03.08.2018 - This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the work our volunteers and their local partners do every day around the wider Pacific to support women and girls. We also celebrate the extraordinary wāhine they work alongside, who are often leaders in some of the biggest issues facing the Pacific and, indeed, the rest of the world: gender-based violence; inequality and inequity; and environmental damage and climate change.
Our volunteers support local projects that provide safety, good health, education, legal help and access to an income.
Between July 2016 and June 2017, in addition to these programmes, VSA volunteers mentored or trained 3,702 women, including 240 women in leadership roles.
Women in leadership is particularly relevant this year, as the theme is “Press for Progress” – a pledge to become truly gender inclusive. In the Pacific, while women lead grassroots groups, run businesses and are powerful voices in their communities, just 7.2% of Parliamentarians are women. As former Prime Minister Helen Clark put it at a VSA event last year: “How are you ever going to eradicate poverty if women aren’t part of the story?”
On the Prime Minister’s Pacific Mission, Jacinda Ardern has also spoken about leadership. In Samoa, , she spoke about the fact that you must be Mata’i to stand for Parliament (just 10% of Mata’i are women), and spoke about finding leadership in other areas, too. “To all the women who are interested in becoming members of Parliament, believe in yourself and find good people to support you. And don’t wait until you reach a certain age and title, because there are leaders amongst our young people too.”
Through its partnerships with UN Women and the UNDP, VSA has worked to support current and potential women parliamentarians throughout the Pacific, including a workshop in the Cook Islands last week, where the Pacific Mission is now, to support their women MPs and the speaker, who is the Cook Islands’ first woman speaker.
Today, the Cook Islands Women Parliamentarians Caucus, launched. The Speaker of the Cook Islands Parliament, Honourable Niki Rattle, said the caucus “is a proactive approach that advocates for equitable outcomes for all through law-making, budgeting, oversight and representation.
“The significance of the launch was also underscored with the visit of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Rt Honourable, Jacinda Ardern - a woman holding the highest political office,” said Hon. Rattle.
“I hope that women of Cook Islands will be able to see that they too, can stand and lead.”
Christine was interviewed about representation of women in the Pacific on Australia's ABC radio. Listen here.