Issue 10 - August 2016
Delivered quarterly, Pacific Women E-News provides readers with information and updates on Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development - an Australian Government program focused on improving gender equality and women's empowerment across the Pacific.
Catch up on what you missed in the last edition of Pacific Women
Pacific Stakeholders Advance Gender Research in the Region
Pacific researchers and stakeholders at the Pacific Gender Research Workshop held in Suva in June. Photo: Shazia Usman, Pacific Women Support Unit.
June was an exciting month for gender research in the region, as around 50 dynamic Pacific researchers and stakeholders converged at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus to advance the gender research capacity-building agenda among Pacific Island Countries.
With support from Pacific Women
, the three-day workshop held from 21-23 June, was a collaboration between USP, UN Women, the Fiji Women’s Right Movement (FWRM), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Australian Government, through Pacific Women
. The opening symposium featured a presentation of the key findings of the Pacific Gender Research Scoping Study, which was conducted by a group of Pacific based researchers led by Dr Yvonne Underhill-Sem, Associate Professor, University of Auckland.
Dr Underhill-Sem emphasised that research plays a valuable role in providing new concepts, ideas and insights into apparently intractable issues which includes gender inequality. She said that building on-going research capacity on gender equality in the Pacific is therefore critical.
“Research-informed policy making is a dynamic but imprecise process in the Pacific. This project created a bibliography of over 400 citations, an annotated bibliography of 135 pieces of research and a literature review of eight areas of concern.”
In his welcoming address, USP Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Rajesh Chandra said the importance of having enough Pacific Islanders specialising in gender research cannot be emphasised strongly enough.
“The 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration outlines key commitments that value and recognise the contributions of both genders to the region’s well-being and sustainable development. The implementation of the Declaration also requires trained gender researchers – those with knowledge of the complex local context, together with the skills to undertake competent research required for policy making and assessment. I sincerely hope that this will be the start of more partnerships among our institutions specifically for strengthening gender research among Pacific Island students and scholars,"
Professor Chandra stated.
Some of the participants reflected on their participation at the Workshop:
Ms. Jasmine Mohammed
, Acting Head of the School of Education, Fiji National University’s Lautoka Education Campus: "
[Both] personally and professionally as an academic, it
[the Workshop] has been very empowering and inspirational because it has connected me with academics that are very well established; are senior faculty members doing research; and have published extensively in reputable publication outlets. I think in Fiji we need more gender specialist academics - it’s very important for doing our own research and bridging the gap in local gender research. The workshop has also opened up opportunities for future research collaborations".
You can read a longer version of this interview where Ms Mohammed shares about undertaking research on the underrepresentation of women in educational leadership in Fiji, here
Dr Jackie Kauli
, Arts Based Development Practitioner and Researcher, University of Goroka and Queensland University of Technology: "It has also been great for us to come and present some of our work at this kind of forum and part of the partnership the Centre for Social and Creative Media has with Queensland University of Technology is also to see how we can expand some of the work we're doing in the wider Pacific and the use of arts based research approaches. This has provided a forum for us to talk about that and to exchange and get feedback from other people, which has been great."
Dr Verena Thomas
, Research Fellow at Queensland University of Technology: "I learnt so much about what the practitioners and implementing partners are doing and their excitement about using different kinds of new media for research. Seeing the passion for doing new and different things in their own projects was the golden moment for me. It’s interesting also to see and meet Pacific Island women that have been there at the forefront working for women's causes and rights and to appreciate the foundational work they have done as a Pacific women’s movement for women's rights. We want to see how we can work with that and continue bringing to the forefront voices of women."
The workshop consisted of presentations and working sessions and identified concrete actions to take forward the agreed findings and recommendations of the scoping study. Imperative to this is the use of findings to strengthen gender-responsive policy making, development planning and programming. A copy of the Pacific Gender Research Scoping Study, workshop presentations and the full list of studies cited in the bibliography will soon be available on Pacific Women’s
Bridging the Gap for Gender Equality in the Pacific Through Theology
Church representatives at the Forum. L-R: Ms Martha Yamsiu (Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu), Ms Bairenga Kirabuke (Kiribati Uniting Church) and Ms Helen Vavia (United Church in PNG) were part of plenary sessions during the two days and spoke about their work in progressing gender equality within the church. Photo: Shazia Usman, Pacific Women Support Unit.
Finding pathways for secular and faith-based agencies and churches to collaborate for gender equality and reducing violence against women in the Pacific was the aim of the “Bridging the Gap” forum hosted by UnitingWorld in Suva from 12 to 13 May. The Forum was part of UnitingWorld’s Pacific-wide Partnering Women for Change Program, co-funded by Pacific Women
“There are many agencies doing fantastic work in addressing gender inequality and violence against women across the Pacific,”
said Ms Bronwyn Fraser, UnitingWorld’s Pacific Program Manager. “However at times there is a disconnect between the work of secular agencies and churches. In a context such as the Pacific, this can hold back progress.”
Secular human rights agencies such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and FemLINKPACIFIC were also part of the Forum alongside faith-based organisations and churches.
Rev Dr Cliff Bird, a prominent Pacific Theologian from the Solomon Islands and UnitingWorld’s Pacific Regional Coordinator, delivered the keynote address. He highlighted the need to bring together the different approaches of agencies working for human rights, noting in a context where up to 95 percent of people are Christian (with Fiji being at significantly lower percentage), there is not a strong understanding of human rights concepts, especially for the 60 to 80 percent of the population that live in isolated and rural parts of the Pacific.
“On the one hand human rights are seen by many ordinary Oceanic peoples as foreign, making claims that are seen as overtly individualistic, unbiblical and unchristian,”
said Rev Dr Cliff. “On the other hand, some human rights organisations and agencies see churches and religions in general in negative ways - harbouring church members who perpetrate violence against women and children; condoning, perhaps even justifying violations of human rights within the family, community and church settings, through acts of forgive and forget for instance.”
Ms Colleen Geyer, the first women General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia also addressed the Forum: “Our understanding of all people as made in the image of God also recognises the importance of women in leadership, just as God’s grace is for all people. When we share in ministry and leadership, our shared gifts and skills contributes to a more whole community.
The Forum was a fantastic opportunity for sharing, learning and reflecting:
Ms Sosefo Tigarea
, Women's Program Coordinator, Pacific Theological College (Fiji): “I am glad I was part of this Forum as it has given me ideas on how I can possibly incorporate gender equality and human rights topics into my curriculum. The students in my program are mostly wives of students who have come to study at the college. It’s very important to rightly translate scripture. The system that I grew up in and the knowledge that was given to me by my parents and the leaders of the church, was different - it was that women are inferior to men. It is very important to correct this understanding because women and men are same in the eyes of God. This can only be done if we go back to the roots, which is the Bible. The interpretation of the Bible is so important because it can do good but also harm people if not done correctly."
Ms Martha Yamsiu
Gender Officer, Presbyterian Women Missionary Union (Vanuatu): "In my role, one of the biggest challenge I find in talking about gender equality, is culture because we have been brought up to believe that women have a certain place and role. We want to see shift from our culture to God's culture. We have a saying in Vanuatu - when you plant a tree and your tree is bent, it hard for your to straighten because you have to do it when it’s young. We want to see the same thing when creating awareness on gender and women’s leadership. I don’t believe in just talking about it, we must practice it, live it. I started it in my home as well."
UnitingWorld’s Partnering Women for Change Program works with partner churches and ecumenical networks to review traditional patriarchal views of the bible in favour of an inclusive and equality biblical framework, as well as working closely with women’s fellowship organisations in supporting voice and leadership opportunities for women within churches and community. For more information and resources on the Program, visit UnitingWorld’s website
Article prepared by UnitingWorld.
Palauan Advocates Praise Regional Training Programme on EVAW
L-R: Palauan advocates Mr Wilson Subris and Mr Vierra Toribiong spent the month of June in Suva attending the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre’s Regional Training Programme. Photo: Shazia Usman, Pacific Women Support Unit.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre’s flagship Regional Training Programme (RTP) was held in June in Suva, with 40 participants from Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Palauan advocates Mr Wilson Subris and Mr Vierra Toribiong attended the month-long course aimed at helping participants develop a better understanding of gender equality and the causes of violence against women so they can respond appropriately in their workplaces. Many participants are police officers, some of whom work in the sexual offences units, while others work at women’s centres, in government ministries, local government, correctional facilities, churches and NGOs.
Mr Subris is a Spiritual Health Coordinator with the Ministry of Health’s Behavioural Health Department, while Mr Toribiong works with the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs, creating awareness on the Family Protection Act. Their participation was supported by Pacific Women
For both men the course was an “eye opener”
as it made them examine the daily inequalities experienced by women and the patriarchal systems that reinforces this; gain a clearer understanding of feminism and gender; and recognize why gender inequality is harmful for both women and men in the long run.
“It’s about control. Men usually like to control what women do and expect women to comply with what they want. Its common both among younger and older men. Men socialise, spend all their money on drinking and overlook responsibilities towards their family and this is when the tension arises. They clash with their wives who try to address their bad behaviour and instead of using other means to address the problem, men use violence,”
said Mr Subris, who works directly with perpetrators of domestic violence through court ordered counselling.
For Mr Toribiong, ending violence against women is a personal mission as it’s something he grew up seeing as a child. Through his social work, he has visited the 16 States in Palau with the country’s only Judge that handles domestic violence cases.
“We teamed up and went to all the States and created awareness on the Family Protection Act. As soon as we were done the number of calls that started coming in on reports of domestic violence went from nothing to hitting the roof even until today. They knew there was a law in place but they didn't know what was in it and how to report cases until we explained it to them,”
said the former probation officer.
Attending the course also provided both advocates an opportunity to clear misconceptions around gender, feminism and theology. For Mr Toribiong, one of his biggest learnings from the course and one which he hopes to use to improve his work, is ensuring confidentiality in the counselling process.
“I deal with a lot of young people, both girls and boys and one thing I want to change when I go back home is try and secure an office space to make sure that confidentiality is not being overlooked. We only have a few counsellors and it’s so hard for us Palauans to ask for help because everyone knows each other being a population of only 20,000. Who wants to go and share their emotions with others, only to have it known at the other end of the island in two minutes? I wish we had more counsellors who came with this training. Other things I have learnt is the difference between hearing and listening and how to read between the lines of what that other person is trying to tell you.”
FWCC’s Regional Training Programme was first held in 1995 with just five women from Fiji, Vanuatu and PNG. Twenty-one years later it is considered by international donors and agencies to be a best-practice model of training in the area of gender awareness and eliminating violence against women.
Excerpted from an extended version of the story which can be read in full here
Stakeholders Discuss Progress of Tonga’s Revised National Policy on Gender and Development
Key stakeholders met to discuss the progress of Tonga’s Revised National Gender Policy (2014-2018) on 16 June in Nuku'alofa.
Organised by the Women’s Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in collaboration with the Australian High Commission, the one-day Forum provided stakeholders with an opportunity to update each other on the work undertaken to support Policy implementation in the last two years; discuss ways to improve implementation and strength networks for greater collaboration.
Key stakeholders included the Tonga Police, Women’s Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Finance and other Government departments with representatives from the Tonga National Centre for Women and Children, Women and Children Crisis Center, Girl Guides, Civil Society and Nongovernmental Organisations.
At the opening of the Forum, Hon Fe’ao Vakata, Minister of Internal Affairs, said that while development means equal opportunities for both women and men, national statistics show gaps between women and men despite women comprising half the population.
The Policy aims to close these gaps with six priority outcomes: 1)
enabling familial and social environment for gender equality; 2)
equitable access to economic assets and employment; 3)
increased women’s leadership and equitable political representation; 4)
create equal conditions to respond to natural disasters and environmental and climate change; 5)
increased focus on addressing the additional vulnerability experienced by female headed households; women with disabilities; and women in rural areas, especially in the outer islands; and 6)
enabling environment for mainstreaming gender across government policies, programs and services. Pacific Women
supports the Women’s Division in its gender mainstreaming work.
Hon Vakata reaffirmed the Government’s committed to achieving these six outcomes and said the Forum was an important space to share to map a way forward to achieve equal opportunities for women and men.
Article prepared by DFAT, Tonga Post.
PNG Celebrates Successes at Annual Reflection Workshop
Participants at the workshop at Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby, 17-19 May. Photo: DFAT, PNG Post.
partners met in Port Moresby in May to highlight progress made since last year and to look at lessons for improvement and support for the future.
The three-day monitoring and evaluation workshop attracted 101 participants and was opened by the Hon Delilah Gore, the Papua New Guinean (PNG) Minister of Religion, Youth and Community Development, and Mr Bruce Davis, the Australian High Commissioner to PNG.
The workshop provided participants with opportunities to discuss project successes, challenges and strategies they could use to overcome these challenges.
In her welcoming remarks, Minister Gore stressed the importance of improving the lives of women and girls; working towards making communities safer, more productive and more profitable; and the impact of violence against women as an impediment to development in PNG.
“One of the critical barriers to women’s participation is, of course violence. It undermines us as individuals, as families, as communities and as nations,”
Minister Gore said.
Mr Davis reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to gender equality.
“Empowering women and girls is critical to economic growth and to development and security, particularly in our region,”
Mr Davis said.
The workshop also provided the opportunity to network, share stories and gain useful information and to learn from projects and identify opportunities for future collaboration. Ms Gabriella Marimyas, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Coordinator for the Care Coffee Industry Support Project, a project supported by Pacific Women
, said the workshop was very useful in connecting people and that she valued the opportunity to share and learn from other partners.
“It was great to learn about what other projects/programs are doing and meet the individuals in these teams. It was also a good opportunity to tell others about our project and the lessons we’ve learnt so far. Hopefully, we maintain a sharing and learning culture that allows us access to helpful information that we’ll be able to utilise in informing practice in each of our spheres of activity.”
Ms Anna Bryan, Project Manager for the Care Coffee Industry Support Project shared similar sentiments: “I think achieving women’s empowerment in PNG is like a big complex puzzle and each Pacific Women implementing partner is a crucial piece of that puzzle. For me, the workshop was a great opportunity to learn about the fantastic work so many implementing partners are already doing to empower women in PNG – it was an opportunity to put the first pieces of the puzzle together.”
Article prepared by DFAT, PNG Post.
Markets for Change Progress
Vanuatu: Market Vendors Celebrate New Executive for Efate Market
Vanuatu’s Marobe Tanvasoko Market Vendor Association celebrated a new era for the Marobe Market on the outskirts of Port Vila following the association’s first executive election in early June.
The election attracted three quarters of the association’s membership of 132 which includes fresh produce, cooked food and handicraft vendors. The new executives of the Marobe Tanvasoko Market Vendor Association are: President: Ms Jocelyn H. Ure: Secretary: Ms Alice Langitong; Treasurer: Ms Dorah Joel
The executive will provide governance and direction to its members and will work with the Marobe Market Manager and SHEFA Provincial Council to support future growth at the market house.
The Marobe Tanvasoko Market Vendor Association was set up as a result of the Markets for Change project ‘Getting Started’ workshops held by UN Women at Marobe in early 2014. The workshops focused on supporting market vendors in getting organised so they can take part in the decision-making processes that govern their workplace; an important part of this process is forming and running representative, inclusive and democratic associations.
Solomon Islands: Malaita Provincial Government Promotes Inclusive Decision Making for Auki Market
Auki Market vendors’ voices are being incorporated into decision making thanks to constructive consultation by the Malaita Provincial Government to develop a new market ordinance.
The Auki Market, located in Malaita Province in the Solomon Islands, has had no ordinance to set rules about how the market place is run and managed, however there has been a desire by local government and market vendors to develop one reflecting the needs of both those working there and those frequenting the market. To do so, a consultation supported by the UN Women Markets for Change Project was jointly undertaken by the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening and the Solomon Islands Women’s Rights Action Movement in June.
Sixty participants from the Malaita Provincial Government, Healthy Market Setting Committee and Auki Market Vendor’s Association took part in three one-day participatory sessions with over half of the participants being women.
The training and gathering of feedback from attendees to inform the ordinance was greatly appreciated by market vendors, giving them more agency over their futures as business people.
“I enjoyed the consultation and learned about what an ordinance is. Before I didn’t know what an ordinance was because I didn’t go to school, no classes at all. Now I know it means rules of the market place. I enjoyed the discussions and I know that this market is going to have strong management from the ordinance it will help the women and mothers,”
said Ms Amy Quato, a new member of the Auki Market Vendors Association.
UN Women’s Markets for Change project is principally funded by Pacific Women
and aims to strengthen women’s economic security and rights in market places throughout Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands.
Article prepared by: UN Women.
Deputy Speaker of the House: “Women leaders vital for Bougainville”
In April of this year, Hon Francesca Rhianna Semoso participated in the Pacific Women Parliamentary Partnerships Forum (PWPP) for the first time with MPs from around the region. Photo: Shazia Usman, Pacific Women Support Unit.
Hon Francesca Rhianna Semoso, the Deputy Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives, is an advocate for women in leadership. As one of the only four women Members of Parliament (MPs) in a 40 member Parliament* she is an ardent supporter of Temporary Special Measures (TSMs) to increase the number of women in the region’s highest decision making body because she believes the “women of Bougainville are natural leaders – in the home, in putting food on the table and in national decision making.”
Hon Semoso was elected into Parliament in 2005 and holds the North Bougainville Women Constituency seat. She also serves as the Deputy Chairperson on the Standing Order Committee and is a member of the Parliament Business Committee. Prior to joining politics, she worked with the National Broadcasting Commission for 10 years and later joined private radio station UMI FM in Papua New Guinea (PNG), as their team leader.
She held that position for four years before moving back to Bougainville with her family in 2003 to be part of the region’s peace process. Her vast knowledge on public affairs and policy, and passion for social justice, combined with strong public speaking skills, was one of the many reasons that led to her joining the Bougainville Constitutional Commission at the invitation of the Governor at the time (now President). In her time with the Commission, Hon Semoso was instrumental in lobbying for the inclusion of the TSM provision in the Constitution.
“There are three reserved seats in the Bougainville Constitution and I was one of the members that fought hard for it to be there. We had initially wanted ten seats but we found it challenging to get that through. Even in the thirty member Commission, we only had three women including myself, so we fought for those reserve seats and I had to stand up and tell them - they are not there for keeps, its temporary and it’s a launching pad for women politicians who face challenges that men don’t often face when they enter politics,”
Later, the very seats she had lobbied so hard to be reserved for women candidates who would otherwise face challenges in getting elected such as herself, supported Hon Semoso and two other women MPs to be elected into Parliament in 2005. With around 50,000 voters supporting her candidacy, Hon Semoso knows that she has the trust of her constituency in representing them and stressed the importance of voting the “right kind of people”
into the reserved seats.
“I am an example of a person that has made the reserved seats work, so it’s important to elect into these reserved seats, people that will do the work. If you elect someone that just sits there for the next five years and doesn’t say anything then the reserve seat doesn’t work. So it’s not just about getting into Parliament, it’s about doing the work once you’re there. But what we were really waiting to happen was for a woman candidate to be elected through an open seat and that happened in the last election with Josephine
[Hon Josephine Getsi, Minister for Community Development] and we are really happy about that.”
In April of this year, Hon Semoso participated in the Pacific Women in Parliamentary Partnerships Forum (PWPP), for the first time with her colleagues. Supported by Pacific Women
, the fourth PWPP Forum held in Samoa, explored women’s economic empowerment in the Pacific. It brought together 60 parliamentarians from 21 parliaments in the Pacific including: Autonomous Region of Bougainville (Papua New Guinea); Australia; Cook Islands; Federated States of Micronesia; Fiji; Kiribati; Marshall Islands; Nauru; New South Wales; New Zealand; Niue; Northern Territory; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Queensland; Samoa; the Solomon Islands; South Australia; Tokelau; Tonga; and Victoria. There were also observers from Vanuatu. While the majority of delegates were Pacific women parliamentarians, eight male MPs also attended the Forum (read the Forum’s Outcome Statement here
“It’s really important for every woman to be economically independent and have access to formal and informal markets. Women are good managers. It’s mainly the women right now in Bougainville that are responsible for putting food on the table. Seven days a week, they are going to the market. They are proactive about how they can earn a bit of cash for school fees, for health care, for fees in the village. We, collectively as governments, as women parliamentarians with women's organisations can make this happen. We can make sure that every family has clean water to drink and the basics for healthy living. I hope to go back from the Forum and work with my colleagues in seeing how we can make policies that will make informal and formal markets more accessible to women.”
Hon Semoso also works with key women’s organisations such as the Pacific Women
supported Bougainville Women's Federation in addressing violence against women and other issues affecting women in the region.
“As a survivor of violence who took her kids and left her violent partner, I work with organisations like the Bougainville Women's Federation to encourage women and the society not to accept and take part in violence against women. I am very public about my experience. What better person to use as an example then yourself? It’s about leadership. Using your own example to make a change in other people's lives. I don't use other people’s stories, I use my own. I am out there, in the front and I tell people: I am where I am today because of the decision I made to leave a violent relationship. I am walking the talk and I am happy to work with the Federation, as their member for North Bougainville.”
*Inclusive of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House.