REMARKS: SG Puna welcomes inaugural high level Pacific Forum Women Leaders Meeting



June 9th, 2022


Thank you, Madam Chair,

· 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 Minister for Foreign Affairs Australia, Senator the Hon. Penny Wong,

· Honourable Ministers of our Blue Pacific Continent

· Distinguished Delegates from Forum Member countries

· Colleagues from CROP

· Ladies, gentlemen and young people of our Blue Pacific Continent.

Kia orana and ni sa bula Vinaka!

Warm greetings from Suva this morning. It is my great pleasure to be part of the opening formalities to champion gender equality at this inaugural Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting.

I am reminded today of the realities Pacific women and girls face every day – from experiencing domestic violence, bearing the burden of unpaid work, to barriers limiting their economic empowerment and participation in public life. I could go on! And if this isn’t enough, they have to deal with the disproportionate impacts of climate change and COVID-19.

To support the progress of gender equality, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders endorsed an annual standing Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting, in 2021, reaffirming the importance of advancing gender equality in the region.

Pacific Islands Forum Leaders demonstrated their commitment to realizing gender equality through the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration. I am pleased to share that this important Declaration was made in Rarotonga when I was the Prime Minister of Cook Islands.

I am also pleased to share that the Secretariat undertook an independent review of the Declaration in 2021, and we are now in the process of preparing for consultations on the revitalization of the Declaration.

The independent review findings tell us that we have work to do – there needs to be better visibility, coordination, and ownership of gender equality at national and regional levels. This includes the need for better alignment of all gender equality related actions and to other priorities.

The independent review also highlights the need for a strong governance and oversight mechanism that can support progress on gender equality and be a conduit for shared learning. It is for this reason that we are revitalizing the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration to ensure it truly delivers for Pacific women and girls, in all their diversity.

The work of revitalizing the Declaration is happening at an opportune time as we are also finalizing the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. The strategy represents the region’s commitment to collective action to develop long-term approaches to critical challenges including gender issues.

Women and girls play an important role in implementing the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.

Gender equality is an essential strategic pathway to a sustainable Blue Pacific Continent tomorrow. Only when we have gender equality will we achieve Forum Leaders’ vision for the Pacific – one of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives. While the region has made some progress, we need to do more.

I also want to highlight that within the CROP family, we recognize the benefits of more diversity and representation and have established the CROP Women of the Wave Network to help boost and support women of CROP to further their career and leadership aspirations. We know that promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality will strengthen how we support our members.

It is increasingly important to note that actions that champion gender equality requires the collective support of men, women, boys, and girls. By engaging men and boys in these conversations, we can work towards addressing some of the cultural barriers that impede our efforts to address gender inequality in our region.

That is why, Excellencies, the discussions here today must lead to concrete actions to advance gender equality in our Blue Pacific.

I thank you all for being here today and I wish you well in your deliberations.

Vinaka vakalevu and meitaki ma’ata.–ENDS



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