Enhancing Agency

Efforts to enhance women’s agency need to work at multiple levels, to help create an enabling environment where a woman’s right to make decisions about her own life is recognised, where women are economically empowered and where women and children are safe from all forms of violence.

This can be challenging in the Pacific, where social norms and attitudes are based on complex gendered hierarchies that keep women disempowered. Understanding these context specific norms is essential to achieving change. Formal structures, such as policy and legislative frameworks, also discriminate against women. For example, legal barriers exist in the majority of countries across the Pacific including laws that constrain women’s ability to exercise their economic, social and political rights, as well as silent gaps in legislation, or references in legislation to discriminatory customary law. In particular, women face discrimination both informally and overtly, when it comes to land, marital property and inheritance.

In this context, amplifying women’s voice and supporting their ability to act against this discrimination is critical. This is why Pacific Women is funding activities with a primary focus on enhancing agency and supporting an enabling environment. These include a large focus on research, with activities aimed at understanding the many dynamics contributing to gender inequality, so the program can collectively understand how best to address these complex problems. Other activities underway focus on building the capacity of national women’s machineries and women’s organisations to support legislative and policy reform. Enhancing agency also includes activities that support coalitions to build a local understanding of solutions for change and activities working with men. Pacific Women supports these activities in recognition that enhancing women’s agency involves directly supporting catalytic women leaders, their organisations as well as coalitions for change.

Understanding what action can drive change, and who can catalyse change is important. An example of this work is a collaboration with the Pacific Leadership Program (PLP), where Pacific Women has identified women from civil society, government and the private sector who are already leading change in their communities, to undertake further training in adaptive leadership. Adaptive leadership skills enable individuals and groups to thrive in complex environments, particularly those undergoing a gradual, but meaningful process of change.

Pacific Women’s approach to enhancing agency recognises that change is already occurring, but often further support is needed to scale up and amplify this work. The We Rise Coalition is an example of this. Through Pacific Women’s support, the We Rise Coalition was able to expand its work from a partnership of two organisations to a coalition of four organisations working across Fiji, Australia and the region. These four organisations work together as Pacific and Australian feminists, recognising that the whole is greater than the sum of their parts. Together, they have made progress on policy reform, human rights and women’s leadership, as well contributing to a stronger regional women’s movement.

For more information on Pacific Women-funded activities underway with various partners in this area, visit our interactive map.

Stories of Change


Empowering Women and Girls with Disabilities

Ms Lanieta Tuimabu is the Office Manager for the Fiji Disabled People’s Federation (FDPF) and a Board Member of the Pacific Disability Forum. Through a variety of projects sponsored by Pacific Women, Ms Tuimabu has been an active influencer in ensuring protection and advancement of women and girls with disabilities.

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Ra Naari Parishad – An Important Hub for the Women of Rakiraki

Ra Naari Parishad is a local community-based organisation that supports the economic empowerment, leadership and involvement of women in decision-making. In 2016, Pacific Women supported the organisation in setting up an office. According to Ms Pillay, President of the Ra Naari Parishad, this support was very important for the organisation to progress its work.

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Cook Islands using Smart Infographs to Explain Gender Statistics

Quality statistics help everybody in a project cycle. However, data is only as good as our ability to understand, interpret and use the information that is presented. Through the PGEP program, Pacific Women is supporting work in the Cook Islands to improve the analysis and presentation of gender statistics, with the aim of making them accessible, interesting and ready for a wide range of uses.

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Harnessing the Power of Coalitions

Four organisations have demonstrated that by working together as a coalition, they can increase their reach and impact. The vision of the We Rise Coalition is a Pacific where there is gender justice, ecological sustainability, peace, freedom, equality and human rights for all.

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