The Prime Minister of Fiji and PIF Chair, Rear Admiral (Ret’d) Hon. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama,
· The Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Hon. Jacinda Ardern
· The Prime Minister of Samoa and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hon Fiame Naomi Mata’afa
· The Vice President of the Republic of Palau, Hon. Jerrlyn Uduch Sengebau Senior
· The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Mr. Henry Puna
· Honourable Ministers
· Distinguished Delegates from Forum Member and Forum Associate Member countries
· Members of CROP
· Ladies, gentlemen, young people of our Blue Pacific and beyond listening in to the live stream of the opening segment of this inaugural Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting.
Ni sa bula Vinaka! It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the inaugural Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting. Let me begin by saying what an honor it is to Chair this first annual standing meeting that recognizes the importance of an enduring focus on achieving gender equality in the Pacific. Your presence today is a reminder of just how important this work is.
This inaugural meeting is important as it sets the foundations for all future meetings, establishing the PIF Women Leaders Meeting as the high-level regional accountability mechanism for gender equality and inclusion for the Blue Pacific continent.
As we discuss and act on challenges facing Pacific women and girls to continue advancing gender equality, I ask you to also reflect on the many gains we have made in the region. I commend the efforts by our governments in adopting gender-responsive policies, laws and practices to address gender inequalities. For example, most of our countries have legislation addressing the pressing social issue of domestic violence. Women are also making progress in other sectors.
This is evident in the private sector’s progress on women in business leadership. The Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative report found that the region exceeds the global average for women’s representation in business leadership. Pacific women hold 31% of CEO positions compared to the global average of 4.4%. However, much remains to be done in the areas of access to finance for trade, including using online platforms to market and promote their businesses and products.
Excellencies, we know that there needs to be greater recognition and support to women and girls, in all their diversity, and this meeting will provide a platform for strengthened political voice and collective action on women and girls’ issues in the region.
While the region has made significant progress, the Pacific still has the lowest percentage of women’s political participation globally and violence against women and girls in the region is among the highest in the world. These challenges are further exacerbated by climate change and COVID-19 – with women often on the frontlines and most impacted by crises.
Therefore, we must draw on our collective strength to ensure improved gender equality makes a significant contribution to creating a prosperous, stable, safe, and secure Blue Pacific Continent for current and future generations.
I thank you all for being part of the meeting, and I look forward to all the fruitful discussions that will take place today.
I would now like to invite the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Mr. Henry Puna, to make some introductory welcome remarks. –ENDS
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