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Tonga: Commission on the Status of Women



PERMANENT MISSION
OF THE KINGDOM OF TONGA
TO THE UNITED NATIONS

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty Sixth Session

National Statement

Delivered by

Ms. Polotu Fakafanua - Paunga

New York

2 March 2012

Check Against Delivery

Madam Chair

Rural women in Tonga perform multiple roles as household and subsistence managers, income earners, and as active members of churches and community development groups. Their contribution to agriculture is in the form of unpaid work, and mainly to produce food for household consumption, therefore it is not captured by official statistics, because of its informal nature. In 2008, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests, and Fisheries created a division called Food, Women, and Youth Community Development, to support the development of women in their communities, notably through agricultural activities such as vegetable gardens.

Madam Chair

Our Government is the first democratically elected Government in Tonga, which came into office in December 2010, and the Prime Minister had the liberty of appointing up to 4 members of his Government, in which he appointed 2 Ministers, one of which is the only female Minister and Member of Parliament, the Minister of Education, Women’s Affairs and Culture.

The Government has developed a new medium term national development plan, the Tonga Strategic Development Framework, which includes 9 priority areas to provide for it’s economic policies and to guide her activities for the period 2011 – 2014, including:

• the empowerment of women and eradication of hardships, to build strong inclusive communities, by engaging districts/villages/communities in meeting their prioritized service needs, and ensuring prioritized and equitable development of benefits by one of the strategies on the implementation of the national policy on gender and development, and
• better formulation and implementation of outer island and rural development programmes through local communities.

Madam Chair

Our Government sincerely believes this Framework will put Tonga on a firm path to improving its ability to meaningfully achieve the United Nation's MDGs by 2015 ,and on MDG Goal 1 and Goal 3, areas of Human Development where there is continuing hardship facing households and communities in the rural areas and outer islands. Tonga is highly dependent on foreign remittances and it’s decline predominantly from the USA, has reduced household incomes significantly thus exacerbating the challenges of rural and outer island households. Our Government plans to introduce a social protection scheme, to mitigate increased hardships amongst the more vulnerable members of society.

The Government has made several policy changes and legislative reforms pertaining to women’s rights:

• in 2010, the Public Service Commission instituted a new policy to extend paid maternity leave from 1 month to 3 months for public servants (1 week is granted for paternity leave),
• in November 2011, Government approved to draft of a Bill on Legislation on Violence Against Women and Children, to be tabled in the 2012 Parliamentary Session,
• in December 2011, Government approved to conduct nationwide consultations to reach a consensus as a way forward to consider the ratification of CEDAW,
• in February 2012, the conduct of the first national joint Government – CSO / NGO consultation for Tonga’s reporting in October 2012, on the Universal Periodic Review, and
• the Tonga National Study on Domestic Violence Against Women and a Community Radio for Rural Women, will be launched on 7 March 2012, as part of the national activities to mark International Women’s Day.

Madam Chair

Our Government is proactive in improving women with access to quality education, healthcare services, employment, security and social-economic status. We have identified several areas needing assistance:

• funding assistance and technology transfer to mitigate and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, including development projects;
• direct assistance in strengthening infrastructure, healthcare and education, particularly in rural areas;
• mainstreaming gender and capacity building to increase women’s participation in the economy, and at the decision making level, and
• conduct research and data collection of gender disaggregated data, and develop gender indicators for evaluation and monitoring of women’s status in all areas including violence against women

In closing we take this opportunity to thank all of our donor and development partners (both regional and international), relevant CSOs and NGOs, who have assisted us with our efforts to advance gender issues and look forward to the continuation of their commitment and support in the future. Tonga continues to be supportive in many UN debates concerning the empowerment of women.

Thank you for your attention.

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