Welcome Remarks by the Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor
Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting on Beijing+25
29 October 2019
The Honourable Mereseini Vuniwaqa, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Fiji
The Honourable Isaiah Vaipuna Taape, Minister for Health, Social Welfare and Gender Affairs, Tuvalu
Representatives of the Diplomatic Corp
Ms Sandra Bernklau, UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office Representative,
Ladies and gentlemen
It is an honour to be able to co-host this inaugural Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting on the Beijing+25 Review, along with the Fiji Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, the Pacific Community, and UN Women and it is my distinct pleasure to welcome you all this morning.
This meeting is an important juncture for gender equality in the Pacific. 2020 will be a pivotal year as it marks the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This will also be the focus of the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
To this end, I am continually encouraged to see strengthening engagement between government and civil society to jointly advocate for the inclusion of issues of collective importance such as this. It is important that we continue these collaborative efforts as we work towards the formulation of agreed Pacific positions on priority issues.
Civil society organisations offer extensive technical expertise and provide unique insight on issues other regions will be advocating for at inter-regional and international engagements and we must draw on this expertise to strengthen the Pacific’s position. I acknowledge the efforts of UN Women and the CSW Working Group who have worked diligently to organize this meeting to strengthen key positions to take forward in the coming months and in 2020.
25 years after Beijing
Your Excellency, Colleagues, while our region has come a long way since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, we still have quite a way to go.
What can we say we’ve achieved 25 years on?
In education, we have significantly advanced gender parity at primary school level in most countries. Further, whilst gender responsive curricula is being introduced in a number of countries across the region, it still requires increased investment and teacher training. Today, more women successfully complete tertiary education with growing interest in technical and vocational programs. However, there is still opportunity to increase the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
In health, Non-communicable diseases disproportionately affect women and whilst maternal health indicators have improved, sexual and reproductive health and rights remain a challenge for women in the region. I raise especially, Menstrual Hygiene Management – it is clear that the common “dirty” identity associated with menstruating girls can create a needless stigma that impacts on girls emotional wellbeing and development. Early indications show that girls are absent and in some cases dropping out of school because of lack of hygenic facilities. What can we do to socialise this issue better and improve support in schools for this?
Through the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, our Leaders have taken positive steps to commit our countries to take action towards achieving gender equality, through:
Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG)
Despite this, gender inequality is still prevalent and continues to manifest in our region as evidenced through the high rates of violence against women and girls. Two in every three Pacific women are impacted by gender-based violence. In particular, I am disheartened by the rates of sexual violence against young girls in our region. Moreso, when these acts are at the hands of perpetrators from within the young victims family circles.
Let me emphasise, I do not believe this to be just a “women’s issue”. Violence against women and girls affects health and education and has far-reaching developmental consequences that stand to worsen if it is not addressed adequately.
Partnerships are crucial in advancing gender equality and addressing issues such as violence against women and girls. We must all work together to effectively address this issue – this is our only hope.
Collaborations such as the Pacific Partnership on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls paving the way towards addressing gender-based violence, bringing together governments, civil society organisations, communities and other partners to promote gender equality, prevent violence against women and girls, and increase access to quality response services for survivors. The partnership aims to promote equal rights and opportunities for all Pacific people, through innovative approaches to education, access to essential services, and policy development.
New approaches to address gender inequality
Innovation is the key that will unlock the door to achieving gender equality. We must ask ourselves how can we work together to take this work forward, to the next level? In the Pacific, what unique opportunities can we leverage to insight an innovative solution to gender equality?
Gender and culture have often crossed paths to embed gender roles, stereotypes and expectations in the way we live and work. Culture is venerated in the Pacific but can be a double-edged sword. I would offer that our cultures present an opportunity to drive an innovative mechanism – the issue will be, how can we use this to reaffirm gender equality and human rights as an inherent benefit to the region, and to ourselves? Several Pacific countries have outlined the need for transformative change; from challenging gender stereotypes in their own cultures to revising school curricula to focus on instilling in future generations the values of social citizenship, gender equality and human rights.
This Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting is an opportunity for Pacific governments, with civil society, to develop and agree on key positions based on the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action.
Let us utilise this opportunity to let our voices be heard and strengthen our positions to move positively towards equal and inclusive development, not just for women, but for all in our Blue Pacific.
I thank you.