Pacific Islands Forum Statement
For the sixty -seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women
Delivered by Hon. Lynda Tabuya, Fiji Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation
on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum
6 March 2023
Hon. Chair, Excellencies,
Bula Vinaka. Firstly, I would like to remember the people of Vanuatu who have just gone through two devastating and intense cyclones, and earthquakes. This is our lived reality in the Pacific.
I am speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional bloc of 18 member countries – Cook Islands, Australia, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga and Vanuatu; working towards a vision of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity so all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, safe, and productive lives.
This vision is underpinned by the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent – our blueprint to advance Pacific regionalism for the next three decades. It captures our collective commitment to achieve this shared vision and aspirations, and recognition of the strategic, cultural and economic value of our Blue Pacific Continent. Central to the achievement of the vision and aspirations
of the Strategy are our Pacific women and girls.
The Pacific is facing a climate emergency that threatens the livelihoods, security, and wellbeing of its people and ecosystems. This is backed by the latest science and daily lived realities in Pacific communities. Pacific Islands Forum Leaders continue to affirm climate change as the single greatest existential threat facing the Blue Pacific, and the urgency to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees
through rapid, deep and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Progress in the Region
The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent includes Technology and Connectivity as a thematic area emphasizing the importance and need for a well-connected region while ensuring inclusivity, affordability, and accessibility.
The Strategy further identifies Education, Research and Technology as a strategic pathway encouraging scientific based research, innovation, and creativity within the context of Pacific traditions and cultural practices.
The Pacific has existing regional Policy Frameworks that assert the importance of technology as an accessibility tool including for quality education and providing educational opportunities for all women and girls in STEM.
The Pacific Regional E-Commerce Strategy and Roadmap, Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy and the Roadmap for Economic Development promote women’s economic empowerment through technological initiatives, such as online banking solutions, and financial services to women in rural areas to promote their financial inclusion.
Several Pacific Island countries have formed Women in IT groups and provide scholarships, training opportunities, internships, online networks and annual camps for women and girls in STEM.
Digital technology provides opportunities to address some of our climate change challenges. Tuvalu recently launched the “Future Now” project which uses technology to address the impacts of climate change including securing their maritime boundaries.
Rural women in Fiji and Vanuatu use mobile devices, and media platforms to communicate weather and preparedness updates.
The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration guides regional and national actions for progressing gender equality, women’s empowerment, and commits to integrating gender perspectives across development sectors, including digital technology development.
Key Challenges and Responses
While the region has made some progress, there is more that needs to be done.
Gender inequality remains a key barrier to stability, economic progress and well-being. I am reminded of the realities we face every day – increasing rates of gender-based violence, the burden of unpaid work, low representation of women in decision-making positions, and dealing with the disproportionate impacts of climate change, among other things.
Digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, also carry a cost for the climate and for our region. While we are the lowest emitters, we bear the greatest burden due to the carbon footprint of this technology.
In addition, many women continue to face barriers in accessing technology due to a lack of digital literacy, social and cultural norms, and lack of financial
Many women and girls in rural and maritime communities do not have access to internet and cannot afford data, smartphones and computers. This has real impacts on their lives and rights, including education and employment.
Women and girls with disabilities face accessibility barriers that prevent them from fully participating in and benefiting from the digital age. Assistive devices and disability-related digital technology, software and services are not affordable and accessible.
Online gender-based violence, cyber security issues, further impede Pacific women and girls’ full and effective use of online services and social media. The use of social media to attack people’s character, reputation, and spread misinformation are also barriers to political leadership of Pacific women, which is significantly low.
We have seen, during the outbreak of COVID-19, how critical accessing and using digital technology is for education. There are many communities in the Pacific where women and girls have very limited access to computers and internet, greatly impacting their ability to attain quality education.
But despite all these barriers, women and girls, in all our diversity, still get up every day and fight! Reminding us that women and girls are powerful agents of change. When we thrive, so do our communities, countries, and our region.
Progressing gender equality and the empowerment of all Pacific women and girls is critical to building resilient communities.
Honorable Chair, we must work together and adopt a holistic approach to ensure that digital technology is inclusive, equitable, accessible, affordable, and safe. We need real commitment and concrete actions to transform the way we produce, consume and live otherwise our world as we know it, will disappear.
Excellencies, technology and innovation can greatly improve the lives and livelihoods of all women and girls. I thank you.