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MDG 3 in the Pacific – Now and Beyond – Key Achievements and Challenges in Progressing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Hon. Lord Vaea

Hon. Lord Vaea, Minister for Internal Affairs for Tonga

The 2013 Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report highlighted that important gains have been made in empowering women in the Pacific Region, but showed that progress has been slow and uneven.  In a side event jointly organised by governments of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Australia, Kiribati, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga a rich panel of Pacific government and non government gender and development actors from the Pacific talked about the many challenges that impedes on the full and effective realisation of women’s rights which exists in the Pacific.

Chaired by the Minister for Internal Affairs, Honourable Lord Vaea, Kingdom of Tonga, Hon. Lord Vaea is attending the CSW for the second time – a reflection of the Kingdom’s commitment to progressing gender equality in Tonga.  Due to his leadership Hon. Lord Vaea submitted the Family Protection Bill to the Tonga Parliament in 2013 where after two full weeks of debate all members present voted unanimously in favour of the passing of the bill.  Hon. Lord Vaea also approved the establishment of the Implementation Taskforce for the Family Protection Act (2013).  The formation of the Implementation Taskforce will prepare government ministries and civil society organisations for the coming into force of the Family Protection Act on 1 July 2014.

The side event commenced with Opening Remarks from the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator the Honourable Michaelia Cash, Australia and the Minister for Women, Honourable Tangariki Reete, Kiribati.  The Minister’s reflections set the scene for the panellists who included the Hon Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua, Minister for Women, Community and Social Development, Samoa who talked specifically on the critical importance of raising the bar on increasing women’s participation in parliament.  Ms Andie Fong Toy, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat gave a quick overview of the Pacific’s performance against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Ms Molly Helkena, Under Secretary, Ministry for Internal Affairs, Republic of the Marshall Islands reiterated the importance of getting climate change onto the post 2015 development agenda. Ms Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, Executive Director, FEMlink in her opening statement reminded the audience of the many commitments to advancing gender equality at the national, regional and international level. Ms Savina Daula’asi, Pacific Disability Forum and President of Solomon Islands Disability Organisation raising awareness on the Women’s Programme under the Pacific Disability Forum A Deeper Silence publication  contains information gained in situation analyses exploring the sexual and reproductive needs of women with disabilities in three Pacific Island countries: Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Tonga.   Everyone agreed that the most powerful way to move forward was political will where in her closing Hon. Jo Goodhew, Minister of Women (NZ) said:  A young woman educated but is abuse is a young woman who will never realise her full potential – unless we do something about it.

The side event had aimed at providing a space to discuss strategies to accelerate progress; developing critical partnerships between government, civil society, the private sector, regional organisations and development agencies; and the key gender priorities to be considered by the global community in the post-2015 development agenda.  For a more detailed report of the panelist’s interventions, please contact Polotu Fakafanua – Paunga, polotu@gmail.com

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