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Pacific needs urgent investment in sexual and reproductive health

On World Population Day, the New Zealand Parliamentarians Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) called on governments in the Pacific to urgently invest in sexual and reproductive health, to improve the choices and opportunities of people in the Pacific and to advance sustainable development. They also stressed that New Zealand intervention is needed to help increase contraceptive use in Pacific Island nations, calling on our Government to invest in sexual and reproductive health, particularly family planning.

The NZPPD, which is made up of 44 MPs, says teenage pregnancy rates are "worryingly high" in the Pacific.

"These issues need to be addressed urgently if our Pacific neighbours are going to see progress in sustainable development. When people lack control over their reproductive health they lack control over their lives and future prospects," says Paul Hutchison, NZPPD Chair.

Read more here.


Pacific women learn how to influence social change

Women from around the Pacific region have come together in Fiji to learn how to influence social change, and to take that influence beyond the community level. Women from Bougainville, West Papua, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Kenya attended the new training course hosted by the Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding.

The centre's Executive Director, Koila Costello-Olsson, says there is a need for more women in influential positions.

"We know when you're working on peacebuilding it's also addressing the root causes of issues, conflicts, getting people to go back and analyse it and say ok, change processes are occurring, can we better understand this, can we influence this in a better way, so that it benefits most of us, and not just one side of the community."

Read more here.


New approach to sexual health in the Pacific

A new guiding framework for the Pacific’s approach to sexual health and well-being has been endorsed by Pacific Directors of Health and is set to be considered by the Pacific Ministers of Health at their regional meeting in July.

The Pacific Sexual Health and Well-being Shared Agenda is based on an internationally recognised and comprehensive rights-based approach to sexual health and well-being that aims to ensure all people not only have access to sexual health services, but also have the knowledge, skills, and tools within a supportive environment to protect and promote their sexual health, well-being and human rights.

Development of the Shared Agenda is being led by the Secretariat for the Pacific Community in partnership with the United Nations, the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Oceania Society for Sexual Health and HIV Medicine.

Read more here.


Using drama to spread sexual health messages in Solomon Islands

Three youth volunteers at the Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association (SIPPA) are utilising their passion for theatre to raise awareness about sexual health in their youth outreach work.

The three young women have been with the European Union-funded Stages for Change theatre for six months; a project that uses theatre to celebrate women and encourage discussion about family violence. The women are now integrating theatre into their volunteer work with SIPPA in the hope of reaching a wider audience.

“I have teenage friends who gave me the heart to tell other teenagers about STD’s and teenage pregnancy, but I thought - I don’t know how to do that. There are cultural barriers that say women can’t stand out, but on the stage you can talk about subjects that are normally taboo,” says volunteer Susan Galutia.

Read more here.

Call for women’s involvement in Solomon Islands recovery

The Pacific Island Forum’s Women, Peace and Security Reference Group is calling for women to lead the planning and delivery of emergency response efforts in the Solomon Islands following the devastating flooding. The call comes amid fears that women’s and girls’ rights will be forgotten in response efforts, as is often the case in disaster situations.

“Disasters, whether natural or man-made, pose a major security threat to women and girls in these situations,” says Ethel Sigimanu, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, Solomon Islands.

The unstable situation, heightened stress among those affected, displacement and lack of security put women and girls at an increased risk of sexual violence. Pregnant women are also more vulnerable to complications due to damaged infrastructure and communication systems and unhygienic conditions.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), there are currently 30 pregnant women in evacuation centres.


Young women in Fiji gather to discuss Fiji’s democratisation process

The second Fiji Young Women’s Forum was held from 14-16 March, bringing together around 50 young women leaders and activists between the ages of 18 and 30 ‘to discuss barriers and strategies to young women’s meaningful participation and representation in Fiji’s democratisation process’, and to encourage participants to vote in the elections scheduled for September.

The Forum was convened by Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA), Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni (ELFA), Young Women Producers and Broadcasters- FemlinkPacific, and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).

The participants identified key issues they want addressed in this year’s elections in Fiji, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, peace and security and accessibility to voting. 


Kiribati Minister resigns following domestic violence charges

The Minister of Labour in Kiribati, Boutu Bateriki, has resigned after being charged for allegedly beating his former wife. Two fellow MPs called for his resignation, with one stating that the Minister’s behaviour undermines the confidence of the people in the government.

The government’s Family Peace Bill passed its first reading in parliament in December; a Bill that aims to eliminate violence against women and children in Kiribati where two-thirds of women report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence.

Read more here.

Rapid population growth in Papua New Guinea raises concerns

Recently released figures from the 2011 census show that Papua New Guinea’s population is growing 3.1 per cent annually. 

The growth rate has been labelled as ‘extraordinarily high’ and has raised concerns about the Government’s lack of a population policy and its ability to meet the needs of the growing population, particularly for education and health services. 

Papua New Guinea has a total fertility rate of 4.1 children per woman. The total population is estimated to currently stand at 7.8 million. 

Read more here.


Fiji President promises antiretroviral therapy funding

Fijian President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has vowed that the Government will  cover the costs of antiretroviral therapy should international funding  cease. There are 493 confirmed cases of people living with HIV/AIDS in Fiji, and the President says there are no signs the growth in cases is levelling off. 

While there are no immediate signs international funding will cease, funding for HIV/AIDS has dropped over the years sparking fears the funding will soon dry up. The Fiji Government has been meeting the funding shortfall. 

Read more here.


Lack of sex education in Fiji jails

A newly released study on health in Fiji prisons has found that inmates engage in high levels of HIV risk behaviour, such as unprotected sex and tattooing using unsterilised equipment and penile beading.

Health in Prisons in Fiji, by Burnet Institute in partnership with Empower Pacific, also found there to be poor knowledge of HIV and STIs among prisoners, with over half the 198 inmates surveyed believing HIV can be transmitted through mosquito bites.

One third of the inmates surveyed reported never having used a condom. The report recommends that HIV and STI awareness workshops and condom distribution programmes should target inmates and former inmates. Read more here.

Women-only buses in Papua New Guinea

Women-only buses will soon be available in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby as the United Nations Programme for Women in Papua New Guinea works to create more safe public spaces for women. 

The initiative comes after a recent UN Women report found 87% of women had experienced sexual harassment on public transport. As a result many women are reluctant to take public transport and this serves as another obstacle preventing girls from attending school and women from participating in the labour force. 


New Director General of SPC appointed

Dr. Colin Tukuitonga has been appointed the new Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). He will officially take over the role on 23 January 2014 from Dr. Jimmie Rodgers, who has served as Director General for the past eight years.

Dr. Tukuitonga has been serving as the Director of the Public Health Division of SPC since December 2012. Before then, he was the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs in New Zealand.

Women-only buses in Papua New Guinea

Women-only buses will soon be available in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby as the United Nations Programme for Women in Papua New Guinea works to create more safe public spaces for women. 

The initiative comes after a recent UN Women report found 87% of women had experienced sexual harassment on public transport. As a result many women are reluctant to take public transport and this serves as another obstacle preventing girls from attending school and women from participating in the labour force.

Fiji’s President encourages Leaders to act to address HIV/AIDS at ICAAP

Fiji’s President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, attended the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) in November, and called for greater leadership to tackle HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We need to continuously review and renew our efforts and our commitments as leaders and partners on our response to HIV & AIDS, especially to our commitments in achieving and sustaining universal access to antiretroviral treatment,” the Fijian Head of State said.

ICAAP is the largest forum on HIV/AIDS in the region and was held this year in Bangkok, Thailand from 18-22 November.

New photo book celebrates response to HIV in the Pacific

On 11 November, a new photo book was launched highlighting achievements from the Pacific Islands HIV and STI Response Fund - a grant funded by the Australian and New Zealand governments and managed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Public Health Division.

'SPC recognises the importance of programming on STIs and sexual health and is consolidating the significant gains made to date as we look to the future, in partnership with Pacific Island Countries and Territories. STI prevention and control is a key priority as reflected in the new SPC Public Health Division strategy 2013 - 2022,' says Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Director of SPC's Public Health Division.

Our Voyage: Stories of Triumph in the Response to HIV and other STIs in the Pacific was launched by the President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and highlights include achievements in tackling stigma and discrimination and supporting people living with HIV in the Pacific, national strategic planning and laboratory strengthening.  


Project to increase women’s representation in parliament, Fiji

The National Council of Women in Fiji launched a new project on 25 October aimed at increasing the number of women in parliament and leadership positions in Fiji.

The Civic Education and Empowerment for More Parliamentarians in Fiji, is funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund, and there will be programmes for school children, youth, public awareness and media.  

HIV rates stable in Pacific, for now

New statistics on HIV and AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region show that rates seem to have stabilised in the Pacific, but there is concern that rates could easily rise again if more is not invested in prevention and treatment services.

“We need substantial increases in funding, need political will from each of the governments, but also some economic and financial support in some of these countries in order to really achieve the coverage that is required to reduce new infections,” said Associate Professor David Wilson, an epidemiologist with the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, to ABC Radio Australia. 

The 12th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women 

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) hosted the 12th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and Fifth Pacific Ministers for Women Meeting from the 20th-25th October 2013 in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, in partnership with the Government of the Cook Islands and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

The Conference brought together Ministers and senior decision makers within governments, development partners, research institutions and civil society orgnisations to review development strategies to accelerate progress in the achievement of gender equality and women’s human rights in the Pacific region.

While steps have been taken in many countries throughout the Pacific to address gender disparities, it was recognised that - among other things - stereotyping and traditional expectations of girls continue to pose major barriers to girls’ and women’s opportunities. 


Pacific parliamentarians’ ‘Moana Declaration’ influential at APPC

The Sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference (APPC) took place in Bangkok from 16 to 20 September to set the regional population and development agenda for the next decade.

It was attended by almost 500 delegates from 47 countries including ministers, senior policy makers, parliamentarians, civil society and United Nations representatives.

The Pacific had a strong presence at the conference supported by the Asian Parliamentarians’ Forum on Population and Development (AFPPD) of which NZPPD is an active member.

Pacific delegates represented Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

On behalf of the delegation, the Cook Islands Minister of Health, Nandi Glassie, presented the Pacific parliamentarians’ contribution to the global conversation on the ICPD beyond 2014 in the form of the Moana Declaration, which was agreed to at a regional workshop in Fiji in August.

Both the Moana Declaration and the work of the Pacific delegation during the APPC played an influential role in inspiring support for strong and progressive language on sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality in the final outcome document. 

Cook Islands youth survey 2012

The Cook Islands has released their findings from their Behavioural Surveillance Survey among Youth in the Cook Islands 2012. The aims of the survey were, ‘to assess the knowledge, attitudes and risk behaviours among youth in order to better identify how to deliver targeted interventions, aiming to reduce risk of HIV and STI infections’.

Among the findings, the survey found that 40% of youth had sexual debut before the age of 15 and just under a quarter of those surveyed reported having experienced forced sex. On a positive note, 31% of respondents had been tested for HIV in 2012, up from 16% in 2006.

Tonga Family Protection Bill

After tireless lobbying by women’s rights advocates in Tonga, the Tonga Family Protection Bill was unanimously passed during its third and final reading in parliament on 4th September.

The intention of the Bill is to deter domestic violence and protect survivors of violence. Domestic violence is endemic in Tonga, with up to three-quarters of women having experienced physical and/or sexual violence according to a National Study on Domestic Violence against Women in Tonga, released in 2012.

Among the measures in the new Bill, police will have the authority to issue protection orders on the spot for a maximum of seven days.

Fiji’s President showing leadership in the fight to end spread of HIV

As part of his commitment to stop the spread of HIV and to end stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV and AIDS, Fiji’s President Ratu Epeli has been travelling his country visiting secondary schools to raise awareness among students about HIV and AIDS and about behaviours that could put them at risk of contracting the virus.

The President plans to visit all 178 secondary schools and is strongly encouraging parents and teachers to engage in conversations with young people about the issue.


Pacific decision makers gather to discuss SRHR in development agenda beyond 2015

The Pacific Conference of Parliamentarians for Advocacy on ICPD Beyond 2014 took place in Suva, Fiji in August to facilitate the formulation of the region's contribution to the global conversation towards a new global development agenda beyond 2015.

The conference concluded with the Moana declaration featuring 18 recommendations, among them to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for all our peoples, without discrimination.

It was attended by senior policy makers and parliamentarians representing 11 nations from across the Pacific. 

HIV drug resistance in Papua New Guinea

A new study has found evidence of drug resistance to antiretroviral therapy among people living with HIV in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Preliminary findings from the study, funded by the PNG National AIDS Council and carried out by researchers at the PNG Institute of Medical Research in collaboration with the Burnet Institute, show evidence of both acquired drug resistance, from non-compliance to treatment, and transmitted drug resistance, where a person has been infected by someone who has already developed drug resistance. Read more here.

Consultation to address gender based violence in the Pacific

Representatives from Governments and non-governmental organisations from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu gathered in Suva, Fiji, for a week long consultation in August to address the high levels of violence against women in the region. 

The consultation was organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team to enhance the capacities of participants to challenge discriminatory laws and practices in their countries and develop advocacy and action plans to address gender based violence.  


New Pacific Women website

AusAID has launched a new website providing access to information on the causes, consequences and responses to gender inequality across the Pacific.

The website is the result of consultations with women from across the Pacific who expressed a need for better access to information. In 2012, the Australian Government committed $320 million to improve the political, economic and social opportunities of Pacific women over ten years through the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Initiative.

Individuals and organisations working on gender efforts in the Pacific region are invited and encouraged to contribute relevant images, stories, news or events to the website. 

Sexual violence in Fiji

Cases of sexual violence are being reported more than ever in Fiji, but the majority of offences go unreported due to survivors fearing they will be blamed and not taken seriously by police.

Close to 3,000 cases were reported last year according to police, but the director of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Shamima Ali, believes 90% of survivors do not report assaults.

There are also concerns that perpetrators are getting younger with recent reports of perpetrators being as young as 12. A significant proportion of reported cases involve the rape of under-16 year olds. 

Marshall Islands a sex trafficking destination

The Republic of the Marshall Islands has been put on a global watch list as a sex trafficking destination.

In the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report on the Marshall Island, the report demoted the Marshall Islands in its rankings, saying, “The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a destination country for women from East Asia subjected to sex trafficking.”

The report adds, “The government made no efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. It did not conduct any public campaigns or take other steps to raise public awareness about the dangers of trafficking.”

Since the release of the report, the U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands says he is pleased action is already being taken in response to the report.


Samoa reserves seats for women in parliament

On 24 June the Samoan parliament unanimously approved a constitutional amendment to reserve 10 per cent of seats for women. With a total of 49 seats in parliament this equates to five seats reserved for women.

There are currently only two female MPs in Samoa, down from four in the previous parliament - the most women in parliament Samoa has seen since Independence.

Women’s political representation in the Pacific region is among the lowest in the world, making up just five per cent of all parliamentarians.

Tokelau addressing rising STI rates

Tokelau will soon be better equipped to diagnose sexually transmissible infections (STIs) with the arrival of new laboratory testing equipment funded by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

“Hospital records indicate an increasing level of STI prevalence in Tokelau – especially among the youths. This has become a priority for Tokelau Health,” says Director of Tokelau Health, Silivia Alapati. Medical Officers and nurses are currently undergoing training on how to carry out the testing and manage cases.

Number of young sex workers on the rise in Port Moresby

Prostitution by young girls has increased by 30 per cent since 2010 in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby according to local NGOs, with one survey showing more than half of young sex workers are between 13 and 16 years old.

The rise in prostitution by minors is believed to be due to the rising cost of living in the capital and the lack of tough regulations on nightclubs. 

Funding from the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS continues for two more years

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has managed to secure funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for an additional two years to address HIV, AIDS and STIs in the Pacific.

With funding from the Global Fund initially set to end this year, there were fears those reliant on anti-retroviral therapy from programmes funded by the Global Fund would suddenly be left without treatment. The transitional arrangement will provide SPC with US$ 5 million to continue programmes in 11 Pacific countries.


UNFPA Executive Director in Fiji for report launch

UNFPA’s Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin  was in Fiji recently to launch UNFPA’s Pacific Regional ICPD Review report.  Dr. Osotimehin spoke of the alarming rates of gender-based violence in the region, the important contributions women make to society and the need to improve the status of women to improve their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

"There are 600 million adolescent girls in the world today. Imagine if they were educated to the point where they were economically viable, where we can make sure they can exercise their rights, where we can make sure they will not be abused ... we would have a peaceful world because women are peacemakers, because women build nations” said Dr. Osotimehin.

Politicians commit to ending violence in Papua New Guinea 

In mid-May a National Haus Krai (House of Mourning) was held throughout Papua New Guinea to bring attention to the high levels of violence against women in the country.

Women Arise PNG organised the two-day vigil and both the leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister committed to taking action to end violence against women in the country.

“On behalf of the government, I want to express our sympathy to all the victims of this despicable violence that continues throughout our communities in the country,” Prime Minister O’Neill told a large crowd in Port Moresby and stressed that tough measures will be put in place to address the issue.

Fiji making positive strides towards reducing HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination

A recent stakeholders’ meeting to review progress on Fiji meeting the UN targets to reduce HIV and AIDS revealed that while it will be difficult for Fiji to meet the targets, it is doing well in terms of reducing stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV or AIDS. This is in particular due to the HIV Decree that came into effect in 2010 protecting the rights of people living with HIV or AIDS.

There were 62 new cases of HIV reported last year, bringing the total known number of people living with HIV or AIDS since 1989 in Fiji to 482.


New Bill in Papua New Guinea gets tough on domestic violence

A new Bill that will tighten domestic violence legislation has been endorsed by Cabinet in Papua New Guinea. The Family Protection Bill will strengthen protection orders and ensure domestic violence is treated as a crime.

While domestic violence is a criminal offence in Papua New Guinea it is often not treated that way by authorities, left for the family to sort out behind closed doors.

With some 68% of women in Papua New Guinea reporting having experienced some form of violence it is hoped this Bill will stress the severity of the act and help curb offending. The Bill needs to be approved by parliament before it can be implemented.

Pacific MPs hear why investing in sexual and reproductive health is so important 

Pacific parliamentarians who came together in Wellington for the Pacific Parliamentary and Political Leaders Forum in April had the opportunity to hear why prioritising sexual and reproductive health and rights on their political agendas is so important.

Former Director of Family Planning International, Sumi Subramaniam, spoke to the delegates about addressing the poor sexual and reproductive health statistics in the region and stressed the importance of family planning and sexual education to improve infant and maternal health and to curb the spread of sexually transmissible infections and HIV.

“It is about education, it is about sexual and reproductive healthcare, and it is about having the courage to address these issues,” she told the forum.

Tasmania a step closer to removing abortion from criminal code

A Private Member’s Bill to remove abortion from the criminal code and allow terminations up to 16 weeks has been passed in Tasmania’s Lower House. The Bill, introduced by Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne, encouraged lively debate and brought about some surprise votes.

Conservative Labour MP Attorney-General Brian Wightman was expected to vote against the Bill, but chose to vote for it stating, ``It's not for any government to dictate to women how and in which circumstances they should lose control over their own bodies. If we live in an equal society, then women should legally be in control and have the right to decide over their reproductive rights.''

All opposition MPs voted against, despite some claiming they are pro-choice. The Bill will now be considered by Upper House.

Pacific gender equality advocates meet to drive AusAID initiative for Pacific women

The Advisory Board of AusAID’s Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative held its first meeting in Canberra, Australia on 10 April.

The Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative is a major ten-year initiative which aims to improve political, social and economic opportunities for women in the Pacific islands region. The initiative was announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the August 2012 Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting.

The Advisory Board comprises a number of eminent Pacific Island women and men who are strong advocates for gender equality in their own communities. 

Study calls for condoms in PNG prisons

A study conducted by the PNG Institute of Medical Research is calling for more condoms to be made available to inmates in Papua New Guinea’s prisons.

Out of the 19 prisons visited for the study, male-to-male sex was found to be taking place in four.

Only one of the prisons provided condoms for inmates.

Papua New Guinea has the highest rate of HIV in the Pacific and condoms are one of the key prevention tools from the government to address the epidemic.

However, prisons are not targeted in policies, presumably as male-to-male sex is illegal in the country.

Read more.

Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation closing

The Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation (PIAF) has been forced to close down after being unable to secure core funding following the NZ AID Programme’s withdrawal of funding in 2011.

PIAF has operated in the Pacific for 10 years, representing the voices and rights of Pacific people living with HIV.

All of PIAF’s operations will cease by the end of April.


Fiji police hinder Reclaim the Night march

Fiji police cancelled at the last minute a permit issued to Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre to hold their annual Reclaim the Night march on International Women’s Day (8 March) due to a ‘significant security risk’.

Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre expressed their frustration and disappointment of the decision through a press release, in which they state, "The march is about claiming spaces for women and girls in particular around the issue of sexual assault and the violation of their rights, so where is the threat?”

The organisation has been holding the march each year on International Women’s Day for 30 years as an opportunity for the public to come together in their support to end violence against women and raise aware about women’s rights.

Cervical cancer in Papua New Guinea

The Sister in charge of a new Well Women clinic in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, is concerned about the high rates of cervical cancer in the country and is calling for more awareness about pap smears.

Many women in Papua New Guinea do not find out they have cervical cancer until they are in the late stages of the disease when little can be done for them. The new Well Women Clinic provides pap smears and treatment for sexually transmissible infections.


Bill to see that women’s rights are protected in Papua New Guinea

Delilah Gore, one of only three female parliamentarians in Papua New Guinea is pushing for the Women’s Council Bill to be approved in parliament, a bill first introduced by former Minister of Community Development, Dame Carol Kidu. The Bill would ensure there is a body to look into women’s issues and to protect women’s rights.

“The women’s council bill before parliament is well structured because it ensures there are sub-divisions that will handle women’s issues at all levels. The national council of women is at the top of the ladder, and then there is the provincial women’s council, then goes down to the district and the local women’s groups,” said Gore.

Pacific feminists and activists meet to discuss progress on SRHR

Sexual and Reproductive Health activists and Pacific feminists gathered in Nadi, Fiji, in February to assess sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) progress made over the past 20 years by State and non-State actors in the Pacific region.

Participants came from Federated States of Micronesia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and put together a Call to Action, of which Family Planning International has endorsed.

The Call to Action can be downloaded here.

Pacific women MPs assemble to discuss increasing women’s political participation

Fifty female parliamentarians from around the Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand, met in Sydney in early February to discuss ways to get more women elected to parliament across the region.

New Zealand was represented by three women MPs who are also members of the New Zealand Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development.

The countries with no female parliamentarians were represented by other female leaders from their countries. The meeting was hosted by the Australian Committee of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians and was part of AusAID’s AUD320 million programme to improve the lives of Pacific women.

Read more here.

Concerns over high rates of unsafe abortions in Papua New Guinea

A new study on unsafe abortions in the Eastern Highlands Province in Papua New Guinea has health experts worried about the high rates of unsafe abortions taking place, particularly among young girls.

The study looked at all admissions of spontaneous and induced abortions in the Provincial Hospital in Goroka, and found that 23 percent of the 120 reported miscarriages admitted to the hospital over a six month period were induced abortions.

Most of these were carried out using prescription only medications, using traditional herbs or by physical means.

There are believed to be many more cases outside the hospital that do not get recorded.

Read more here.

Gender-based violence in Fiji widespread

A new survey by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre has found that 64% of women have experienced physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime and 44% of these women had experienced severe violence.

The survey involved interviews with 3,000 women from both rural and urban areas in Fiji between the ages of 18 - 64 years.

These figures are similar to rates of violence in other Pacific countries, such as Kiribati and Solomon Islands, and are among the highest in the world.

Mining company in PNG makes rape victims sign away legal rights for remedy package

According to MiningWatch Canada, victims of rape by employees of Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine in Papua New Guinea are being offered ‘remedy packages’ by the mine’s owner Barrick Gold, the largest gold-mining company in the world, on condition “the claimant agrees that she will not pursue or participate in any legal action against PJV, PRFA [Porgera Remediation Framework Association Inc.] or Barrick in or outside of PNG. PRFA and Barrick will be able to rely on the agreement as a bar to any legal proceedings which may be brought by the claimant in breach of the agreement.”

The remedy package includes psychosocial/trauma counselling and healthcare, but MiningWatch Canada is concerned about women having to give up legal rights to receive the package.

Read more here.


PNG’s female MPs do not support reserved seats for women

Papua New Guinea’s three female parliamentarians have stated publically that they do not support the bill to reserve 22 seats for women in Parliament and have agreed in principle to withdraw their allegiance to the Government should the bill be brought up by any MP in Government.

Vice-Minister for Treasury Delilah Gore said that her and her colleagues Eastern Highlands Governor Julie Soso and Lae MP and Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Loujaya Toni believed that they were proof women could win seats on their own accord.

Three women elected to Congress in Palau

There is encouraging news regarding women’s political representation in Palau following the recent elections.

Three women now hold the title of Senator for the next four years, having been elected to the Upper House of the National Congress – the highest number of women ever elected in Palau.

Despite being a matrilineal society, up until 2008 no women had been members of Palau’s Congress. Last term there were two female members.

Faith-based organisations getting involved in eliminating violence against women

A two-day workshop in Nadi, Fiji, was recently held for 30 representatives of faith-based organisations by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre to engage them in the elimination of violence against women and girls and to encourage the organisations to proactively speak out more on the issue.

"We are very much aware that faith-based organisations have the greatest outreach and people look to them for direction so it is important that they have a good understanding of the issue of violence against women and girls and pass on messages which are empowering for women," said Shamima Ali, facilitator of the training.

Read more here.


No women elected in Vanuatu

Not one of the ten women contesting the 52 seats was elected to parliament in Vanuatu at the recent general elections held on 30 October.

Since Vanuatu’s independence in 1987, only five women have ever held seats in Vanuatu’s parliament and last term only one seat was held by a woman.

At only around 5%, the Pacific region has the lowest representation of women in parliament in the world, making it difficult for issues important to women to get on political agendas.

Read a new discussion paper by the Council for International Development on Pacific Women in Power here.

New Regional Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security in the Pacific

The first ever Pacific Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security was launched on 18 October by the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and Prime Minister of the Cook Islands.

There are three focal areas in the Action Plan with two looking to increase the visibility and active participation of women in conflict prevention and peace building activities, and the third seeking to ensure the necessary frameworks of protection for women and girls during humanitarian crises and transitional and post conflict situations, according to the Pacific Island Forum Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade. Read more here.

Sex work and the law in the Asia-Pacific

A new report, Sex Work and the Law, by the United Nations Development Programme, the UN Population Fund and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS examines the laws and policies that affect the rights of sex workers and the impact these policies have on access to HIV treatment and other health services in Asia-Pacific.

There were 48 countries in the Asia-Pacific region studied, and it was found that almost all the countries criminalise some aspects of adult consensual sex work, making it difficult for HIV prevention and treatment programmes to reach sex workers and their clients. Access the full report here.


New Pacific guidelines to fight the spread of STIs

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community have launched new guidelines specifically tailored to the Pacific region, to improve the capability of health ministries and clinics to address STI prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Comprehensive Sexually Transmitted Infections Management Guidelines equips health care providers with information and skills in syndromic diagnosis and treatment, education and counselling and laboratory testing, providing a holistic and comprehensive approach to STI management.

It is hoped the guidelines will be used to support the development of national STI treatment guidelines. Read more here.

Forced sex widespread in the Pacific

New data from the Pacific highlights the extent of forced sex in the region. The Pacific Sexual and Reproductive Health Research Centre have revealed results of recent Second Generation Surveillance of HIV in the Pacific showing that 21 per cent of men who have sex with men in the Cook Islands, 25 per cent of ante-natal women in the Solomon Islands and 50 per cent of studied sex workers have experienced forced sex.

Solomon Islands recommits to family planning programmes

From the London Family Planning Summit the Solomon Islands is among the developing countries that has committed to addressing barriers to women accessing family planning information and services.

“Solomon Islands is recommitting to supporting programs that will help stop preventable deaths of women and babies, including making family planning a priority under the reproductive health program part of the government’s National Health Strategic Plans for 2006-2015. Solomon Islands is also committing to making men partners in all reproductive health issues, including voluntary family planning.”

Following the hugely successful Summit in July, the organisers have been collating the commitments made by organisations, the private sector, donors and developing countries. Read more commitments here.


More funding from Australia to support women in the Pacific

At this year’s Pacific Island Forum meetings in the Cook Islands, Australia announced it will be putting USD 320 million towards supporting gender equality in the Pacific over the next 10 years.

The funds will go towards improving economic opportunities for women, supporting women to participate at the decision-making level and improving safety for women in the region.

Pacific Island Forum Leaders commit to improving gender equality

At the 43rd Pacific Island Forum held in the Cook Islands in August leaders made commendable commitments to improve gender equality in the Pacific. Leaders adopted the Pacific Leaders’ Gender Equality Declaration, committing to increase the participation of women in decision-making processes and to promote the economic empowerment of women.

They also pledged to act to end violence against women by progressively implementing a set of essential services to women and girls who are survivors of violence, and to enact and implement domestic violence legislation to protect women from violence and impose appropriate penalties for perpetrators of violence.


Pacific MPs meet to address violence against women

Sitting MPs from around the Pacific participated in a meeting in Brisbane in July to discuss the appallingly high rates of violence against women in the region and how to take action.

MPs from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu participated and fourteen of the MPs wrote a letter of support to the UN Secretary-General’s global UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign.

They are hopeful their action will increase political awareness among other Pacific MPs of the issue.

Australia boosts aid funding for sexual and reproductive health in Asia-Pacific

Australia has announced it will double its aid funding for sexual and reproductive health to developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region from $26 million a year to $50 million by 2016.

In a statement earlier this month Foreign Minister Bob Carr said, “All women have a right to basic reproductive health care and family planning advice. Good family planning reduces maternal and child deaths, and is fundamental to improving economic outcomes for women and girls.

That's why Australia is making this new commitment to funding family planning in our region, and why we'll be pushing others in the global community to follow suit.”

Two female MPs elected in Papua New Guinea

Two women, Dellilah Pueka Gore and Loujaya Toni, have been elected to parliament in Papua New Guinea in the country’s general elections held in July, relieving fears that the country would be without any female MPs following the retirement of Dame Carol Kidu.

Loujaya Toni of the Indigenous People’s Party is a qualified journalist and teacher and won the Lae Open seat after defeating longstanding MP Bart Philemon from the New Generation Party. Dellilah Gore of the Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party was the first woman to be elected in this year’s election, winning the Sohe Open seat.


Rural HIV care and treatment easier with new battery-run devices

New technology is proving highly useful in rural and remote areas of Papua New Guinea for assessing how the immune systems of those living with HIV are coping.

The device being used, PIMA, can process blood samples immediately after they have been taken and can have results available within 20 minutes.

The PIMA devices run on batteries and are portable. They are much cheaper and simpler to run than laboratory-based machines and only require half a day’s training to operate.

The devices have been installed in several Pacific Island countries since last year, including Kiribati, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa and Federated States of Micronesia.

Women in PNG participate in practice parliament

In the lead-up to the general elections in Papua New Guinea, a practice parliament was held for women wanting to contest in the election.

58 women took part in the event where they were able to learn about the procedures of parliament and take part in question time and debates. The practice parliament was organised by the Office of the Department of Women and UNDP.

View videos from the event here:

Cook Islands drafts HIV Bill

The Cook Islands is in the process of putting in place a Bill to guide the country’s response to HIV. The Government requested the National HIV, STI and TB Committee to lead the development of the legislation after the country received much criticism in 2010 for the way it handled the first locally confirmed case of HIV.

The drafting of the Care and Support Bill and was technically and financially supported by UNDP, and is the fourth Bill of its kind in the Pacific region.

More national studies on violence against women set to take place

National studies on the prevalence and patterns of violence against women will soon take place in five Pacific Island countries, namely Cook Islands, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

The countries will receive technical support from UNFPA and will be funded by AusAID. “By the end of the year, our region where the very first study on VAW prevalence using the WHO methodology took place in Samoa, will have 11 out of 14 countries and territories with national studies,” UNFPA Pacific Sub-Regional Office Director and Representative Dirk Jena said.

“This is the highest concentration of such studies in the world, demonstrating the determination of the Pacific islander that no such injustice should be given a place in their homes and affect everybody’s well-being.”

Eliminating Violence Against Women workshop in Nauru motivates participants to act

A workshop facilitated by Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre on eliminating violence against women held in Nauru in early June has motivated participants to move beyond rhetoric and move towards more structured and coordinated work in this area.

To help guide and strengthen their work, the participants came up with an Outcomes Document, which includes both long term and short term strategies, such as lobbying community leaders to support work in this area and more rights-based community education.


80% of maternal deaths in PNG could be avoided

The Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research estimates 80% of maternal deaths in Papua New Guinea could be avoided if women had better access to medical care.

The Institute conducted a 6 month study on maternal health in the Eastern Highlands and found money and transport were two major barriers to women being able to give birth in a health clinic.

Women also reported having concerns about receiving medical care from male health practitioners.

Concern about HIV in East New Britain

There is concern about the number of confirmed cases of HIV in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, following the release of statistics showing there were 41 new cases in the region last year – 21 men and 20 women.

The same number of confirmed cases was also reported in 2010 for the region. Acting deputy provincial administrator of the provisional AIDS council Levi Mano says intervention programmes to address HIV/AIDS need to be scaled up and calls on all sectors in society to work together to combat HIV/AIDS seriously.

Early awareness about HIV/AIDS in PNG

The Education Department in Papua New Guinea is set to ensure children as young as 10 years old receive education on HIV/AIDS in an effort to curb the high rate of HIV infection.

“The HIV related education will focus more on gender and the rights of people, and the HIV related education we’ve decided to get it started from Grade 3 and because of its importance we include one or two questions on the exams” says the Department’s deputy secretary Damien Rapese.

Mother-and-baby friendly hospital declared in Solomon Islands

The first mother-and-baby friendly hospital in the Pacific has been declared in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

The National Referral Hospital in Honiara was awarded the accreditation by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in Solomon Islands and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) due to its policies and practices encouraging maternal and child health.

Advocate for survivors of domestic violence receives award in American Samoa

An American Samoan advocate for survivors of domestic violence has been awarded the first Arthur A. Morrow justice award for her advocacy for survivors of crime over the past 10 years.

Ipu Avegalio Lefiti received the award, which is named after one of the longest serving chief justices in American Samoa. 


Pacific to be represented on UN Women's Executive Board

Both Australia and Solomon Islands have been appointed to the Executive Board of UN Women from 1 January 2013.

The appointments will provide an important opportunity to raise awareness of issues affecting women in the Pacific. 

Fiji wants women to stand in 2014 elections

Fiji’s Ministry of Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation wants a higher representation of women in decision-making bodies and is working with communities and organisations to identify potential women leaders who may be interested in standing for the general elections in 2014.

“We have potential women leaders in rural and urban areas who can be nominated to become members of the parliament, I encourage them to come forward, be informed and participate in the constitutional consultations and electoral process especially in preparation for the next elections,” said the Minister of Women's Affairs Dr Jiko Luveni.

Spread of STIs and HIV likely to increase during election time in PNG

The Highlands Regional STI/HIV medical officer in Papua New Guinea is concerned STIs and HIV will spread during the upcoming electoral period if clinics are not better stocked.

At a recent joint workshop of the National Aids Council and the PNG Electoral Commission Dr Petronia Kaima said that there was an evident increase in the spread of STIs and HIV during the previous election due to poor preparation for the fact that the huge mobility of election supporters would lead to an increase in transactional sex.

Dr. Kaima says currently testing kits and medicines are in low supply and the government needs to budget for these.

Poverty forces PNG children into sex work

A new research report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on child labour in Papua New Guinea has found children are being driven into sex work in the capital Port Moresby due to poverty.

175 child sex workers, mainly girls, and 200 children working on the streets were interviewed for the research. 68% of the children were found to be involved in some form of hazardous work.

Read more here.

Guam receives grant to support people living with HIV/AIDS

Guam has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of $286,540 to improve health care access for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The funds will be used to support health care services for low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS and provide them with assistance in medical case management, outpatient and ambulatory health services, medication, medical transportation services and food or non-food services. 


Solomon Islands has worst levels of sexual violence say World Bank

According to the World Bank's Gender Equality and Development report for 2012, the Solomon Islands is the worst country in the world for sexual violence against women.

"Sexual violence is higher on average in Pacific Island countries than in East Asia for example, but usually you see physical violence being more prevalent than sexual violence.The only country that is an exception for the data that we have is Solomon Islands", said Andrew Mason of the World Bank at the report's launch in Honiara.

In the Solomon Islands, 64% of women aged 15-49, who have ever been in a relationship, have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner.

Tackling sexual harassment on public transport in Fiji

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement’s Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni is working with transport authorities to stop public service drivers sexually harassing female and transgender passengers. Strategies include revising sexual harassment policies and providing gender sensitivity training.

This follows a remark from the now former head of the Fiji Taxi Association Rishi Ram suggesting women should stop wearing short skirts to avoid taxi drivers sexually harassing them.

Violence against women and children in Tonga on the increase

According to the Women's Division of the Tongan Ministry of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture, reported cases of violence against women and children have increased 100 per cent since 2007.

The Ministry says approximately 90 per cent of reported cases of violence in Tonga are against women and children.

Call for reserved seat for woman with disability in Samoa

While the government of Samoa is proposing to amend the law to secure five reserved seats for women in parliament, Samoa's organisation for people with disabilities is calling for a reserved seat to be held for a women with disability. This, the organisation believes, would help ensure government policies addressing disability issues are put into practice.

Hundreds march for women's rights in Fiji

On International Women's Day, 8. March, women, men and children in their hundreds took part in marches in Fiji for women's rights and to reclaim the night for women. 

One march took place through the streets of Suva, Fiji's capital, while two others were organised outside Suva, in Nadi and Namaka respectively, to mark the theme for this year's International Women's Day - the empowerment of rural women and their role in eliminating poverty and hunger.

The marches were organised by the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre.


Reserved seats for women in PNG yet to be a reality

Women in Papua New Guinea are yet to see the realisation of 22 reserved seats in parliament for women, as the Equality and Participation Bill sponsored by Dame Carol Kidu failed to be passed in parliament.

The bill required 73 votes, but only received 58 votes, while 21 members of parliament walked out of the chamber. 

Sexual offending most commonly recorded offence in Solomon Islands

During the official opening of the 2012 Legal Year in the Solomon Islands, the Chief Justice - Sir Albert Palmer highlighted that sexual offending was the most dominant type of offence recorded in the Solomon Islands during the previous legal year.

According to the Chief Justice's report, sexual offences made up 50% of all reported cases of offending, followed by 43% for violent offending and 7% for other offending.

Dame Carol Kidu first female leader of the opposition

Dame Carol Kidu, Papua New Guinea's only female member of parliament has been recognised by the Speaker Jeffery Nape, as the opposition leader.

Dame Carol is also currently the only member of the opposition since August 2011, when Sir Michael Somare's government was brought down and Peter O'Neill took over as Prime Minister.

No law changes for age of marriage in American Samoa

The Senate in American Samoa has rejected a bill to raise the age girls can marry from 14 to 18. 

The Senate is concerned that by raising the age, girls under the age of 18 who fall pregnant will not be able to get married even with their parents' consent under the proposed law.

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women to visit PNG and Solomon Islands

The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, will be officially visiting Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands in March.

Ms Manjoo plans to investigate issues related to violence in the two countries and will meet with parliamentarians, heads of Ministries, women’s organisations, civil society groups and other stakeholders.

Gender-based violence is a widespread problem in both countries.


Our Youths are our Greatest Resource: Op-ed by Dirk Jena, UNFPA

Read an Op-ed in the Fiji Times by the Representative and Director of the UNFPA Pacific Sub-regional Office, Dirk Jena, about youth in the Pacific.

Pacific female human rights activist receives award

The Executive Director of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Virisila Buadromo, is one of only three women globally to receive this year's Women Have Wings Courage Award. The award was created in the spirit of the courageous Amelia Earhart - the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic.

Buadromo was selected as a recipient in recognition of her tireless efforts as a human rights activist.

Dame Carol Kidu announces retirement

Papua New Guinea's sole female parliamentarian announced her retirement from politics in early January after 14 years in parliament - nine of which she served as Minister for Community Development.

Among her many contributions and achievements, Dame Carol sponsored the Equality and Participation Bill, calling for 22 reserved seats for women in Parliament, which was recently passed in Parliament. Amendments to the Organic Law are still required before the seats become a reality, and voting for this will take place in March.


Ageing policy launched in Fiji

With financial and techincal support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Fiji's Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation has launched the Pacific sub-region's first ever national ageing policy.

In the policy foreword the Minister of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation says, “The projections of the UNFPA reveals that presently, Fiji’s older population is growing by 3,000 people per year and oldest old population (80 years and over) is also expected to increase rapidly from 5,000 in 2010 to 28,500 by 2050. 

These statistics are alarming and the change in population structure could have vast implications for the future social and economic life in Fiji.

The policy will serve as a platform to devise appropriate strategies and mechanisms to create safety nets for both the senior citizens and society to address the expected growth in aging population.”

Population pressures in Papua New Guinea

The population of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has more than tripled in the past 30 years and is likely to double in the next 25 years.

With one of the highest fertility rates in the Pacific region of 4.4 births per woman, and with more than half the population under the age of 20, the pressures of population growth already being felt, such as competing for resources and land disputes, will only get worse if urgent action is not taken.

Read more here.

New Pacific research centre for sexual and reproductive health

A new Pacific Sexual Reproductive Health and Research Centre (PacS-RHRC) was launched in Fiji in December. The centre is an initiative of the College of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences at the Fiji National University, in partnership with various donors, NGOs and community partners.

The purpose of the centre is to be a focal point for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) research, and along with being a repository of SRH data and reports, will work to build SRH research capacity in the Pacific region. 

Visit the centre's website here.

Women's rights activist named Pacific Person of the Year

The coordinator of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre and long-time women's rights activist Shamima Ali has been named the 2011 Pacific Person of the Year by the Pacific premier magazine Island Business.

“For the courage to take on Fiji and the Pacific’s mainly patriarchal society and systems, for her determination and battle to put women’s rights on the agenda of every political leader, for the tenacity and sheer stubbornness to take the fight right into the pulse of male-dominated institutions in the military and the police force, all the time never losing her common and compassionate touch for the abused, the poor and the downtrodden, Shamima Ali is Islands Business 2011 Pacific Person of the Year,” said the magazine in its December issue.

New Pacific Young Women's Leadership Alliance established

A new alliance to support young women's leadership in the Pacific was recently formed at a meeting in Suva, Fiji in November for the Pacific Young Women's Leadership Strategy group. The Pacific Young Women's Leadership Alliance will be made up of representatives from several regional agencies committed to the areas of young women's leadership and will work to ensure young women's leadership stays on the agenda of regional decision makers.

The reference group for the strategy consists of representatives from World YWCA, Pacific YWCAs, Fem’LINK Pacific, UNFPA, UNICEF, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement and the Pacific Youth Council. World YWCA is leading the reference group through the establishment of the alliance.

Pregnant mothers with HIV need more access to HIV treatment in Papua New Guinea

Almost 90% of pregnant women living with HIV in Papua New Guinea do not receive care to help prevent their unborn child from contracting the virus, according to the Clinical Director of the Clinton Health Initiative programme Dr Mobuma Kiromat. A programme being rolled out across the country to treat pregnant women living with HIV by giving them antiretroviral drugs from early in the pregnancy until after delivery can reduce the risk of the child becoming infected from 30% to 10%.

It is estimated that 0.9% of the population in Papua New Guinea is HIV positive, the highest rate in the Pacific region. Read more here.


Bride price to blame for violence in marriages in PNG

A senior police officer in Papua New Guinea says that 'bride price' is to blame for the high rates of violence in marriages. 

Minj police station commander Horim Piamia said that as a result of men paying a 'bride price' they viewed their wives as something they owned rather than as partners and felt they therefore had a right to beat their wives to 'teach them a lesson'. Piamia is calling for an end to the 'bride price' system. 

Tongan NGO applauds Cabinet's decision on violence against women

Tonga's Women and Children's Crisis Centre (WCCC) welcomes the news that the Cabinet in Tonga has approved the review of the existing legislation on violence against women and children. The news comes amidst the 16 days of activism against gender violence. 

The Director of WCCC Ofakilevuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki said of the news, " is critical that you have the commitment and the political will from our main decision makers because if government does not believe in what you are advocating for, it makes the activism that much harder – so it’s great to see that Cabinet in its decision has taken this step forward”.

Milestone for women in PNG as Equality and Participation Bill is passed in Parliament

To the relief of women all over Papua New Guinea, the country's Members of Parliament passed the Equality and Participation Bill in Parliament on 23. November by 72 votes to two.

The vote authorised the creation of women electorates in PNG, paving the way for 22 reserved seats for women in Parliament, allowing women to have a well-represented voice at the highest level. Currently, only one of the 109 seats in Parliament is held by a woman, Dame Carol Kidu, who sponsored the Bill.

However, before the seats can be in place by the 2012 election, an amendment to the organic law is required, which requires a two-thirds majority of 73 votes and must pass two separate readings. The voting for this will take place in March 2012.

Gender inequality stats in Papua New Guinea among worst in the world

The latest United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) 2011 Human Development Report shows that on the Gender Inequality Index Papua New Guinea is ranked 140 out of 146 countries, based on the following indicators: reproductive health, economic activity and empowerment.

The report was launched in Port Moresby on 23. November by UNDP. Read more here.

The Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation hosts workshop in Fiji

The Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation recently held a workshop in Fiji on the treatment and care of people living with HIV in the Pacific, and also introduced participants to research methods to explore experiences of treatment among people living with HIV. Read more here.

Women with disabilities vulnerable to gender-based violence

Participants at the recent 4-day National Network Meeting on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Suva, Fiji, heard how women with disabilities are among the most vulnerable to gender-based violence in Fiji and that services for these women need to be greatly improved.

The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre recently organised the National Network Meeting to enable knowledge to be shared among organisations working in the area and to work more effectively together.

Women in Vanuatu receive support from Australia

At the Pacific Women’s Empowerment Policy Dialogue Stopping Violence Against Women in Canberra, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs Richard Marles announced that the Australian government would provide the Vanuatu Women’s Centre AU$ 5 million over four years to deliver counselling and legal services and emergency accommodation for up to 15,000 survivors of violence.


Four women elected in Kiribati elections

The general elections in Kiribati took place in October and resulted in four female MPs being elected, namely MP Rereao Tetaake (Teraina in the Line Islands), MP Teima Onorio (Arorae), MP Tangariki Reete (Betio, South Tarawa) and MP Maere Tekanene (Tarawa Teinainano, South Tarawa).

The support for more female MPs from Kiribati’s President Anote Tong as well as the mock parliament that was held earlier in the year for female candidates have both been credited as playing a part in the successful candidates’ results.

Bill to prevent violence in Samoa

The Family Safety Bill was presented to the Samoan Cabinet in October in a bid to prevent violence against women and children in Samoa. The Bill focuses on prevention, protection through the courts and police, rehabilitation and counselling and gives special powers to police, health officials and educators to prevent violence.


Federated States of Micronesia’s first Millennium Development Goals report launched

In September, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) launched its first Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report, which the government hopes will help better inform their strategy and policy making with data and qualitative information.

The report shows that while the country is on course to achieve some of the goals, and has made good progress towards others, FSM is unlikely to achieve MDG 1 – to eradicate poverty, and MDG 5 – improve maternal health.

Historic day for human rights in Palau

On 20. September, during the United Nations Treaty Event in New York at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly, Palau’s President and Head of State, H.E. Johnson Toribiong showed his country’s commitment to human rights by signing eight core human rights treaties.

Palau is now a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CPED).

Separate polling booths at next election for women in PNG

Papua New Guinea’s Chief Electoral Commissioner, Andrew Trawen, has announced that women will have their own booths at the next general election in 2012.

This is in order to ensure secrecy and avoid voter intimidation – issues which have been problematic in past elections.

Family Planning Pacific Forum 15-16 November 2011

Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia, (SH&FPA) has been successful in gaining funding from the Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health, to coordinate a Pacific Regional Forum on implementing Family Planning in the Pacific. Family Planning NSW is coordinating this Forum on behalf of SH&FPA.

This Forum aims to bring together civil society organisations, government, international funding agencies and donors who are working in the Pacific towards the achievement of MDG5b: 'Achieve, by 2015, Universal Access to Reproductive Health'.

The two day Forum is being held from the 15-16 November 2011 at Family Planning NSW in Sydney, Australia.

The goal of the Forum is to enhance the achievement of MDG5b in the Pacific. Its objectives are to:

  • Build a common understanding of the key issues and challenges to universal access to reproductive health in the Pacific
  • Strengthen collaboration among civil society and with key donors on achieving universal access to reproductive health in the Pacific
  • Develop strategies including key recommendations for donors and civil society to address the challenges

The Forum will also provide an opportunity to share good practice and lessons learnt in programming and advocacy approaches across the Pacific. As an output, Family Planning NSW will coordinate the development of a database of activities and resources focused on MDG5b across the Pacific.

To register click here.

Samoan government wants more women in Parliament

Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi wants changes made to the Electoral Act to encourage more women to run for office, in the hope that there can be a better gender balance in Parliament by 2015, the deadline for the UN Millennium Development Goal targets. Samoa currently only has two female MPs out of a total of 49 MPs. The Cabinet has instructed the Attorney General's office to draw up amendements to the Act.

Third gender option in Australian passports

Next time Australians apply for their passport, they will have the option of a third gender to identify themselves. Under new guidelines, transgender people and those of ambiguous sex will be able to list their gender as indeterminate.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, welcomes the decision. “This is something that will be welcome news for many transgender and intersex people in Australia who from now on will not be required to undergo surgery or hormonal treatment in order to be able to express their gender identity,” the High Commissioner said.

Equality and Participation Bill before PNG Parliament

The new O'Neill-Namah government in Papua New Guinea is supporting the need for reserved seats for women in Parliament, by tabling the Equality and Participation Bill in Parliament in early September. Prime Minister O’Neill said the bill was a priority agenda item of government and that the issue was an important issue that had remained outstanding.

The only woman in Parliament in Papua New Guinea, Dame Carol Kidu, said women’s groups were delighted, but she remains concerned that the legislation may not get the required absolute majority support, due to the opposition MPs boycotting parliament.

Law Reform Commission in Samoa proposes decriminalising sodomy and adultery

Samoa’s Law Reform Commission is calling for a review of Samoa’s sodomy and adultery laws, stating that these are issues of morality and should be separate from legal issues. The Commission supports abolishing criminal penalties attached to sodomy and related acts when conducted in private between two consenting males. Likewise, the Commission does not consider adultery to be an offence.

The Tautua Opposition Party in Samoa has criticised the Commission’s proposals, stating that sodomy is a sin and the Commission is aiming to legalise same sex marriage, which is against the constitution’s Christian principles.

Mock Parliament for Women held in Marshall Islands

The second Mock Parliament for Women ever in the Pacific was held in the Marshalls Island on 2. September. In total 27 women participated in the Mock Parliament and the training leading up to it, six of which are currently running in the upcoming elections. Among the questions covered during question time was the issue of tackling the high levels of teen pregnancy in the country.

Following her participation in the Mock Parliament delegate Juana Leviticus Bellu noted, “I was not going to campaign for the upcoming local government elections but I am now, since going through this training. In our culture it can be hard for women to run against their uncles and brothers because we look up to them, but I will make sure I share this training with other women and encourage them to run for election as well.”

August 2011

People living with HIV in Asia-Pacific still face stigma and discrimination

At the 10th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), held in Busan, Republic of Korea, the report ‘People Living with HIV Stigma, Asia Pacific Region’ was launched, highlighting that stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV remains widespread throughout the region. Among other facts, the report stated that 16% of people in Fiji living with HIV have lost their jobs or income in the last twelve months.

Call for American Samoa's sex offenders registry to be strengthened

Amendments to American Samoa's sexual offenders registry have been proposed in an administration bill submitted to the Fono (Legislature) in August. In particular, the bill is proposing more information about the offenders to be included in the registry and the Department of Public Safety will be required to establish and maintain a public sex offender registry website.

Kiribati NGO addresses the role of alcohol in family violence

The women’s NGO, Te UKETI, in Kiribati held a two-day training in August to address the role of alcohol abuse in family violence. The training was delivered by Kiribati Alcoholics Anonymous and the Family Recovery Organisation and received funding support from UN Women.

According to a recent study on violence against women in Kiribati, alcohol is a contributing factor to family violence, and so the training looked at how individuals see themselves when they abuse alcohol.

Fiji police to tackle sex crimes

Due to an increase in the number of sexual crimes being reported in Fiji, the Fijian police force is stepping up efforts to prevent more children becoming victims, by launching a campaign in the country encouraging more open discussion on the issue.

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement welcomes the campaign, but is also concerned about the level of gender sensitisation within the police force and is urging the Police Commissioner to implement an extensive gender sensitisation training programme across all levels of the police force before embarking on the campaign.

Cook Islands provides free treatment for Chlamydia

The Ministry of Health in the Cook Islands provided free treatment for Chlamydia throughout the country for a whole week in August. The treatment programme was aimed at all people between the ages of twelve and fifty. It is estimated that one in four people in the Cook Islands are infected with the sexually transmissible infection.

YWCA Aotearoa New Zealand launches 'Pacific Young Women's Leadership Strategy'

The YWCA World Council in Zurich launched the 'Safe. Respected. Included. Connected. Skilled: A Pacific Young Women's Leadership Strategy' in early August.

The strategy was developed after consultations with young women in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Australia, Solomon Islands and New Zealand and with remote input from Tonga and Bougainville, an expert reference group of representatives from regional organisations, including the Commonwealth Youth Programme, Pacific Youth Council, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, New Zealand Family Planning, Leadership Solomon Islands and Fem’LINKPACIFIC, as well as key UN Agencies, amongst which UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNFPA, and UNESCO, were invited to further develop the strategy.

The report highlights five key areas for work to ensure women and girls are:

  • safe and involved in peace and security issues
  • respected and respect themselves with their cultures
  • included in important conversations
  • connected and sharing skills particularly through intergenerational dialogue and mentoring
  • accessing education and training and meaningful work

Family Planning International is very pleased that sexual and reproductive health and rights has been recognised as a key issue. Download the report here.

Solomon Island woman receives International Women of Courage Award

Solomon Island woman Piono Boso was awarded the US Secretary of State Award for International Women of Courage on 5th August for her work leading a nation-wide survey documenting the prevalence of violence against women and child abuse in the Solomon Islands.

Because of Ms Boso’s work, the Solomon Islands Cabinet adopted two important national policies - the Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy and the National Policy to Eliminate Violence against Women. Ms Boso is a single mother of four children.

I-Kiribati women participate in mock parliament

The Kiribati National Assembly has hosted its first ever mock parliament for women after a three-day preparatory workshop. With national elections coming up in Kiribati, the mock parliament provided potential female candidates with an opportunity to develop and apply their public advocacy skills.

The final session of the day saw the tabling of the Youth Reproductive Health Rights Bill by Hon Moia Tetoa. The Bill proposes a requirement that free condoms be provided in government primary and secondary schools and for sex education classes to be compulsory for students over 8 years of age.

The divisive Bill was fiercely debated by participants. The Kiribati Parliament and the Kiribati Department of Women led the training and Mock Parliament for Women, and were supported by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme with additional funding from the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.

July 2011

Women’s leaders from around the world to meet in Fiji

Fiji’s National Council of Women will be hosting approximately 100 women’s leaders from around the world in Nadi in November this year. The theme of the meeting will be Women in Agriculture, focusing on the challenges women face as a result of climate change and natural disasters, such as food shortages and rising food prices.

Pacific Society for Reproductive Health holds 9th biennial meeting in Solomon Islands

From the 5th - 8th July, the Pacific Society for Reproductive Health held their 9th biennial scientific meeting in Honiara, with the theme Maternal Health Matters – accelerating progress towards MDG 4 and 5 targets.

The Chair of the NZ Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development (NZPPD), Dr. Jackie Blue, was invited to speak at the conference on NZPPD’s work with maternal health issues in the Pacific, and their report Making Maternal Health Matter. The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Hon. Danny Philip, spoke at the opening of the meeting and acknowledged the hard work and commitment of doctors, nurses and midwives who help save lives every day in the country.

Solomon Islands PM supports the need for more women in parliament

In his Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Hon Danny Philip, reiterated his commitment to addressing the lack of female MPs in the country through temporary special measures.

The Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs in the Solomon Islands will be working to push for reserved seats for women and intends to consult widely among women’s groups .

Nationwide census in Papua New Guinea

On 11 July, which was also World Population Day, Papua New Guinea commenced their nationwide population and housing census, organised by Papua New Guinea’s National Statistical Office. The census is held once every 10 years and was due to take place in 2010, but funding and logistical issues forced its postponement. Some 37,000 interviewers and supervisors were recruited for the task.

More female officials important for reducing domestic violence in the Pacific says UN official

The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General of UN Women, John Hendra, was in Fiji in July to launch the Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012 report. While in Fiji, Mr Hendra commented on the high levels of domestic violence in the Pacific region and stated that increasing women’s participation in politics, the judiciary and law enforcement could reduce domestic violence incidences. “Where there are much higher levels of women in the police force, there’s correspondingly much higher levels of reporting of domestic violence, where there are greater numbers of women parliamentarians there tends to be much more progressive laws and outcomes in terms of social protection” said Mr Hendra.