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The past 20 years have seen significant progress in gender equality being recognised as being an integral part of the economic, political, cultural and social development of Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs). This progress is reflected in an important body of reforms and innovative policies. Since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, the overwhelming majority of PICTs have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and have engaged in the regular reporting of their progress towards full compliance. Across the Pacific region, initiatives have been carried out to build the capacity of public institutions and civil society in the various aspects of gender mainstreaming.
Consequently, most PICTS have adopted specific national gender equality policies, and have established national women’s machineries, while six of them currently apply affirmative action measures to foster women’s political participation.
Eleven countries have conducted national prevalence studies on domestic violence, which have informed the design and adoption of specific legislation to protect women from violence.
The effects of those reforms on the advancement of Pacific women are being seen in a great variety of contexts, and manifest in many ways, including women’s education levels, their leadership in communities and civil society organisations, and their entrepreneurship and economic dynamism. However, recurrent manifestations of gender inequality remain in all sectors of the Pacific community, such as in high rates of gender-based violence, low proportions of women represented at all levels of decision-making, significant under-representation of women in the formal economy, inequitable access of women to health and social services, and in women rarely having their concerns reflected in strategies related to climate change, natural disasters, food security and renewable energy. In some PICTs, significant progress has been achieved in reducing rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality. However, in others, women’s and adolescents’ limited access to contraception and to sexual and reproductive health services and information continue to hinder progress.
Expressed political will is too rarely translated into action to ensure that women are able to fully participate in decision-making – from the community to the national level – while cross-cutting work to address gender equality in policies and programmes remains generally inadequate across the region. The Pacific Forum Leaders’ Gender Equality Declaration in 2012 reiterated the commitment of Pacific governments to gender equality, recommending renewed national action towards gender-responsive government programmes and policies. However, in most PICTs, attention, resources and capacity committed to gender equality have been insufficient to achieve substantive gains.