Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna
International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023
DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality
This International Women’s Day, 8 March as we reflect on the global 2023 theme, it is important for all nations to ensure a digital world for all, a world where innovation and technology are harnessed to advance Gender Equality.
Friends, I join you from the United Nations 5th conference on the Least Developed Countries. It is an important space to reflect on the journey of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable developing nations of the world, and the most vulnerable of the communities who live in them.
Today, as we take a moment to reflect on the support required for those living in these realities, I am reminded of the report cards from our Pacific world where we bear the weight of high levels of gender-based violence, and low levels of participation of women in political leadership and decision making. This is a sobering reality.
With this in mind, the Forum team continues to strive for the gender equality we require to ensure a region of peace, harmony, and development for all.
We continue to witness and support opportunities and solutions for women accessing global markets through e-commerce and online trade, furthering education and employment prospects. We continue to champion a world where Pacific women and girls with disabilities have increased opportunities for access and inclusion. We have seen the power of their voice and solidarity on the issues that will progress our Blue Pacific continent.
But as we know, within the digital world, the issues of gendered inequality and discrimination borne by half our Pacific population, persist.
Ending the scourge of gender discrimination, inequality and violence is not just a principle of many of our founding laws and policies, nor is it exclusively an issue which affects only half our populations. Let me say this again: the cost of inequality impacts us all, and ensuring digital access for all, can only benefit us all.
When women and girls are encouraged to study science, tech, engineering or maths.
When they are provided the opportunity to thrive in places of education and employment.
When they can rely on supportive work environments outside of the home.
When those women and girls active in the public or political space, can be safe from the crimes of online abuse, threats, misogyny and hate.
When online narratives and conversations ring true with inclusive voices of diversity.
This is the moment when I will truly celebrate progress for a digital future for all.
This is why International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate success and achievement, but importantly, it must always be an opportunity to deliver solutions to address what still needs to be done.
And where we must do better.
At the Secretariat, this March 8th, we are celebrating and honouring 8 of our longest serving women in the organisation—in their respective careers and across a range of roles, these women have witnessed and been part of the digital transformation of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
Honouring their journeys with us will provide a moment of reflection and learning on the new pathways that are possible in our digital Pacific.
We are also embarking on an implementation plan for our Pacific 2050 strategy for the Blue Pacific which is inclusive, consultative, and will embrace the digital innovation necessary to keep our communities informed and engaged on this regional policy mandate for the next three decades.
Later this year, our Pacific Forum Leaders will bring renewed focus on a major Declaration for Gender Equality. The consultations on the revitalised Declaration, currently underway, have highlighted the growing importance of technology and innovation in our region; ensuring that access and safety are paramount to support the progress of not only women and girls, but all Pacific communities.
These commitments require resourcing and action, and they work only when they move from policy to purpose-driven impact.
I know that you will join me securing a safe, peaceful and thriving Pacific future for all—in all spaces, including the digital realm.
For a future where women and girls can be safe from online abuse and exploitation.
Where their access to training in science, tech, engineering, and maths, will also power their aspirations as Pacific people bringing balance to areas requiring urgent attention, and shaping new spaces of equal representation.
This access can only drive our journey as a Blue Pacific to the future that we all deserve. –ENDS