PALIKIR — In 2012, fourteen Pacific countries met to establish the 2012 Pacific Island Forum Leaders’ Gender Equality Declaration with four key components in mind: leadership and decision-making, economic empowerment, ending violence against women, and enhancing women’s sense of their own agency by creating support. The conference then established a ten-year initiative called Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development. Pacific Women is a commitment of Australian government to support the empowering components of the Declaration.
The Federated States of Micronesia (population 105,000) is among the 14 nations supported by Pacific Women. Also called FSM, or known simply as Micronesia, the nation consists of four states – Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae – spread over 607 tiny islands.
Pacific Women currently supports two projects, among others, whose efforts are designed to aid in the achievement of women’s empowerment in Micronesia through the components outlined in the Declaration.
The Progressing Gender Equality in the Pacific (PGEP) program led by Maire Dwyer of Pacific Women essentially brings leaders and community members of each state in Micronesia to employ a collaborative approach toward reaching the goals of the Declaration. Dwyer, a published consultant on gender, welfare, labor market and social policies in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, brings together parties from each state’s government to engage, consult and discuss topics regarding consistent alignment with the Declaration’s goals.
For instance, the state of Korsae introduced domestic violence legislation when no other states had, and so PGEP program enabled discussion on what factors were holding back other states from introducing the same types of bills. The visits also resulted in the discussion of initiatives in nearby nations, such as the development of the first support service of its kind for women and children affected by violence in the Marshall Islands. Dwyer credits the collaborative approach to PGEP’s success towards women’s empowerment in Micronesia thus far.
Ending Violence Against Women
Another Pacific Women-supported program addresses women with disabilities. Living in two already marginalized demographics, women and girls with disabilities can feel discrimination and vulnerability on an even more intense level. Pacific Women partnered with Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (PC RRRT) to fund a project called Support to the PC RRRT (SPC RRRT). SPC RRRT worked closely with the FSM Disabled Persons Organisation to meet with the four state governments. The ultimate goal was ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to identify and safeguard against any gaps in the legislation that pertained to women with disabilities.
The ratification was achieved, and SPC RRRT used their momentum for another opportunity to promote women’s empowerment in Micronesia by helping to introduce and support the Family Protection Act in Korsae. This Act protects individuals who experience violence within their family.
The Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development is a $320 million initiative that is committed through 2022 to improving the both lives of Micronesian and all Pacific women through the creation and support of political, social and economic opportunities.
– Jaymie Greenway