Gender equality a must to address crisis

11 Feb 2010

(Port Vila, Vanuatu) – The impact of the global economic and financial crisis in the Pacific cannot be fully addressed unless gender is integrated in all the responses. Merilyn Tahi, the coordinator of the Vanuatu Women’s Centre, made this comment while speaking at the lunch time session at the Pacific Conference on the Human Face of the Global Economic Crisis today.

“Gender equality is fundamental for all the Pacific countries when we are addressing the world crisis, be it the economic crisis, climate change, governance or getting more women in business or achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” said Ms Tahi.

She was speaking to some 220 participants who are attending the three day conference, that started in Port Vila yesterday. Determining the ways and means of protecting the most vulnerable communities in the Pacific against the impact of present and future economic crises is the subject of this conference, where delegates from the Pacific are discussing specific policies and joint actions that countries in the region can take to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

“When there is no equality, the fundamental rights of individuals are abused and there is no peace in the hearts, families, communities and the world. It surfaces in various forms such as deliberate omission of women in governance, gender-based violence, sexual assault, abuse of human rights defenders, sorcery and under-resourced national women’s machineries,” said Ms Tahi.

Gender is a cross cutting theme in all the sessions of the conference. Women and children form the bulk of the vulnerable groups that are the first to be affected by the global economic and financial crisis.

Ms Tahi highlighted that women were resourceful and built on their indigenous knowledge to explore means of addressing the difficulties they face as well as work in partnership with governments and development partners to help put in place policies that address their needs.

“We need policies in place to provide for more sharing in the governance of our countries, our governments’ commitment for the elimination of gender–based violence, priority as we speak is governments’ commitment towards gender equality in all Pacific Islands countries, education of girls, and allowing our women to compete in business.”

Ms Tahi was one of the several women leaders who met with UNDP Administrator Helen Clark yesterday. Miss Clark officially opened the Pacific Conference on the Human Face of the Global Economic Crisis. She highlighted the advancement of gender equality as one of the actions that could be taken to address the impact of the crisis on the vulnerable in the Pacific.

The conference has been organized by the Government of Vanuatu with support from the United Nations, Asian Development Bank, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the University of the South Pacific. Participants include government ministers, parliamentarians, development partners, UN agencies, youth, women’s groups, private sector representatives and civil society organizations.