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Pacific research & realities feature at WIP meet

SPC Press Release: For immediate release

Pacific research and realities feature at WIP meeting

Rarotonga, Cook Islands, Thursday 20 April – A 14-nation Pacific workshop this week will tackle strategies to advance women in politics (WIP) in a region where they are almost completely absent from leadership posts.

The three-day event, which was launched yesterday, featuring Pacific women parliamentarians, researchers and experts, will deliver strategies to help close the gap between the number of women in the region – they represent half the population – and the minuscule number who are political leaders.

“The focus in the past has been on leadership training for women,” says the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) Gender Adviser Samantha Hung.

“There is a real need for more concrete strategies which address structural barriers and consider electoral systems and reform.”

Research commissioned for tabling and debate at the meeting ranks as some of the most comprehensive to date for the region. It lifts the lid on the current status of women’s representation to elected positions, which lags behind the rest of the world, and provides insights into the social and electoral system barriers, says Hung.

Regional organisations including SPC and PIFS – along with UNDP and UNIFEM agencies, whose work in the field has continued for more than 20 years – have taken a coordinated approach to the issue. They have also called for better-coordinated efforts from regional administrations, applying increasing pressure to governments to honour their commitments to Pacific women through promoting gender balance in Pacific Island parliaments.

For SPC’s Pacific Women’s Bureau, the meeting offers a timely opportunity to agree on and commit to a more coordinated approach. Team leader Linda Petersen notes that this may be the time, as indicated by the range of discussion and debate on the agenda, “to send some messages to our leaders about the need for governments to implement or put in place measures for achieving at least 30 per cent representation in the next 10 years”.

The quota system seen in the French Pacific and in the autonomous Bougainville constitution features on the list of items for discussion, along with global trends and challenges, regional initiatives, gender barriers, the role of the media, and country case studies. The meeting ends this Friday.

ENDS

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