‘With empowerment comes creating one’s own professional and personal destiny and that is what we wish for all women in the Pacific and globally.’
Ms Ida Talagi-Hekesi, Niue Chamber of Commerce Executive Member.1
While no time-use surveys have been undertaken for Niue, anecdotal reports highlight that in the majority of families, women spend more time than men caring for children, the sick and the elderly, and that they also spend more hours cooking and cleaning than men do. This is the case whether or not both partners work outside the home and/or in unpaid agricultural work. Women have less free time to enjoy leisure activities, engage in community and national decision-making processes, and look after their own health. A stocktake of the Government’s gender mainstreaming capacity, undertaken by the Pacific Community (SPC) in 2015, found that while the Government had a draft national policy on gender equality, there was a lack of awareness on gender quality challenges and that there was limited resources and technical capacity to address these challenges.2 Less than one per cent of the national budget allocated is to the Department of Women.3
There is however, high participation of women in the non-agricultural sector (46 per cent)4 and good representation of women in the National Parliament (25 per cent).5 Niue has updated its school curriculum to address gender stereotypes. Girls in Niue tend to be slightly ahead of boys in educational achievement. When it comes to health care, there are free reproductive health services although accessibility remains a challenge, especially for young people.6 The status of maternal health is noted to be relatively good with no cases of women dying in childbirth since the early 1980’s.7 This has been attributed to the high standard of health services provided for mothers in Niue through maternal and community awareness. Niue has a health referral system to New Zealand.8
Leadership and Decision Making
Niue is leading the Pacific with the highest percentage of women in the National Parliament (excluding Australia and New Zealand).10 Women have been represented in Parliament since the Niue Legislative Assembly was first established in 1974, although have never held more than five of the 20 seats. Women are however under-represented in senior management level in the public service.
As strong gender stereotypes prevail as to what constitutes women and men’s roles, women take on the majority of family responsibilities. This has created an inequitable participation in the labour force and food production. There is currently a shortage of male nurses and primary school teachers in Niue. Likewise, women are under-represented in some professions and trades. Traditionally in Niue, there has been a clear division of labour in agriculture and fisheries. However, with modern technology and educational opportunities, the rationale for this division of labour no longer applies. The draft national policy on gender equality stresses the importance of both women and men participating in all aspects of subsistence food production and among other things also supports the development of entrepreneurial skills for women.11
Ending Violence Against Women
While the prevalence of domestic violence has not been surveyed, data from the police and health services indicate that both physical and psychological abuse are present in Niue, although most cases go formally unreported.12 Anecdotal evidence suggests that the community response to violence tends to be managed within the village or extended family network. On the rare occasions when complaints of sexual violations are made, they have either been withdrawn by the family (not the victim), or political intervention has been made on the offender’s behalf and caused the case to be dropped.13 In the one case, spanning over a decade, where the victim’s family did decide to pursue a charge of sexual violation, the victim’s family were so badly ostracised they left the country.14 There is also evidence to suggest that sexual assault of children under 15 is common but there is lack of reporting to police and lack of formal condemnation. There are safe houses and counselling support services in Niue.16
Progress in addressing this is underway with the drafting of the Family Law Bill which offers protection from family based violence for women and children. The Government of Niue, with support from SPC’s Regional Rights Resource Team is developing the legislation and have held a series of consultations with stakeholders.17
There are few laws to support women in Niue. Niue has agreed to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), but only through ratification by New Zealand. In 2001, a recommendation was made for Niue to undergo a CEDAW compliance assessment to identify the extent to which Niue meets CEDAW indicators, with a focus on legislative compliance and non-discrimination. A draft report highlighted significant shortcomings in existing legislation. For example, there are no constitutional protections against discrimination on the grounds of sex. The Constitution was established during colonial times and has not been updated to keep pace with changes in New Zealand law. The gaps and challenges are noted in the draft national policy on gender equality. The draft policy identifies specific constraints related to the lack of awareness on gender equality, including a lack of technical capacity in undertaking the work, limited availability of sex-disaggregated data, the absence of systems to coordinate and monitor gender mainstreaming efforts, and inadequate funding to progress the work.18
Leadership and Decision Making
25 per cent of Niue’s National Parliament is made up of women (5 out of 20 members).19
38.2 per cent of management and decision-making positions are held by women.20
61 per cent of women participate in the labour force (includes formal and informal economy).
8 per cent gender gap in the labour force participation rate (male to female).
Ending Violence Against Women
Data from the police and health departments indicate both physical and psychological abuse are present in Niue.21
Niue adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) when New Zealand ratified in 1985. Niue’s draft policy on gender equality recommends that a CEDAW compliance assessment be undertaken.22
22.6 per cent is the contraceptive prevalence rate of women aged between 15-49.
100 is the Gender Parity Index for secondary school enrolment (gross) in 2014 – for every 100 boys enrolled, there were 100 girls enrolled.
Note: Statistics in this section are from the Asian Development Bank (2016) Gender Statistics: The Pacific and Timor Leste report unless otherwise stated.
Partnership with Pacific Women
Through Pacific Women’s regional program, the Australian Government supports gender equality and women’s empowerment in Niue. Details of initiatives can be viewed via our interactive map under regional activities.
- SPC Stocktake of the Gender Mainstreaming Capacity of Pacific Island Governments (2015) Niue
- Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Niue Gender Profile
- Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016
- United Nations Statistics Division, Minimum Set of Gender Indicators
Stories of Change
The Hon Va’aiga Tukuitonga has been a Member of Parliament in Niue for 17 years and attended her third PWPP project annual forum in Apia in 2016.READ MORE
SPC RRRT is continuing working with the Government of Niue through the Ministry of Social Services in developing a revised draft of the Family Law Bill that reflects the needs identified for Niue through the consultations, as well as socialising the ideas covered by the Bill to facilitate a smooth journey of the draft legislation through the law making procREAD MORE
1Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (2015) First Progress Report 2012-2015
2SPC Stocktake of the Gender Mainstreaming Capacity of Pacific Island Governments (2015) Niue
3Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016
5Pacific Women in Politics as at May 2017
6Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016
7Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Niue Gender Profile
9Pacific Women in Politics as at May 2017
10Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016
11Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Niue Gender Profile
13UNIFEM (2010) Ending Violence Against Women and Girls: Evidence, Data and Knowledge in the Pacific Islands Countries
16Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016
17Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (2016) Annual Progress Report 2015-2016
18Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Niue Gender Profile
19Pacific Women in Politics as at May 2017
20Managerial positions include politicians, senior government officials, and corporate and general managers in the public and private sector.
21Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Niue Gender Profile
22Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Niue Gender Profile. Note: Niue’s draft policy on gender equality recommends that a CEDAW compliance assessment be undertaken to clarify the benefits and implications of ratification in reference to the reporting processes, financial contribution, financial assistance and potential support.