Delivered by the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum Women leaders Meeting,
Cook Islands Minister of Internal Affair, Health, Agriculture, Parliamentary Services and Cook Islands National Superannuation – Hon. Vainetutai Rose Brown
Suva, Fiji, 31 August 2023
Moemoea kanako ite enua ote tane. Tai mata e pipiri tai mata e kakana..
Sleep well on the land…sleep with one eye close and one eye open.
This is an encouragement chant from our islands, warning us to be alert, as leaders we must be on alert at all times.
Kia Orana and Bula Vinaka to you all,
I am honored to be Chairing the first face to face Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting. While it may be a difficult task keeping a room of women leaders to schedule, I will do my best over the next two days to ensure we achieve the best outcome possible for us and all women in the region.
I want to take a moment to express our gratitude to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and all the people behind the scenes of this important event. Your tireless efforts in organizing this meeting, from planning our safe arrival to putting together this ambitious program is much appreciated. We see you.
I also would like to acknowledge the presence of our youth in the room, I had the honor of meeting the impressive and brave youth delegation yesterday. When I look into the eyes of the youth, I think about when I was their age and all the changes I wanted make for my people. Then I remember here I am. Here we are as Ministers and leaders, we are here in a strong position to help make their dreams a reality. Youth, we hear you.
To all the leaders in the room, particularly our women leaders. It has been a busy year. You not only hold leadership positions in your respective countries, you also hold roles in your community, your churches, sports clubs and you also hold important roles in you families, you are daughters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, I want to acknowledge the unequal burden of care you bear.
I understand you.
To all the men present, the male gender champions for change, from the beginning we were created to stand by each other, to support each. It is through the patriarchal design that got us here today is where we must also find the solution. For us to make meaningful and sustainable change, we must always include our men and boys, your perspective and understanding is key. We stand beside you.
The Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting (PIFWLM) is an essential regional event. This meeting serves as a preparatory event for the upcoming 52nd PIFS Leaders meeting in November of this year in my homeland, the Cook Islands. The outcomes and recommendations from our discussions will ensure our voices on gender equality, equity and social inclusion are heard at the highest levels. But I think we should think beyond the leaders meeting and consider how we can have our voices heard at all levels, from our leaders to our homes. How do we make the outcomes of this meeting make sense to the everyday woman? I ask officials and drafters to think about this. If we want to make meaningful change on the ground we need to change our approach. If you want to change the story
Let’s work consciously on the use of terminology and acronyms.
Let us speak a language we all can understand –
That…. is true inclusivity,
that ….is true leadership,
that….. is the Pacific Way.
Before I conclude, I would like to make a special acknowledgement to the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Mr Henry Puna, whose visionary leadership has made this gathering possible. The journey that was started in Rarotonga in 2012 when you were the Chair and Prime Minister continues…I am proud to now be Chair to continue the legacy.
In closing, Proverbs 16:3 says ‘Commit to the Lord whatever we do and he will establish our plans. I commit all to the Lord all our deliberations and plans into his hands and above all thank him for bring us all here today.
I do believe each person in this room is meant to be in this room for a purpose. Your presence and contributions are invaluable, and together, I am confident that we will make significant strides in empowering Pacific women and girls in our Pacific Way, to forge a brighter, more equitable future for all our people. Let us see each other, hear each other, understand each other and lean in to each other, let us make history together.
Meitaki ma’ata, Vinaka vaka levu, thank you
Kia Orana e Kia Manuia.