Gender inequality still widespread in the Pacific

24 Mar 2010

(Tarawa, Kiribati) – Gender inequality still exists across Asia and the Pacific, a report recently released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says.

The Report, Power, Voice and Rights: A Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific, was launched in Kiribati on Wednesday March 24th by the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Toily Kurbanov in conjunction with the Kiribati Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Tomati Iuta and the President of the Kiribati’s women’s group the  Aia Maea Ainen Kiribati (AMAK), Ms Ianeta Baiteke.

The Report was launched amidst, representatives from Government, the non government organizations, women and youth at the town of Bairiki in Tarawa.

The Speaker, Hon Iuta in addressing people of the different sectors of the community in Bairiki, said the report, Power, Voice and Rights : A Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific focuses on gender with the theme of “Equal rights, equal opportunities : progress for all.

“The Report, I am told is urging Governments in the Pacific to promote gender-sensitive policy moves in the area of economic power, political decision-making and legal rights, all of which can stimulate far reaching change. In this regard, I am happy to say that the Government of Kiribati has already embraced this focus in all its policies and have achieved pleasing results,” he said.

The Report was later presented at a dinner hosted by AusAID after the Donor Roundtable meeting in Kiribati ended yesterday. Mr Kurbanov talked about the Report and then presented it to the President of Kiribati, H.E Anote Tong and his wife the First Lady Tong.

Deep rooted gender inequality holds back the region’s achievement of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. The Pacific sub-region particularly falls short in critical areas such as land inheritance, laws on domestic violence and women’s parliamentary representation.

“It is hoped that from this Report countries in the Pacific will take heed and strive towards efforts to bringing about gender equality in the region,” the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Mr Toily Kurbanov said.

“From the findings of this Report, countries must know that gender is a human right, it is about democracy and gender equality is about economics about the bettering the economic well being of the people,” he said.

Mr Kurbanov said that Kiribati already has a good foundation in that it has invested a lot in the education of girls in the country. “I urge you to build on that for more impact to girls and women in the country,” he added.

The Report calls for gender-sensitive policy moves in three key areas, economic power, political decision-making and legal rights, all of which can stimulate far-reaching change. It recommends eight steps focused on transforming institutions and policies; changing mindsets, especially through the media, schools and religious institutions and measuring progress and remaining gaps.

“Courts in the Pacific struggle to manage a complex brew of customary laws and practices, constitutional provisions, longstanding notions of women’s subordinate status and emerging expectations around women’s rights to equality,” said the Report.

In addition, while a number of countries in the Pacific have set up women’s ministries and departments to implement the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women), most “have stopped short of passing the requisite legislation to comply with it,” the Report stated.

This Report was launched in New Delhi, India on March by the UNDP Administrative, Helen Clark and this was the first launching done in the Pacific.