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Postcards from Rarotonga: Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women

Developing and strengthening โ€˜appropriate mechanisms that will enhance the advancement of women at all levelsโ€™ is the first strategic objective of the Pacific Platform for Action. It includes:

i) Existence and use of sex disaggregated data and gender analysis across all sectors, supporting policy development, government services, budgeting, monitoring and reporting processes

ii) Laws and policies complying with CEDAW and enforcing gender equality and womenโ€™s human rights

iii) A rigorous national gender equality policy that sets clear priorities and mandates

iv) Strong and appropriately resourced national machineries for women that are able to influence policy making and monitor advancements toward gender equality

v) A gender perspective is effectively mainstreamed throughout the government

vi) Effective partnership exists between the government and civil society organisations.

In 2012, Pacific leaders reiterated their commitment to develop โ€˜gender responsive government programmes and policies,โ€™ in the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration 2012. The 2013 Pacific Regional MDG Tracking Report1 highlights positive advancements towards gender equality. For example, there have been notable advancements in the area of education where the majority of countries have achieved gender parity in primary and secondary education. Legislation has been passed to support gender equality โ€“ for example in Samoa to increase the number of women in parliament; at the local government level in Vanuatu; and in Tonga, the milestone passage of legislation to protect women and children from violence. However, progress has been slow and inconsistent across all Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs). While there is strong commitment to gender equality in most governments in our region, a gender perspective is not yet systematically integrated across sectoral programmes and services and the required changes in attitudes and practices have not occurred. Faster progress needs strong political will accompanied by systems that hold individuals accountable for ensuring gender equality, especially among decision makers and senior managers. Although a few promising approaches have been adopted in the last two years in several PICTs, gender statistics are not yet systematically produced and interpreted for gender equality outcomes, and national machineries for women remain marginalised and under-resourced.

There have been numerous capacity building initiatives in the region on different aspects of gender mainstreaming, such as policy development, gender budgeting and gender analysis. There has also been sectoral training in macroeconomics, climate change, energy, disaster preparedness and law reform. However additional sectoral capacity building initiatives must be offered at national and regional level, starting with tertiary education curricula. This includes at university level; training for public service staff at all levels on sectoral gender issues; global, regional and national commitments to address gender inequality; strategies for mainstreaming gender; development of sectoral guidelines; and provision of sectoral technical assistance on gender. In addition, governments need to put in place systems to make staff accountable for mainstreaming gender.

In the French territories, the parity law has contributed to increased representation of women in politics and laws that guarantee equal rights for women. However, the gender stocktake conducted in New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna in 2013 showed that capacity constraints and needs for gender mainstreaming are very similar to the rest of the region, and not enough support is available. New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna are slowly opening up to the gender mainstreaming approach and there is a critical need to include French Pacific territories in region-wide programmes of support and training on gender mainstreaming.

To translate words into action, mechanisms must be put in place to make people accountable for promoting gender equality, respecting womenโ€™s human rights, and mainstreaming gender across government programmes and services. This does not necessarily require the establishment of new systems, but mainstreaming of gender into existing systems and processes by: ensuring that sex disaggregated data is used routinely for policy development; ensuring that corporate plans reflect and are linked to the national gender policy and plan of action; allocating sufficient budgets; and by reporting to governments and to parliament on the benefits women and men have received from government services.

What have governments done?

Since 2013, Solomon Islands has adopted an innovative approach to gender mainstreaming across government by including a gender equality related set of performance indicators in the contracts of Permanent Secretaries which requires them to develop annual plans including budget allocations. Gender mainstreaming has 6 KPIs for Permanent Secretaries which was shared by the head of the SIG Public Service Commission is taking its role seriously to ensure accountability and these include ensuring a gender implementation strategy as part of the government department corporate plan with targets and time frames; Appoint a gender focal or create gender desks; Report on evidence of gender sensitivity within the departmentโ€™s recruitment process; Provide gender profiles and statistics; Zero tolerance on work plan violence including sexual harassment and produce gender reports are provided every month

There remain gaps in collecting data to compile gender statistics to produce country profiles according to the CI Government representative:โ€Only through statistics can we show the gender inequalities that exist such as the gender inequalities in pay. In the Cook Islands, men are highly paid compared to women in the same job and this is the type of sample data we can show."

Another challenge is the actual capacity of staff in the Government Statistics Office: โ€œwe need really good statistics to support government policy. So in order to address this issue of the data gaps, we held consultative meetings and used emails but we were not successful. A lot of gender profiles relies on the census data even though there is sex disaggregated statistics from other government departments.โ€

In Tuvalu locating the Department of Women (DOW) within the Office of the Prime Minister also connects them with key central agencies including the media who also report to the PMโ€™s Office and enable the DOW to engage and influence the political processes and she is hopeful that this will also help progress political commitments.

The work of WUTMI has also been acknowledged and enabled the Marshall Islands government departments to advance work relating to womenโ€™s health, young women, as well as bring about legislation to address violence against women including identifying funding sources and bringing about the establishment of a technical working which includes a wide cross-section of civil society. Issues have also been localized including the creation of action plans addressing climate change.

โ€œWithout the link and the connection we bring prosperity to our island countriesโ€

However collaboration is not always easy and this resulted in the establishment of their own women-led community radio station (which is currently under maintenance).

[/h3]Civil society has also contributed to the establishment of several regional mechanisms to support the advancement of women:[/h3]

Sexual Gender Based Violence Working Group: In response to the serious nature of sexual and gender based violence and the regional concern that this has far-reaching human security consequences, the Forum Reference Group to Address Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) was endorsed by the Forum Regional Security Council. The Reference Group is an independent high-level group of experts established by the Forum Regional Security Committee to guide the Forum Secretariat and support Forum membersโ€™ efforts to implement the 2009 Forum Leadersโ€™ decision to address SGBV in the region. The Reference Group comprises representatives of the government of Solomon Islands, Tonga, Kiribati; civil society; and SPC and the UN Women Pacific.

Regional Peace and Security Action Plan and Working Group: The Pacific is the only region to endorse the Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. The formulation of the action plan was informed by the efforts of Pacific activists who belong to the Pacific Womenโ€™s Media and Policy Network on UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Coordinated by FemLINKPACIFIC, the group includes Leitana Nehan Womenโ€™s Development Agency, Vois Blong Mere Solomon and Maโ€™a Fafine mo e Famili of Tonga.

The implementation of the action plan is monitored by a PIFS Reference Group on Women, Peace and Security which includes representatives of governments (Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and Tonga) and civil society (FemLINKPACIFIC and Leitana Nehan Womenโ€™s Development Agency), with support from UN agencies and SPC.

The action plan focuses on three pillars: (i) gender mainstreaming and womenโ€™s leadership in conflict prevention and management, political decision-making and peace building and peacekeeping; (ii) gender mainstreaming and womenโ€™s participation in security sector oversight and accountability; and (iii) protection of womenโ€™s human rights in transitional and post-conflict contexts.

The Regional Action Plan is a crucial step in acknowledging how women continue to play an important role in brokering peace. It also now ensures that the annual Pacific Islands Forum Regional Security Committee has two standing agenda items addressing gender, conflict, peace and security.


The 12th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women is invited to:

1. acknowledge ongoing regional work to compile gender indicators and support the establishment of a regular monitoring and reporting system across sectors in all 22 PICTS.

2. acknowledge and support ongoing capacity building of national statistics offices, planning departments and sectoral agencies of governments including enabling national machineries (NM) for women to collect, analyze and use gender statistics; and endorse SPCโ€™s efforts to recruit a social statistician dedicated to providing technical assistance to all PICTS to improve statistics on gender.

3. support the capacity development of NMs and other government institutions on gender mainstreaming including for French territories

4. acknowledge the efforts of development partners and encourage CROP agencies to put in place mechanisms to strengthen gender mainstreaming across all their programmes.

5. reiterate the need for adequate resourcing to be allocated to achieve these goals.

6. commend the development and endorsement of the Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and support efforts to mobilize resources for its implementation.

7. endorse the revision of the Pacific Platform of Action, and request SPC to take the lead in this process in consultation with all PICTs.

8. call for a specific goal of the Post 2015 agenda to be dedicated to the elimination of gender inequality with significant indicators and similarly, for gender to be mainstreamed across all other goals.

Additional Information

Country: Africa
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Source: FemLINKPacific - GPPAC Pacific
When: 25/10/2013

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