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Women's progress still slow, says new advocate

PRESS RELEASE

Don’t be fooled – women’s progress still slow, says new SPC women’s advocate

Tuesday 4 July, 2006, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Headquarters, Nouméa – Women are rising to positions of influence throughout the Pacific – but that doesn’t mean gender equality has been achieved, says the new Women’s Advocacy and Communication Officer at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

Julie Middleton, 36, a former New Zealand Herald journalist, said the achievements of women such as New Caledonian president Marie-Noelle Themereau, vice-president Dewe Gorode, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Tonga’s Alisi Taumoepeau, the kingdom’s first female Cabinet minister, could create the mistaken impression that equality had been achieved.

“The attention paid to the few women in power can obscure the fact that gross inequalities between men and women still exist in the Pacific,” she said. “People see women in influential positions and think gains have been made.

’’But frequently, we see that there are few or no female successors coming up behind them, and that overall, women’s representation in decision-making roles is low.’’

Excluding Australia and New Zealand, women number just 10.9 per cent of Pacific Parliamentarians.* ‘’This tells us that much work remains to be done to ensure that women are able to take part in decision-making on behalf of their communities.’’

Ms Middleton’s role is to spread the word about PWB’s work for women and develop related media training initiatives.

At the New Zealand Herald she was an award-winning senior writer, principally in human rights issues, and a departmental editor. She has written for publications as diverse as The Guardian (UK), The New Zealand Listener, and the Sunday-Star-Times.

Ms Middleton, who is of English, Irish and Maori (Tainui) descent, is also passionate about French language. “Working for SPC and living in New Caledonia combines two of my passions – speaking French on a daily basis in this beautiful country, and working to make the region a fairer place for my Pacific sisters.”

* The figure comes from research by the Pacific Institute for Advanced Studies in Democratic Government, part of the University of the South Pacific. See www.usp.ac.fj/index.php?id=piasdg

ENDS

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