Pacific women are hardworking, creative and resilient. They make significant contributions to their societies and economies and there is a growing recognition among governments and the private sector that investing in women and girls has a powerful effect on economic growth and wellbeing. However, women and girls face significant challenges. Up to 60 per cent of women and girls have experienced violence at the hands of partners or family members. The Inter-Parliamentary Union reports that globally, women comprise 23.3 per cent of national parliamentarians (world average as at January 2017), but the percentage of women in Pacific parliaments is currently around 6.9 per cent. Across the Pacific, men outnumber women in paid employment (outside the agricultural sector) by approximately two to one, and males typically earn 20 to 50 percent more than women because they work in jobs attracting higher salaries.
The Australian Government is strongly committed to being at the forefront of efforts to give women and girls the opportunities and resources to reach their full potential. The 10-year, $320 million Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women) initiative is the flagship program in the Pacific to take this commitment forward. Approximately 30 per cent of this budget is sourced from the Pacific regional program, with Pacific bilateral programs contributing the remaining funds.
Women's empowerment is a cross-cutting component of the Pacific regional program. All our investments will support women to participate fully, freely and safely in political, economic and social life. Gender equality and gender-responsive reporting will be a feature of our mutual obligation arrangements with regional and multilateral organisations. We are working to achieve the Australian Aid Program's target of 80 percent of all investments effectively addressing gender.
Watch a video on creating positive changes in social attitudes towards women in the Pacific. Further videos can be found below:
Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development
Up to $320 million, 2012-2013 – 2021-2022
Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women) aims to improve the political, economic and social opportunities of Pacific women in 14 Pacific Island countries (PICs). Pacific Women is working with Pacific governments, civil society organisations, the private sector, and multilateral, regional and United Nations agencies to achieve the following outcomes:
- Women and women's interests are increasingly represented and visible through leadership at all levels of decision-making.
- Women have expanded economic opportunities to earn an income and accumulate economic assets.
- Violence against women is reduced and survivors of violence have access to support services and to justice.
- Women in the Pacific will have a stronger sense of their own agency, supported by a changing legal and social environment and through increased access to the services they need.
An Advisory Board comprising twelve prominent Pacific women and men guides the initiative. Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls is an observer to the Board.
Australia's support is delivered primarily at the country level. Individual country plans have been developed—in close consultation with Pacific women and men, their organisations and national governments—to guide implementation of activities. Regional and multi-country activities are also being implemented to address common issues across the region and to complement and build on country activities to achieve greater impact in addressing gender inequality. Country plan development has included consultation with women living with disabilities and disabled peoples' organisations. A member of the Pacific Women Advisory Board represents the interests of women living with disabilities.
A summary of Pacific Women's achievements through the country and regional programs is released annually through a Progress Report. Examples of regional activities include:
Women and leadership
- Building the capacity of Pacific women members of Parliament, parliamentary staff and the institutions in which they work to better address gender inequalities (Pacific Women's Parliamentary Partnership program (PWPP) – Department of the House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia).
- Supporting research into the success factors and pathways for women in political leadership (State, Society and Governance in Melanesia, Australian National University).
- Providing leadership training for women leaders and coalition members so they can more effectively represent Pacific women' interests (Pacific Leadership Program).
Women's economic empowerment
- Improving infrastructure and management of produce markets in Fiji, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands so that women have a safer place to work and to support women's equal participation in local economies (Markets for Change (M4C) – UN Women).
- Programs to reduce barriers to women's economic empowerment, e.g. through simplifying the process to register companies, providing access to information on how to manage income and assets, and boosting technical skills through business leadership and corporate governance training (Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) – Asian Development Bank).
Ending violence against women
Enhancing women's agency through a supportive enabling environment
- Supporting Pacific Island governments to integrate gender equality and women's empowerment into policies, legislation and programs and strengthen the collection and analysis of data to better track outcomes (Progressing Gender Equality in the Pacific – Pacific Community (SPC)).
- Supporting improved understanding on human rights, governance, democracy and the rule of law to enhance development and gender equality (Regional Rights Resource Team - RRRT).
- Supporting the expansion of access to sexual and reproductive health services in the Pacific (Partnership for Health and Rights: Working for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for all in the Pacific - International Planned Parenthood Federation - IPPF).
- Working with churches in the Pacific through ecumenical-based approaches to gender equality, to reduce violence against women and girls and increase women's leadership (Partnering Women for Change – Uniting World).
- Supporting research on the relationship between women's economic empowerment and violence against women in Melanesia (State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program, Australian National University).
- Undertaking a mapping and gap analysis to assess gender-responsive evidence-based research in the Pacific (University of the South Pacific, Fiji Women's Rights Movement, UN Women, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Pacific Community, DFAT and the University of Auckland).
- From 2014-16, Markets for Change (M4C) has provided support and training to over 2000 women market vendors on financial literacy and business practices and over 950 women on improved agricultural productivity.
- M4C works with 17 Market Vendor Associations (MVAs) across three countries which support over 7,500 members of which 70 per cent are women. Of the 17 MVAs that M4C works with: 13 have over 50 per cent of their leadership positions held by women and 9 of these MVAs are headed by a woman.
- In 2016 through PSDI's Women Business Leadership Program, 44 women from 27 organisations received skills, knowledge, mentoring and networking opportunities to advance their careers. Two informal networks of professional women have been created, and over 12 male advocates have been recruited to advocate for the economic empowerment of women.
- The UN Women Pacific Regional Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) Facility Fund has worked in Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. Grantees reached approximately 161,576 people, including women and girls who are survivors of violence, faith-based communities, policy makers, men and boys. Two innovative toolkits were released, including a toolkit on designing EVAW projects, and one specific to EVAW with women and girls with disabilities.
- RRRT completed the Nauru draft Family Protection Bill, which was presented to the Ministry of Internal affairs in April 2016. A draft Family Law Bill for Niue was completed in 2016.
- UNICEF has contributed to the strengthening of the legal framework in Kiribati to set standards that will protect the nation's children. The newly passed Juvenile Justice Act 2015 puts in place child sensitive justice procedures for child victims, witnesses and offenders.
- Sixty parliamentarians from 21 parliaments from the region, including eight male parliamentarians, participated in the fourth annual PWPP forum in Samoa in April 2016. The forum explored issues affecting women's economic empowerment in the Pacific. Many parliamentarians stated that attending the Forum was inspiring and empowering, and that it boosted their confidence to represent their communities in their parliamentary work.
- The Pacific Leadership Program (PLP) provided leadership training for 55 women leaders and advocates from government, inter-governmental agencies, private sector and civil society. Participants have been equipped with skills to progress challenging reforms within their organisations, sectors and communities.
- Research on women's leadership and political decision making has delivered a more nuanced analysis of women's political participation in the Pacific than that which existed previously. It has generated relevant knowledge which will help inform policy engagement and programming choices.
- In 2015-16 the Pacific Community published stocktakes of the gender mainstreaming capacity of governments in Nauru, Samoa, Niue and Kiribati.