Issue seven - June 2015

Delivered bi-monthly, 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 E-News here.

Pacific Parliamentarians Tackle Gender Equality

Members of Pacific Parliaments met from 29 April – 1 May in Fiji to discuss ways of addressing violence against women. Photo: Fijian Government.

Across the Pacific, women make up less than five percent of parliamentarians. The Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships (PWPP) project wants this to change. Now in its third year, the PWPP forum, supported by Pacific Women, provides a unique opportunity to bring Pacific women together to share views and develop strategies for improving rates of political representation of women in the future.

Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, addressed over 60 delegates at the forum in Suva, Fiji.

“There is absolute value in women from different backgrounds and from different parliaments, coming together to share their experiences, to mentor each other, to talk honestly and openly about the difficulties in getting elected and the difficulty of being a woman in male dominated legislatures,” she said.

The first female Speaker of the Parliament of Fiji, Dr Jiko Luveni, hosted the forum. The three day event held in late April 2015 focused on the theme of family violence.

“There’s very few women that have managed to get into parliament. Given the few that we have, it’s very important that we work together and we network. If women in parliament can come together as one voice and advocate on similar issues in each of the countries in the Pacific, the region is more likely to listen us,” said Dr Luveni.

Rates of domestic violence in the Pacific are alarming. Approximately two in three women in some countries experience physical and/or sexual abuse by their intimate partner.

For the first time male parliamentarians joined their female colleagues for part of the forum, including Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Samoa, Mr Laauli Leuatea Polataivao Fossie Schmidt.

 “Domestic violence is a problem all over the Pacific. For us in Samoa, we are using a strengthening program to stop this. We are providing programs across our ministries and implementing new strong legislation – not to penalise – but to give the people a new thinking and new vision to stop violence within our community,” he said.

Samoa is about to introduce a quota system to increase the number of women parliamentarians in the 2016 elections. This will guarantee at least five out of 49 seats for women.

An Outcomes Statement from the forum is available here

Article prepared by: The Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships. Follow PWPP's work via their Facebook and Twitter.  

New Disability Inclusive Toolkit on EVAW to Benefit Stakeholders

L-R: Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja at the launch with UN Women’s EVAW Specialist, Melissa Alvarado. Photo: UN Women/Sereana Narayan.
A new toolkit was launched in Suva on 30 April 2015 to assist organisations in Fiji work more inclusively with women with disabilities when it comes to ending violence against women and girls. The toolkit has been developed by the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF) in partnership with the Fiji Disabled Persons Federation (FDPF). 
The “Toolkit on Eliminating Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities in Fiji” will support ending violence against women (EVAW) organisations and partners in working with disabled persons’ organisations to ensure women and girls with disabilities are included in their programs and projects.
A study carried out in 2013 showed that 64 percent of women and girls in Fiji experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime, and global data shows that women and girls with disabilities are even more vulnerable.
PDF Chief Executive Officer Setareki Macanawai said: “We hope that this publication will assist EVAW organisations to better address violence against women and girls with disabilities and make prevention of violence against women a high priority. We must take a stand on this issue and speak up when inappropriate behaviour towards women and girls with disabilities occurs in the workplace, among families or in the immediate community.”
The Toolkit was launched by Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja.
“In all our efforts to eliminate violence against women we must include measures to assist those with particular vulnerabilities, to encourage the participation and active involvement of those with a disability and to ensure their access to justice and support services. The Toolkit recognises that it is the responsibility of society as a whole to work with women and girls with disabilities to ensure their rights are realised,” said Ambassador Stott Despoja.
The Toolkit was developed with the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and UN Women, through the Pacific Regional Ending Violence Against Women Facility Fund, a UN Women project funded. 
The Toolkit has been designed to be as practical as possible and accessible for people from a range of backgrounds and experiences. It focuses heavily on group exercises, role plays, activities and case studies, with a final chapter centred on action planning for the inclusion of women and girls.

Article prepared by: Pacific Disability Forum and UN Women. A copy of the Toolkit  will soon be available on PDF's website. For more information visit: PDF’s website and Facebook and UN Women’s website and Facebook

Papua New Guinea Signs Second Pacific Women Country Plan

On 21 April 2015, the Australian Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) formally agreed on PNG’s second country plan under Pacific Women.

Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG, HE Deborah Stokes, and PNG’s Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development, Hon. Delilah Gore, marked the occasion at a signing ceremony at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby.

Pacific Women’s support to gender equality in PNG is valued at AUD55 million over the next five years.

In her statement, the High Commissioner emphasised Pacific Women’s continued commitment to gender equality in PNG: “By increasing economic and leadership opportunities, and reducing violence against women and girls, we can help to reduce poverty and build a safer and prosperous PNG,” she said.

Minister Gore said: “This plan will help us further implement the Government’s National Policy for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality which was launched in 2011. We know that women are primary caretakers of the family and have a key role in improving our country’s economic development”.

Australia and PNG will support a coordinated response between government, non-government, the private sector and community organisations to improve women and girls’ lives.

The first Pacific Women PNG Country Plan (2012-2014) invested AUD7.8 million on gender equality initiatives in the country. Several of these activities are ongoing and will continue under the second Country Plan (2014-2019). Geographical areas targeted under the second country plan include: Eastern Highlands, Chimbu, Western Province, Central and National Capital District Commission, Morobe and Bougainville.

Article prepared by: DFAT, Port Moresby Post. A Country Plan Summary for the second Country Plan (2014-2019) will be available soon on Pacific Women's website. 

Channels of Hope Uses Religion as Catalyst for Change

Minister Counsellor Sue Connell discussing the Channels of Hope program with youths on the Weather Coast. Photo: DFAT, Honiara Post.

The rates of intimate partner violence against women in the Solomon Islands are among the highest in the Pacific. Solomon Islands is one of the 11 countries in the Pacific that have undertaken national violence against women prevalence research based on the survey approach developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), led by the United Nations Population Fund and supported by the Australian Government.

Studies indicate that this endemic behaviour has links to deeply held traditional values and Christian beliefs. A better understanding of these underlying values and beliefs is crucial for long-term violence prevention efforts and gender equity in the Solomon Islands.
Funded by the Australian Government through Pacific Women and implemented by World Vision, the Channels of Hope program is an innovative approach to facilitating the transformation of traditional values and beliefs around gender roles.  By using religion as the catalyst for change and by engaging influential village leaders such as chiefs, church, women and youth leaders, the program promotes awareness of the issue and provides support networks linking victims and perpetrators to service providers. The program also encourages community intervention when family violence occurs and educates people about promoting respect and value for women.
The biblical approach is relevant because Solomon Islanders often base their attitudes towards gender roles on the perception that Christian principles promote men as leaders, while women are helpers. Conversely, by reflecting on biblical references where Jesus himself portrays both the servant and leader, the project encourages men to also adopt such qualities, urging them to respect and help their women. The project also focuses on the issues of substance abuse and conflict resolution within communities.
The Channels of Hope program currently covers 30 communities in Temotu and Guadalcanal provinces. In April 2015 a team from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), led by Minister Counsellor Sue Connell, visited five communities in Guadalcanal Province in the Marau and Weather Coast regions. The aim of the monitoring visit was to get a first-hand sense of the programs successes and challenges from field based staff and village focal points.
During their visit the DFAT team received positive feedback from community members and were encouraged by stories of change.  Reports that some men are now participating in community activities and thereby reducing the burden of work undertaken by women were heartening.  Now in its third year of operation in the Solomon Islands, Channels of Hope is clearly having an effect on many lives.  A mid-term evaluation of the program, to be undertaken in June this year, will capture details of these changes while helping the program to overcome some of the inevitable challenges.

Article prepared by Kane Dysart, DFAT, Honiara Post.


Changing Minds, Changing Attitudes

Fiji Red Cross Society’s Health and Care Coordinator Marica Kepa, was amazed at the response the training on violence against women received in a village that was originally skeptical. Photo: UN Women/Ellie van Baaren.

When Fiji Red Cross Society’s Health and Care Coordinator, Marica Kepa, heard that Fiji Red Cross volunteers who were raising awareness and understanding of violence against women had been told they were not welcome in a particular village, she had no choice but to investigate.

It turned out that the villagers were unhappy that the training had only been held for women, and after listening to their concerns and being encouraged by the interest shown from the men to participate, Marica conducted the gender and violence against women training for the men in the village. What happened next was far from usual.  

“One of the exercises is we draw a tree and ask the participants to fill in the branches – the different types of violence – then the roots – the contributing factors to the violence – and finally the fruit – the consequences of the violence. When I did it in this village, it was the men who spoke up. They brought up things like physical violence, sexual violence, rape; they pointed to drinking grog as one of the contributing factors and then named consequences such as teenage pregnancy, getting HIV, getting sexually transmitted infections, divorce, jail…to me, that means the community is aware of what is happening.”

“One man stood up and said he was guilty of all these charges. He thought his role as a man meant that his wife should always do the cooking for him. When he goes out drinking grog, he expects her to heat up his meal as soon as he gets home despite the fact he knows she’s sleeping, she’s tired and that she needs rest because she’s been working the whole day. He was quite emotional about it; he was connecting those gender roles to the violence. It was really amazing. Every man in the room was moved by this. You could tell they all identified with it. The men were very open and apologised; the community and society expects them to be ‘the man’. Then we started talking about how they can help. To me, that was one of the breakthroughs.”

Fiji Red Cross Society is a grant recipient of UN Women’s Pacific Regional Ending Violence against Women Facility Fund (Pacific Fund), which is principally funded by the Australian Government. 

Article prepared by: UN Women. Find out more about the Fiji Red Cross Society’s work by visiting their website

Australia and Samoa Sign Gender Agreement

Front: Australian High Commissioner Sue Langford and Hon. Minister of Women, Community and Social Development Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua flanked by officials present at the signing of the Gender Agreement.  From left standing, Australian High Commission Governance Program Manager, Auimatagi Bob Ale; MWCSD ACEO Louisa Apelu, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative Sala Georgina Bonin; UN Coordination Specialist Filifilia Iosefa; MWCSD Acting CEO Tifitifi Uitime Fetu. Photo: DFAT, Apia Post.

On 31 March 2015, the Governments of Australia and Samoa signed an agreement to cooperate on increasing women’s economic empowerment and participation in public life and decision making and to reduce gender based violence. 

A signing ceremony was led by the Hon. Minister for Women, Community and Social Development, Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua and the Australian High Commissioner, Sue Langford.

Through Pacific Women, Australia is contributing AUD3.8 million over five years to support the Samoan Women Shaping Samoan Development Program. The Program will be coordinated and implemented by Samoa’s Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (MWCSD). 

To complement this Program, Australia will also be providing direct funding of AUD500, 000 to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for a separate program aimed at increasing the political participation of women in Samoa. Through this partnership, Australia and Samoa will work together to create a positive impact on the lives of all women in Samoa.

Article prepared by: DFAT, Apia Post.
Governor Julie Soso Akeke of Papua New Guinea's Eastern Highland Province, is the first woman elected into Parliament from the Highland region. She was one of the 60 delegates at the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships forum held in Fiji in late April. 

On why she stood for elections: "My father is the paramount chief of our tribe and a pioneer leader who brought about development in our province. I wanted to continue his legacy. I also stood for elections because I wanted women to get up there and participate equally in national decision-making. If other women cannot make it, I must be the one to break the glass ceiling." Read Governor Akeke's story in full here.  

Photo: Shazia Usman, Pacific Women.

Upcoming Events

Adaptive Leadership Training

Pacific Women, in partnership with the Pacific Leadership Program (PLP), will be holding an adaptive leadership training for women leaders and change makers from 23-25 July 2015 in Fiji. The training is part of a Pacific Women and PLP-led pilot program. PLP has been using adaptive leadership concepts in its support of Pacific leaders since 2012. Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilising people to successfully tackle challenges. Its focus is to foster collaboration to effect long-term change and encourage individuals to reflect and enhance their own leadership styles and attributes. Workshop participants will include representatives from national governments and women’s machineries, regional organisations and civil society leaders working on strengthening gender equality commitments at the regional and international level. The purpose of this training is to assist women and gender advocates to recast their strategies and catalyse a new wave of movement building that can bring Pacific gender equality agendas to global and local politics with renewed clarity, energy and impact. 

Latest Updates

Pacific Women Support Unit

Some members of the Pacific Women team at a three-day meeting in Fiji in May. Photo: Amelia Makutu, Pacific Leadership Program.

Pacific Women is a $320 million, 10 year program focused on enabling women and men across 14 countries in the Pacific to improve the political, social and economic opportunities for women. It reflects the Government of Australia’s commitment to work for improved equality and empowerment of women. Pacific Women supports Pacific countries to meet the commitments made by Pacific leaders to work for gender equality.

To support program management and the many facets of program and activity level implementation, a Pacific Women Support Unit has been contracted. The Support Unit's role is to provide technical, administrative and logistical support to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) bilateral and regional Pacific Women programs. 

The Support Unit, based in Fiji, is led by Linda Petersen. Before taking up the Team Leader role with the Support Unit, Linda managed the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Culture, Gender and Youth Program. Other members of the team include Deputy Team Leader - Operations, Kylie Anderson; Gender Specialist, Gina Houng Lee; Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist, Anne MarkiewiczPrograms Manager, Emily Miller; Communications Officer, Shazia Usman; Finance and Administration Officer, Aman Singh; and Administration Officer, Clementine Mel (based in Port Moresby). To provide direct support to the DFAT Post in Papua New Guinea, a sub-office of the Support Unit is being established in Port Moresby.

The Support Unit and DFAT’s Pacific Women team - including Director Tracey Newbury (based in Canberra), First Secretary, Gender Equality, Suzanne Bent  (based at the Australian High Commission in Fiji) and Gender Focal Points (based at DFAT Posts around the region) - have agreed to use a one-team approach based on established partnership principles to work together to manage the Pacific Women program. 

Samoa Welcomes Ambassador for Women and Girls

L-R: Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja AM, with Samoa’s Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, the Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and Australian High Commissioner, Sue Langford. Photo: DFAT, Apia Post.

Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja AM was in Samoa from 3-5 June 2015 to promote bilateral cooperation on gender equality. During her visit, the Ambassador highlighted Australia’s support for women’s economic empowerment, increased participation of women in public life and decision making, and reducing gender based violence.
While in Samoa she had the opportunity to meet with the Hon. Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and other Government ministers, including the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, the Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, to advance Australia’s partnership with Samoa for women’s empowerment.
The Ambassador also met Samoan women parliamentarians, women entrepreneurs and civil society leaders and visited the Australia-Pacific Technical College, which provides vocational training to women aimed at increasing their economic participation.
The Ambassador also visited Vaivase Primary School where she was able to watch an Australian National Rugby League Clinic encouraging young girls to participate in sports.

Ambassador Stott Despoja has travelled extensively throughout the Indo-Pacific region to promote women’s leadership, economic empowerment and an end to violence against women and girls. In April she was one of the keynote speakers at the opening of the Pacific Women supported Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships forum held in Fiji. 

Article prepared by: DFAT, Apia Post. 

Third Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships forum (PWPP)

At the third PWPP forum, Pacific parliamentarians shared their views on gender equality and the status of women in the region. Minister Charmaine Scotty (Nauru), Senator Jerrlyn Uduch Sengebau Senior (Palau), Minister Freda Soraicomua (Solomon Islands) and Senator Magdalena Walter (Federated States of Micronesia) share theirs here: 

Nauru - Minister for Home Affairs, Education and Land Management, Charmaine Scotty

On being the lone woman in Parliament: "My male colleagues are very supportive and they understand the importance of human rights and importance of development for everyone.  They know what the women of Nauru are capable of and that it is important to invest in them." Read Minister Scotty's story in full here.  

Palau - Senator Jerrlyn Uduch Sengebau Senior

Reflection from the the first PWPP forum: "Every time I come to the forums, I am so inspired. Following the forum in 2013 in Sydney, I went back and we established a non-profit NGO called Centre for Women’s Empowerment Palau. My hope is for this organisation to grow because it’s really meant to support women in leadership positions and uplift the status of women in Palau. Read Senator Jerrlyn Uduch Sengebau Senior's story in full here.

Solomon Islands - Minister for Rural Development, Freda Soraicomua

On winning the national election in 2014: "I am the only woman in Parliament right now. I was asked to become Minister for Women but I decided not to because I wanted to work in rural development and use my experience and expertise to improve the lives of people in rural areas. My Ministry is responsible for administrating the highest budget out of the all the 22 ministries, for 50 constituencies". Read Minister Soraicomua's story in full here

Federated States of Micronesia - Senator Magdalena Walter 

On what makes a good politician: "Before joining politics, I was a nurse. I used to think that politics was very different from nursing but I soon realised that my health background helped me be a better politician because I was trained to care for people. I think that’s the problem with some of us politicians who don’t really think of those people struggling to survive." Read Senator Walter's story in full here.

Photos: Shazia Usman/Pacific Women.

Visit Pacific Women's interactive map 

If you have not accessed it already, take a minute to visit Pacific Women's interactive map which shows the nature and scope of Pacific Women programs in the 14 participating countries.

The map shows where and how the program is working to reduce violence against women, ensure that women and women’s interests are represented in decision making and expand women’s opportunities to earn an income and accumulate economic assets.

Hosted on Pacific Women's website, the map will also give users easy access to country plan summaries. The map is available here.  

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Pacific Women Support Unit address:
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Suva, Fiji