Outcome Statement: Pacific Parliamentarians Explore Women’s Economic Empowerment

Author/s: Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships (PWPP) Project)


PWPP 2016 Forum Outcomes Statement

The fourth Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum was held in Apia, Samoa between 4-7 April 2016.

The Forum, hosted by the Samoan Parliament, funded by the Australian Government and coordinated by the Australian Parliament and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade brought together 60 parliamentarians from 21 parliaments in the Pacific Region including: Autonomous Region of Bougainville (Papua New Guinea); Australia; Cook Islands; Federated States of Micronesia; Fiji; Kiribati; Marshall Islands; Nauru; New South Wales; New Zealand; Niue; Northern Territory; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Queensland; Samoa; the Solomon Islands; South Australia; Tokelau; Tonga; and Victoria. There were also observers from Vanuatu. While the majority of delegates were Pacific women parliamentarians, eight male members of parliament also attended the Forum.

Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AM, also attended the Forum representing the Australian Government. She spoke on the positive contribution the PWPP Forums are making to ensure Pacific women’s equal involvement in public life and how vital it is that MPs use their voices to support other Pacific women and men who are advocating for gender equality and transformation at local, national and regional levels.

At this year’s Forum parliamentarians explored women’s economic empowerment in the Pacific. Discussions were held about the role of legislators in supporting women’s economic empowerment and the positive flow on effects for families, communities and nations when women are able to participate fully in the economy.

The Forum was opened in the Samoan Parliament with an official ava ceremony and cocktail party hosted by the Samoan Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese.

The Plenary sessions commenced with a welcome address by video from the Hon Julie Bishop MP, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, addressed the Forum on the recent Samoan election and the implementation of temporary special measures guaranteeing women ten percent of the seats in the Samoan Parliament.

Dr Vijaya Narajan, from the Asian Development Bank presented a paper to the Forum outlining the issues facing women in the informal and formal business sectors in the Pacific.

Delegates then heard from prominent Pacific business women, Ms Lesieli Taviri and Ms Peseta Margaret Malua and parliamentarians from business backgrounds, the Hon Freda Soricomua Tuki (Solomon Islands) and Ms Tracy Davis, MP (Australia) about the challenges they faced as women in business and the strategies they used to build their businesses in the formal sector.

Presentation were made by Ms Andie Tong Foy, Deputy Secretary-General of the Pacific lsland Forum Secretariat and Dr Audrey Aumua, Deputy Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to explain the work of their organisations in support of Women’s Economic Empowerment at National and Regional levels in the Pacific.

Recognition was given to the role of women in the informal business sector and delegates heard from Cook Islands Deputy Speaker, the Hon Vainetutai Rose Brown, Ms Adimaimalaga Tafunai, Executive Director of Women in Business Development Inc, in Samoa and Mr Alatina Ioelu, Director of the Samoan Small Business Enterprise Centre.

The role of the Finance sector was also explored with presentations made by women leaders of three Samoan financial institutions: Ms Maryann Lameko, Head of the Bank of the South Pacific; Ms Faumuina Esther Lameka Poutoa, CEO of the National Provident Fund; and Ms Susana Laulu, Chief Executive Officer of the Development Bank of Samoa.

Parliamentarians play an important role in communities as advocates and as leaders and in the final plenary session delegates discussed the importance of establishing and developing coalitions of support for women. Ms Tuiloma Sina Retzlaff from the Pacific Leadership Program, addressed the plenary about her work encouraging women in the community and Senator Anne McEwen (Australia), Senator Rukebai Kikuo Skey-Inabo (Palau) and Ms Poto Williams, MP (New Zealand) shared their experiences supporting women in and out of parliament to become involved, make a contribution and ensure their voices are heard.

At the end of the Forum delegates had the opportunity to make a visit to one of two Samoan initiatives that support women’s economic empowerment. They chose between the Women in Business Development Inc. that enables small producers to access international markets and The Poutasi Development Trust that engages in the social, cultural and educational development of Poutasi Village and its people.

After each session delegates at the Forum spent time in small groups discussing the issues raised in the plenary presentations and on the last day agreed to the following statement:

Women’s economic empowerment is important to national development because women and girls comprise half of the people in our communities and as women’s incomes rise they spend proportionately more on their children’s education, nutrition and housing and this contributes to economic development and prosperity on a national level. Therefore it is in Pacific nations’ interests to commit to the following priority actions identified by delegates and the PWPP forum:

1) Legislative Protection for Women

Recognising that women’s economic empowerment and gender equity go hand in hand, legislation to protect women from violence and exploitation is a necessary precondition.

Legislation should also recognise women’s right to inherit and trade property and conduct business, including borrowing and making other financial commitments, in their own right.

2) Access to Finance

Women’s economic empowerment cannot be a reality until women can access business and personal finance on the same terms as men. A range of measures will be necessary to achieve this and they will require the commitment of both governments and the financial sector. These measures will include the following:

  • Recommend compliance audit of banks’ lending policies to ensure that lending practices are consistent with women’s rights and the actual risks faced by banks;
  • Incentives for banks to lend to women and for banks to develop innovative products for the formal and informal business sectors;
  • Support for the establishment of community banks, banking cooperatives, women’s banks and other banking models that suit local circumstances;
  • Expanding the definition of assets to include cultural and community assets and expanding the range of documentary evidence to include a wider range of evidence in credit applications, such as rent receipts, which may determine financial viability; and
  • Include whole families in financial literacy education programs for women so that her family is supportive of her business and financial obligations.

3) Skills Training

To develop women’s financial literacy and other skills to enable them to participate fully in the economy.

  • Governments and the financial sector should cooperate to provide financial literacy education, grants and mentoring programs, which, where appropriate, provide whole of family education as well as school programs; and
  • Governments should also provide skills training in marketing, negotiation skills and mentoring programs to help women develop ideas into business opportunities and to grow their businesses.

4) Attitudinal Change

Technical and legislative reform needs to be complemented by attitudinal change to address behaviours and cultural barriers to women’s full economic participation.

  • Governments will need to ensure that legislative change is supported by programs that bring about gradual and meaningful attitudinal change to support women‘s equal right to inherit and deal in property and address other social norms which limit women’s capacity to participate fully in the economy.

 5) Partnerships and Cooperation

As women Members of Parliament we commit to supporting the rights of other women to participate in all economic, political and social activities. We also commit to leading and supporting women in the community to access their rights and realise their full potential.

  • Government should provide support and education to assist businesses in the informal sector to meet regulatory requirements, such as export and quarantine standards; and
  • Government should facilitate the formation of marketing/wholesaling cooperatives for businesses in the informal sector and, in some situations, may have a role in providing these services.

6) Government and political leadership

All Pacific island national governments have signed the Cook Islands Declaration on Gender Equality, therefore the governments should back those commitments with genuine action at the domestic political level and implement change in support of women’s economic empowerment. This will include measures to simplify legislation and policies around business registration, licensing and taxation for women in the informal business sector as well as address discrimination against women and ensure women’s representation on government and private sector boards.

The participants at this PWPP forum believe that women members of the Pacific parliaments need to be represented at the Pacific Island Forum and that this could be achieved if the women MPs in the hosting country, and a representative from each region in the Pacific funded by the PWPP, were granted observer status at each meeting of the Pacific Island Forum.

The participants of the PWPP forum agree that this meeting should continue annually and be held in the week preceding and at the same venue as the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting.


We resolve that the next PWPP include a significant part of the next Forum with speakers, briefings and country reports on impacts on their nations of climate change including: social, economic, health and environmental impacts.

The aim would be to recommend action to:

a)      Reduce climate change;

b)      Help communities to recover economically from impacts of climate change and to build resilience into community and country economic plans;

c)       Assist people to deal with health impacts;

d)      Assist Pacific nations to harness new technology to solve climate change problems and improve their economies; and

e)      Provide advice and assistance to change crops to meet the changed climate conditions.

  • Date Published: March 7, 2016
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Economic Empowerment, Leadership and Decision Making