Pacific women a priority on International Women's Day

By Jessica Tyson

Women living in rural areas of the Pacific Islands are in the limelight today with the United Nations Association of New Zealand’s theme for International Women's Day focused on empowering rural women and girls. 

UNANZ President Joy Dunsheath says, “The theme highlights empowerment of women in all settings rural and urban, plus the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realise their full potential.”  

According to the organisation, rural women in the Pacific are faced with threats of violence, low pay and little to no representation in politics on a daily basis.

Dr Colin Tukuitonga from the Pacific Community (SPC) organisation agrees and says rural women in the Pacific Islands region “certainly do not have it easy.”

“They often lack access to basic services and infrastructure such as water and sanitation, electricity, health and education.  They are more at risk of domestic violence and unwanted pregnancies than women in urban areas.  Rural women are also more exposed to the adverse impacts of climate change like cyclones and droughts.”

According to SPC, on average in the Pacific region, 50 percent of partnered rural women have experienced physical or sexual violence.

In Fiji, 60 percent of rural women compared to 27 percent of urban women are in vulnerable employment.

SPC says it is committed to working alongside Pacific Island governments to improve the lives and livelihoods of Pacific rural women.

"International Women's Day is a time to reflect on the remarkable diversity of women in the Pacific and their individual and collective experiences, as well as the many ways in which development organisations like SPC can make a meaningful and lasting contribution to their lives," said Dr Tukuitonga.

The empowerment of rural women and girls will be a priority theme at the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March.