Regional

‘If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done’.

Ms Dorosday Kenneth, Director, Department of Women’s Affairs Vanuatu.1

The Pacific region is vast and culturally diverse. Pacific Island Countries face many common challenges, mostly related to geographic isolation, small dispersed populations and limited natural resources.2

Pacific women are innovative, resilient and industrious. Despite experiencing high levels of violence from partners and family members, a lack of economic and leadership opportunities and unequal power relations in their everyday lives, Pacific women have made significant contributions to the region. There is a growing recognition among governments and the private sector that investing in women and girls has a powerful effect on economic growth and wellbeing.3 

Leadership and Decision Making

Women’s political representation in the Pacific is the lowest in the world. Traditional beliefs about gender roles, women’s limited social capital, and a lack of support from political bodies has been identified as restricting progress towards fuller participation of women in public life.4

The Inter-Parliamentary Union reports the world average of elected members to be 23.6 per cent for women5 but in the Pacific the proportion of women in National Parliaments is 7.5 per cent (excluding Australia and New Zealand).6 However, rates of women in local level government however show higher representation at a regional average of 14.8 per cent.7

Women show significantly higher participation in senior management and decision-making positions in both the public and private sector. Latest statistics from the Asian Development Bank show strong representation from women in management positions in Cook Islands (48 per cent), Samoa (47 per cent), Niue (38 per cent), Kiribati (36 per cent) and Nauru (36 per cent).8

Economic Empowerment

Across the Pacific, men outnumber women in paid employment outside the agricultural sector by approximately two to one.9 Countries with the highest proportion of women employed in the non-agricultural sector include Cook Islands (47.3 per cent), Kiribati (47.4 per cent) and Tonga (47.9 per cent).810

Many countries rely on the agriculture sector, with a large proportion of men and women engaged in subsistence work, particularly those in rural areas.11 For example, it is estimated that 80 per cent of households in Papua New Guinea and more than 75 per cent of the population in Vanuatu rely on the informal economy.12

The Pacific is one of the least banked regions in the world. In some Pacific countries, it is estimated that less than 10 per cent of the population have access to basic financial services.13 Compared to men, Pacific women are further excluded from formal financial systems. This is due to lower awareness, information and access to financial tools and products.14

Ending Violence Against Women

Entrenched cultural and social norms continue to contribute to the stereotype that violence against women is acceptable.15

Anecdotal evidence suggests there has been progress, albeit uneven, in providing services for survivors of violence, with a number of regional studies paving the way for a much deeper understanding of the issues related to access to services in respective countries of study.

Eleven Pacific Island Countries16 have conducted national prevalence studies on violence against women. These studies have found prevalence rates in the Pacific to be higher than most other countries of the world.17 Data indicates that nearly two-thirds of women in Kiribati (68 per cent), Fiji (64 per cent), and Solomon Islands (64 per cent) have lifetime experience of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. The rates are also high in Vanuatu (60 per cent), Republic of the Marshall Islands (51 per cent), and Nauru (48 per cent). Emotional violence by an intimate partner is also widespread, with the two highest lifetime rates in Vanuatu (68 per cent) and Fiji (58 per cent).18

Enhancing Agency

Most Pacific Island Countries have national gender policies, but the human and financial resources dedicated to their implementation are often insufficient.19

All but two Pacific Island Countries have ratified20 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which is a commitment by States to undertake all appropriate measures to ensure the full development and advancement of women.21

At the 2012 Pacific Island Forum Leaders meeting, leaders expressed their deep concern about the status of women and girls in the region. This concern moved all to endorse the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, a Declaration that supports the political, social and economic advancement of women and girls.22

Key Statistics

Leadership and Decision Making

7.5 per cent women’s representation in 14 Forum Island Countries National Parliaments.23

14.8 per cent women’s representation in 14 Forum Island Countries Local Governments.24

34.2 per cent is the regional average for senior management positions held by women in the public sector.25


 Economic Empowerment

Economic Empowerment

Less than 10 per cent (estimate) of the population have access to basic financial services.26

Across the Pacific, men outnumber women in paid employment (outside the agricultural sector) by approximately two to one.27


Ending Violence Against Women

Ending Violence Against Women

More than 60 per cent of surveyed women and girls in most Pacific countries have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or family member.28


Enhancing Agency

All 14 Forum Island Countries, except two, have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.29

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, the Australian Government will spend approximately $142 million over 10 years (2012–2022) on regional and multi-country initiatives supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment. More information on the partnership and nature of support is included in the Pacific Women Regional Activities Summary. Details on activities currently underway with various partners is available via our interactive map. The list of program partners can be found here.

Further Information

Stories of Change


Review of counselling services for survivors of violence in the Pacific

Quality counselling is a key service in supporting survivors of violence against women. To better understand the status of counselling in the region, Pacific Women conducted a review of counselling services in 14 countries. Ten of the 14 countries mandate the provision of counselling in national legislation against sexual and/or family violence.

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Whole of government responsibility for gender mainstreaming

The Progressing Gender Equality in the Pacific program supports governments to improve their capacity to mainstream gender equality considerations and responses and to collect and analyse gender statistics to monitor their progress towards gender equality. An evaluation conducted in the second half of 2016 found that the program is achieving positive and demonstrable gains and remains highly relevant.

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Voices from the vendors

In just over three years, UN Women’s Markets for Change (M4C) project has made substantial progress towards achieving its outcomes. The best people to explain how the project is supporting different facets of women’s economic empowerment across three Pacific countries are the market vendors themselves.

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Pacific feminists working for change

The inaugural Pacific Feminist Forum brought together feminists, women human rights defenders and gender equality advocates from across the Pacific. Participants joined in three days of networking, sharing and learning and launched the Pacific Feminists Charter for Change—a document that captures Pacific feminist perspectives and priorities.

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<p><br /></p><p class=”p1″><em><span class=”s1″>‘If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done’.</span></em></p><h6 class=”p2″><span class=”s1″><b>Ms Dorosday Kenneth, Director, Department of Women’s Affairs Vanuatu.<sup>1</sup></b></span></h6>
<span class=”s1″>The Pacific region is vast and culturally diverse. Pacific Island Countries face many common challenges, mostly related to geographic isolation, small dispersed populations and limited natural resources.<sup>2</sup></span><span class=”s1″>Pacific women are innovative, resilient and industrious. Despite experiencing high levels of violence from partners and family members, a lack of economic and leadership opportunities and unequal power relations in their everyday lives, Pacific women have made significant contributions to the region. There is a growing recognition among governments and the private sector that investing in women and girls has a powerful effect on economic growth and wellbeing.<sup>3</sup> </span>Leadership and Decision Making<span class=”s1″>Women’s political representation in the Pacific is the lowest in the world. Traditional beliefs about gender roles, women’s limited social capital, and a lack of support from political bodies has been identified as restricting progress towards fuller participation of women in public life.<sup>4</sup> </span><span class=”s1″>The Inter-Parliamentary Union reports the world average of elected members to be 23.6 per cent for women<sup>5</sup> but in the Pacific the proportion of women in National Parliaments is 7.5 per cent (excluding Australia and New Zealand).<sup>6</sup> However, rates of women in local level government however show higher representation at a regional average of 14.8 per cent.<sup>7</sup></span><span class=”s1″>Women show significantly higher participation in senior management and decision-making positions in both the public and private sector. Latest statistics from the Asian Development Bank show strong representation from women in management positions in Cook Islands (48 per cent), Samoa (47 per cent), Niue (38 per cent), Kiribati (36 per cent) and Nauru (36 per cent).<sup>8</sup></span>Economic Empowerment<span class=”s1″>Across the Pacific, men outnumber women in paid employment outside the agricultural sector by approximately two to one.<sup>9</sup> Countries with the highest proportion of women employed in the non-agricultural sector include Cook Islands (47.3 per cent), Kiribati (47.4 per cent) and Tonga (47.9 per cent).<sup>810</sup></span><span class=”s1″>Many countries rely on the agriculture sector, with a large proportion of men and women engaged in subsistence work, particularly those in rural areas.<sup>11</sup> For example, it is estimated that 80 per cent of households in Papua New Guinea and more than 75 per cent of the population in Vanuatu rely on the informal economy.<sup>12</sup></span><span class=”s1″>The Pacific is one of the least banked regions in the world. In some Pacific countries, it is estimated that less than 10 per cent of the population have access to basic financial services.<sup>13</sup> Compared to men, Pacific women are further excluded from formal financial systems. This is due to lower awareness, information and access to financial tools and products.<sup>14</sup></span>Ending Violence Against Women<span class=”s1″>Entrenched cultural and social norms continue to contribute to the stereotype that violence against women is acceptable.<sup>15</sup></span><span class=”s1″>Anecdotal evidence suggests there has been progress, albeit uneven, in providing services for survivors of violence, with a number of regional studies paving the way for a much deeper understanding of the issues related to access to services in respective countries of study.</span><span class=”s1″>Eleven Pacific Island Countries<sup>16</sup> have conducted national prevalence studies on violence against women. These studies have found prevalence rates in the Pacific to be higher than most other countries of the world.<sup>17</sup> Data indicates that nearly two-thirds of women in Kiribati (68 per cent), Fiji (64 per cent), and Solomon Islands (64 per cent) have lifetime experience of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. The rates are also high in Vanuatu (60 per cent), Republic of the Marshall Islands (51 per cent), and Nauru (48 per cent). Emotional violence by an intimate partner is also widespread, with the two highest lifetime rates in Vanuatu (68 per cent) and Fiji (58 per cent).<sup>18</sup></span>Enhancing Agency<span class=”s1″>Most Pacific Island Countries have national gender policies, but the human and financial resources dedicated to their implementation are often insufficient.<sup>19</sup></span><span class=”s1″>All but two Pacific Island Countries have ratified<sup>20</sup></span> <span class=”s1″>the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which is a commitment by States to undertake all appropriate measures to ensure the full development and advancement of women.<sup>21</sup></span><span class=”s1″>At the 2012 Pacific Island Forum Leaders meeting, leaders expressed their deep concern about the status of women and girls in the region. This concern moved all to endorse the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, a Declaration that supports the political, social and economic advancement of women and girls.<sup>22</sup></span>Key StatisticsLeadership and Decision Making<img class=”size-full wp-image-452 alignleft” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Leadership-infographic.png” alt=”” width=”120″ height=”125″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Leadership-infographic.png” /><span class=”s2″><b>7.5 per cent</b> women’s representation in 14 Forum Island Countries National Parliaments.<span class=”s1″><sup>23</sup></span></span><span class=”s2″><b>14.8 per cent</b> women’s representation in 14 Forum Island Countries Local Governments.<span class=”s1″><sup>24</sup></span></span><span class=”s2″><b>34.2 per cent</b> is the regional average for senior management positions held by women in the public sector.<span class=”s1″><sup>25</sup></span></span><br /><br /> Economic Empowerment<img class=”wp-image-2544 size-full alignleft” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EE.gif” alt=”Economic Empowerment” width=”120″ height=”100″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EE.gif” /><span class=”s2″><strong>Less than 10 per cent</strong> (estimate) of the population have access to basic financial services.<span class=”s1″><sup>26</sup></span></span><span class=”s2″>Across the Pacific, men outnumber women in paid employment (outside the agricultural sector) by approximately two to one.<span class=”s1″><sup>27</sup></span></span><br /><br />Ending Violence Against Women<img class=”wp-image-2545 size-full alignleft” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EVAW.gif” alt=”Ending Violence Against Women” width=”120″ height=”140″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EVAW.gif” /><span class=”s2″>More than <b>60 per cent of surveyed women and girls</b> in most Pacific countries have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or family member</span><span class=”s3″>.<span class=”s1″><sup>28</sup></span></span><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Enhancing Agency<img class=”size-full wp-image-450 alignleft” src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EnhancingAgency-infographic.png” alt=”” width=”120″ height=”100″ data-mce-src=”https://pacificwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/EnhancingAgency-infographic.png” /><span class=”s2″>All 14 Forum Island Countries, except two, have ratified the <strong>Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women</strong>.<span class=”s1″><sup>29</sup></span></span><br /><br /><span class=”s1″><i>Note: Statistics in this section are from the </i><a href=”https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/181270/gender-statistics-pacific-tim.pdf” data-mce-href=”https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/181270/gender-statistics-pacific-tim.pdf”><span class=”s2″><i>Asian Development Bank (2016) Gender Statistics: The Pacific and Timor Leste</i></span></a></span><i> </i><span class=”s1″><i>report unless otherwise stated.</i></span> 
<span class=”s1″>Through <i>Pacific Women</i>, the Australian Government will spend approximately AU$142 million over ten years (2012-2022) on regional and multi-country initiatives supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Approximately AU$35.8 million has been spent delivering activities during the period FY2012-2013 to FY2015-2016. More information on partnerships and the scope of support is included in the <a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/key-pacific-women-resources/regional-activities-summary/” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/key-pacific-women-resources/regional-activities-summary/”><span class=”s2″><i>Pacific Women</i> Regional Activities Summary 2013-2016</span></a></span><span class=”s2″>.</span><span class=”s1″> Details on activities currently underway with various partners is available via our <a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/map/” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/map/”><span class=”s2″>interactive map</span></a>. The list of program partners can be found <a href=”https://pacificwomen.org/about-us/partners/” data-mce-href=”https://pacificwomen.org/about-us/partners/”><span class=”s2″>here</span></a>.</span><br /><br />Further Information<li class=”li1″><span class=”s1″><a href=”http://www.aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/publication/Pacific_Leaders_Gender_Equality_Declaration_2016.pdf” data-mce-href=”http://www.aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/publication/Pacific_Leaders_Gender_Equality_Declaration_2016.pdf”><span class=”s2″>Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016</span></a></span></li><br /><li class=”li1″><span class=”s3″><a href=”https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/181270/gender-statistics-pacific-tim.pdf” data-mce-href=”https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/181270/gender-statistics-pacific-tim.pdf”><span class=”s2″>Asian Development Bank (2016) Gender Statistics: The Pacific and Timor Leste</span></a></span></li><br /><li class=”li1″><span class=”s3″><span class=”s2″><a href=”https://genderstats.un.org/#/countries” data-mce-href=”https://genderstats.un.org/#/countries”>United Nations Statistics Division, Minimum Set of Gender Indicators</a></span></span></li>