“Our Government has recently adopted several measures to reduce gender inequality, improve women’s livelihoods, protect them from domestic violence and improve their economic empowerment,” strongly conveyed by the Minister for Internal Affairs for Tonga, Hon. Lord Vaea while delivering Tonga’s Country Statement to the 58th Commission on the Status of Women.
Tonga’s Statement to the 58th session shows rapid progress from its previous statement delivered at the 57th session in 2013. In that statement the Hon. Minister had brought the Commission’s attention to his Ministry’s prioritization of tabling the Family Protection Bill which would provide and ensure key protection and access rights for victims of domestic and family violence. Reporting the success of the Tonga Parliament’s unanimous passing of the bill since CSW57 – Tonga Family Protection Act  – brought global attention to the successful milestone achieved by the Tonga government.
While the Hon. Minister shared the progress made in relation to MDG3 and other MDG’s relating to women and girls, he also shared concerns about particular areas where Tonga is committing to improving, namely economic participation and participation in parliament. To address this, a recent initiative by the Tonga government addressing women’s participation in parliament was highlighted in the statement, where a joint initiative by UNDP Pacific, Pacific Island Forum Secretariat and Australian Aid in the implementation of the Tonga Governance Strengthening Project where a practice parliament to be held in April 2014. Local counterparts include the Legislative Assembly of Tonga, Tonga Electoral Commission, Civil Society Forum of Tonga and Non-Government Organizations. The initiative is to encourage more women to stand as candidates in the upcoming elections in November and to shift the mind-sets of voters to see women equally as capable as their male counterparts to become members of Parliament.
The challenges of climate change and natural disasters was also brought to the attention of the global community where the Hon. Minister reminded the 58th session of the devastating impacts Cyclone Ian brought to Tonga in January of this year where an estimated cost of USD50 million and a loss of 10% to the national GDP has left a huge economical impact on the Tongan economy where women and children are the most vulnerable.
The Hon. Minister reminded the Commission of the government’s continued efforts to address gender equality through the eight outcome objectives of the Tonga Strategic Development Framework which prioritises the empowerment of women an the improvement of hardship. This outcome will work alongside the ongoing implementation of the National Policy on Gender and Development which aims at mainstreaming gender issues across all sectors of society.
In closing, The Tonga country statement gave support in recommending (1) the importance of a specific standalone goal on gender equality and it’s integration in key areas including climate change and disaster risk management and (2) that in order to meaningfully eradicate poverty – there needed to be increased investments and progressive measures in the area of women’s decision making and leadership, women’s economic empowerment and access to resources.
For a copy of the Tonga Country Official statement please contact Polotu Fakafanua-Paunga, firstname.lastname@example.org