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  • By Lisa Williams-Lahari

The Gender Agenda: Revisiting Pacific women platform and economic rights

Photo courtesy of FemLINK Pacific

Whether it’s Pohnpei or Paris, Majuro or Milan, Saipan or SoHo, Tarawa or The Hague, there isn’t a lot you can say about gender inequality, anywhere in the world, that hasn’t already been said.

The Pacific, like the rest of the world, has a pretty awesome history of talking through the gender issues that burden half the population but damage everyone, presenting overall challenges and blocks to national development. The history makes sense.

We’ve been talking about the state of Pacific women ever since the UN Women’s Convention, known as CEDAW, couched in a UN decade for talking about the issues affecting half of the planet and impact on all of us, kicked off in 1979. By 1992 the Pacific nations had started ratifying CEDAW. The momentum of keeping the gender agenda alive helped lead to a Pacific Platform for Action on women and sustainable development in 1994 as part of regional buildups across the world to the Global Beijing Platform for Action a year later.

Since those heady days, the talk around gender equality has peaked again with the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, a “revised” Pacific Platform in 2004, a Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration in 2012, and the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.

So with major high level delegations from all corners of our Pacific world heading off to the 13th triennial conference of Pacific women this month in Suva, Fiji to deliver what promises to be another resounding and decisive outcomes statement intent on achieving Gender Equality a la Pacific, one cannot ignore the inevitable sense of déjà vu. Except for two new developments.

This triennial round, the talkfesting is pruned back to a key topic choice—women and the economy —with some secondary themes. News that the streamlined focus achieved in the revised PPA more than a decade ago is going to be sharpened even more this triennial round with a single thematic issue – economic empowerment- is surely welcome.

In a swing away from the diverse to the definitive, Pacific women and their economic rights are going to be front of mind for the high powered delegations from FSM, Guam, Kiribati and Palau heading to Suva this October for Triennial 13.

That key spotlight focus will have delegates delving into gender and labor force issues including jobs in the formal and informal sectors, unpaid care work, social protections, the impacts of macro-economic policies, budgeting and financing for gender equality, women’s human rights.

More significantly for the longer term, the 12th Pacific Conference of Women 5th Ministerial Meeting in 2013 called for a review of the Revised Platform for Action. This makes it likely we could be looking at a new regional promise to Pacific women when the 6th Ministerial conference ends on Oct. 6. Whatever its shape and content, a new Pacific Platform for Gender Equality and Women’s Human Rights is definitely making 2017 another milestone moment for the regional conversations on the status of our women.

Will it be a total overhaul or a refresh and rebuild of the core concerns first raised by Pacific women more than two decades ago to ensure they match the funding frameworks of this point in time? What’s certain is that just like the changing climate, adapting to the changing gender approaches of our time is something Pacific women are also taking in stride.

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