencies; and specific programmes working to support human rights and gender equality have all been asking for better statistics on gender at both national and regional levels,' Mr Waqavonovono added.
He recognised the limited capacity and resources in the region to do detailed analyses of gender from existing statistics, indicating that addressing these resource gaps would assist in fast-tracking improvements in gender statistics.
Both the usefulness and timeliness of the workshop were highlighted by Kyonori Tellames, Senior Planning Analyst at the Palau Bureau of Budget and Planning that was responsible for the design and implementation of Palau’s 2015 census.
'This workshop is timely for us because it will help us expand our questionnaire for the census next year to also capture gender-specific information. Traditionally, our data collection is focused on the number of people and the information is disaggregated by age and sex but I have come to realise this week that we need to look beyond the numbers and collect other crucial information that will inform us of the development issues on the ground,' Mr Tellames said.
To Malaefono Taua, Assistant CEO of Samoa’s Census and Surveys under Samoa’s Bureau of Statistics, moving beyond collecting typical census statistics requires commitment right from the design phase of any survey and it entails asking further questions.
'For example, in capturing information about professionals in Samoa, we should be able to break down the information by age, sex, the different professions, why more men or women are in a particular profession, what are some factors that influence a male's or female’s choice of profession and so on. This way we will be able to highlight the gaps and link the statistics to policy development,' Mrs Taua said.
For John Ezra, Sector Analyst at Vanuatu’s Prime Minister’s Office, this workshop has provided the opportunity to see the links between statistics, monitoring of existing policies and development outcomes. 'Statistics provide evidence and are the basis for action by government, so it is important that we strengthen our statistics to assist us in understanding the realities,' he said.
Discussions this week are focused on how to measure various gender and human rights issues, such as work, time use, violence against women, health, human rights; building an understanding of the treaties and reporting systems; looking at data sources, gaps and capacity issues; and hearing about the experiences of countries in using and translating this information into better everyday operational and working experiences at national level.
The workshop is convened by SPC in partnership with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, UNSD, ADB and the European Union under the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat's European Union Project.
SPC is an intergovernmental development organisation that supports Pacific Island countries and territories, through its broad scientific and technical expertise, in achieving their development goals. It has 26 members, comprising 22 Pacific Island countries and territories and Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States of America.
For more information, contact Jilda Shem, SPC RRRT Communications Officer on +679 330 5994 or email [email protected].
Photo caption: Kiribati participants analysing statistics at the workshop in Nadi this week.