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Statement by H.E. Charmaine Scotty on behalf of The Pacific Islands Forum At The Commission on the Status of Women

61st Session 14 – 24 March 2017

Chairperson, Excellencies, distinguished delegates.

I wish at the outset to congratulate you Chairperson, on your unanimous election to chair this sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The Pacific Islands region assures you of our full support and cooperation.

Chair,

1. As a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, I am honoured to deliver this statement today on behalf of the eighteen Pacific Islands Forum members-namely; Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and my own country, Nauru..

2. We commend the theme for this 61st CSW session, especially given the Pacific region’s genuine commitment to implementing the 2030 development agenda and sustainable development goals and targets concerning women’s economic empowerment. We would like to reiterate the Pacific proposals made at the 60th Session for urgency in implementing and monitoring targeted financing as well as establishment of follow-up and review measures to progress the transformative sustainable development goals agenda holistically - with equal emphasis on SDG 5 on gender equality, and across all other goals.

3. The Pacific Islands Forum is committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment. This is embedded in our Pacific Leaders’ decisions and policy frameworks on fisheries, climate change and disaster resilient development and ICT connectivity and improving economic opportunities and livelihoods for women and girls including those with disabilities. The key regional instrument on gender for Pacific Islands Forum members is the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration.

4. Through this Declaration, Forum Leaders have committed to removing barriers to women’s employment and participation in the formal and informal sectors, and removing laws that limit women’s access to employment opportunities or contribute to discriminatory pay conditions for women. There are commitments towards implementing equal employment opportunity, women’s leadership in public and private boards, women’s safe, fair and equal participation in local economies, entrepreneurship opportunities and development, and increased access to finance, land and productive resources.

5. These issues receive high-level recognition and are monitored by Forum Leaders and Forum Economic Ministers.  Forum Leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to continue to focus on the issues of gender equality and poverty, encouraging Ministers and Officials to mainstream these across all sectoral and thematic areas of work.

6. Because climate change and disasters from natural hazard risks are affecting our development outcomes and security - now, it is a major concern for the members of the Pacific.  In 2016, Pacific Forum Leaders adopted a Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific. It provides a set of voluntary guidelines for an integrated approach to addressing climate change and disaster risk management, and development choices and decisions that are risk informed. This framework recognizes the critical role of integrating gender considerations, and advocates for equitable participation of women and men. It has the potential to transform the world of work for our women.

7. The Pacific Islands Forum recognizes the importance of understanding the issue of women’s economic empowerment and the changing world of work, through these regionally agreed priorities. In addition to this, the Forum recognizes the important role played by our Secretary General as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and draw attention to the connection that our women and girls have with our Ocean, coasts and marine resources. We support the leadership of the Government of Fiji who is co-chairing with the Government of Sweden the high level UN Conference to support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on sustainable protection and use of our oceans. We hope that agreements from this Commission’s deliberations will contribute to this conference in June, as well as other related high level meetings on Sustainable Development Goals this year and beyond.

8. We recognize the importance of protecting our Ocean, seas and marine resources and the role that they have for our women and girls as drivers for economic opportunities, good health and livelihoods. We call upon other states to work with us in recognizing, resourcing and supporting programmes that advance gender equality and women’s rights in all economic activities, including sustainable fisheries management, use and conservation - to address food security and nutrition, and meaningfully facilitate women’s contributions to small-scale and artisanal fisheries and sustained economic opportunities for women from aquaculture, commercial and coastal fisheries, and the use and care of oceans and seas.   

9. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights worldwide - our region included. Violence against women is an obstacle to gender equality in economic opportunities and livelihoods. The final Pacific Regional Millennium Development Tracking Report published in 2015, highlighted that violence against women was an impediment to achieving the MDGs. If our region is to achieve the SDGs we will need to intensify efforts, and increase support and cooperation to end violence against women and girls.

State of Economic Empowerment of Women in the Pacific

11. Progress in the region includes the expansion of women’s financial inclusion and literacy, positive legal reforms to support financial inclusion, introduction of maternity leave in public sectors in some countries, and increased numbers of women contributing to superannuation schemes for financial security.  Due to the small size of our populations, and the remoteness and limited access to markets, our people including our girls and women face limited opportunities, therefore the creation of decent work, and economic and fair trade opportunities are essential if we are to transform the world of work for our women and girls.

12. While there has been some progress, Pacific women still have lower labour force participation rates than men, and men outnumber women in paid employment outside the agricultural sector by two to one. As well, women in the region are concentrated in the rural and informal sector with very limited opportunities, poor infrastructure, and without universal access to ICT including to climate-proof cellular technologyand markets to fully participate in economic activities. And our women continue to face legal, regulatory and social barriers that hinder their access to finance, resources and sustainable business development. Pacific women continue to have relatively low participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematical professions thus limiting opportunities for women in ICT, science and key development sectors.

13. Social norms and gender stereotypes are prevalent in our societies and continue to hinder women’s enjoyment of full economic rights. Gender pay gaps remain and have widened over the years. Gender discrimination both direct and indirect remain in formal labour, there is occupational segregation, sexual harassment at the workplace and issues of unpaid domestic and care work. Women are also engaged in precarious informal work with concomitant limited options for social protection and safety nets. Higher education for young women does not necessarily lead to better employment outcomes due to gendered barriers in labour markets and negative social and cultural norms.Women are under-represented in private and public sector boards and decision making processes.

14. The Pacific Islands Forum acknowledges the findings of the Report of the UN Secretary General on Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. In our region seven countries have ratified the ILO Remuneration Convention 1951 (No.100).  The recommendation by the UN SG on transforming the world of work for women requires the elimination of structural barriers, and discriminatory laws and social norms that prevent equal economic opportunities and outcomes – this is an important way forward for our region. The Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, as a High Level Advisory Member of the UN Secretary General’s Every Woman, Every Child, Adolescent Health advocates for the enjoyment of economic rights for women and girls in all their diversities.

Recommendations

15. The Pacific Forum members recommends that the Commission:

      i.Recognises the changing world of work for women in the Pacific due to climate change, disasters and the ongoing threats to our oceans, seas, coasts and marine resources including                   fisheries, agriculture and resources which women depend on for their employment, livelihoods and wellbeing;

      ii.Promotes partnerships, financing and investments in programmes to fully achieve the 2030 development agenda and SDGs and targets on gender equality and women’s economic                      empowerment;

      iii.Invests in and supports the development of the green and blue economy in the Pacific islands countries and ensures it contribute to the economic empowerment of women

      iv.Supports the improvement of data and statistics to identify gaps and challenges and measures progress in women’s economic empowerment specific to the context of Small Islands States

      v.Strengthens global accountability mechanisms for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment

      vi.Supports effective partnerships with civil society and the private sector to address the multidimensional aspects of gender inequality in the world of work in our regionin the context of the               2030 development agenda

 

I thank you Chair.

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