Women discuss gender equality

Thirty stakeholders from across government, civil society organisations and development partners attended a one-day consultation to discuss the challenges and achievements in implementing the Government’s national gender equality and women’s development policy.

The government policy was endorsed in 2010 and expires at the end of 2015.

“We recognise the Ministry for Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs (MWYCFA) has technical and capacity constraints and we recognise that we cannot fully and effectively implement our gender equality commitments without the support of all our stakeholders,”the ministry’s acting permanent secretary Hugo Hebala said.

“However, we value your honest and frank feedback as we need to know what we as a government are doing well, what we need to strengthen, what we need to change and what can be done by our key partners on the ground, our civil society organisations,” Mr Hebala added.

Despite challenges, stakeholders recognised the achievements made by the ministry such as the enactment of the Family Protection Act after many years of lobbying, advocacy and programming by the ministry and other stakeholders.

Recognising sentiments expressed by the global gender community, Mr Hebala reminded stakeholders the need be clear that the realisation of the policy no matter how good it is, will not come to fruition if there is no freedom from violence.

“Freedom from violence is an absolute minimum condition to promote gender equality and women’s rights.

“No amount of equality and empowerment can be realised – if we don’t end violence and fear of violence,” he said.

The review of this policy was timely.

The national government has just reported on big gender commitments such as the recent tabling of the first, second and third periodic report to the UN CEDAW Committee and the regional and national review of the Beijing Platform for Action.

“These two processes allowed government to stocktake from a much broader gender platform some of the progress and challenges and to critically look at some emerging gender issues – emerging in the sense, these gender issues are not reflected in our government strategies,” Mr Hebala said.

“Some of these issues include depletion of our natural resources through logging and its social and gender impact on communities,” he said.

Civil society organisations welcomed the review and the consultation process but highlighted the need for government to strengthen its reporting mechanisms and its capacity to report accurately and substantially on gender issues in the Solomon Islands.

The review of the national policy was undertaken by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and involved extensive consultations in Honiara with government agencies, development partners and civil society organisations.

Three provincial consultations will be undertaken by the Ministry before finalisation at the end of 2015.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community facilitates periodic gender mainstreaming and gender statistics training including the review of national gender policies upon the request of member countries.

This initiative is an activity under the Progressing Gender Equality in the Pacific (PGEP) programme funded by Australian Aid (DFAT) under the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program. The PGEP is managed and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in collaboration with the Pacific Island governments.