Gender inequality persists in our region, undermining economic growth, human development and poverty reduction. Globally, women are paid less than men and in most countries women earn on average between 10 – 30 per cent less than men for the same work. It is estimated that women could increase their income by up to 76 per cent if the employment participation and wage gaps between men and women were closed, which is calculated to have a global value of USD17 trillion. Women in the Pacific (excluding Australia, New Zealand and the French territories) continue to be under-represented in Parliament, comprising approximately five per cent of parliamentarians compared to the global average of 22.5 per cent. Rates of domestic violence are alarming, with approximately two in three women in some Pacific countries experiencing physical and/or sexual abuse by their intimate partner.
Gender equality and empowering women contribute to growth, development, stability and security. Better educated women have fewer, healthier and better educated children, which reduces dependency burdens and increases savings in developing countries. Providing female farmers with equal access to resources could reduce hunger for an extra 150 million people. In conflict situations, women are often instrumental in brokering ceasefires and can help to deliver more lasting peace.
The evidence is clear—gender equality is critical to development, and must be a key part of aid programming.
The Gender equality and women’s empowerment strategy makes it clear that gender equality and women’s empowerment are a core part of the foreign policy, economic diplomacy and aid work of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Government is committed to strengthening our ability to engage in policy dialogue about gender issues in the Indo-Pacific region and globally and advancing our international reputation as a global leader on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The strategy establishes three priorities that guide our work on gender equality:
- enhancing women’s voice in decision-making, leadership and peace-building
- promoting women’s economic empowerment
- ending violence against women and girls.
DFAT’s Gender Equality Fund accelerates support for gender equality in the Australian development program ($55 million in 2016-17). It funds, jointly with country and regional programs, investments aimed at advancing gender equality and fostering innovative work by private sector and non-government organisations, particularly women’s organisations. This includes Investing in Women, Australia’s new flagship program promoting private sector development, economic growth and gender equality in South East Asia.
The Fund does not replace the need for programs to fund gender specific investments where there are persistent challenges and progress has been slow, and to mainstream gender equality effectively into all investments.
One of the ten performance targets for Australia's aid program is to ensure that more than 80 per cent of investments, regardless of their objectives, will effectively address gender issues in their implementation.
The Australian Government is strongly committed to promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls in the Indo-Pacific region.