Plenary Address on Women’s Economic Empowerment delivered by the Minister for Women, the Honourable Mereseini Vuniwaqa at the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Tuesday, 26th September, 2017
The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, in her address, highlighted that economic empowerment of women has a direct intrinsic link with the holistic empowerment of women and is therefore relevant to the three subthemes of the forum, namely, women in leadership, women and climate change and gender-based violence or family violence.
At the outset, the Minister explained that the economic empowerment of Fijian women is a work in progress and will continue on this quest to empower Fijian women. She then related to experiences within the local context when referring to key ingredients for an economically empowered female population.
She stated that a strong legal and policy platform is key and that the Constitutional provisions on gender equality, non-discrimination and the socio-economic rights promised and protected in the Constitution sets the right platform for such initiatives. Specific legal provisions and laws against sexual harassment and domestic violence further bolster these Constitutional provisions by addressing those specific issues that hinder the economic participation of women.
Hon. Vuniwaqa referred to the positive environment created for the development of women in leadership in Fiji, citing the election of the highest number of women in Parliament in the last election, the appointment of Fiji’s first female speaker and also first female leader of opposition. She then went on to discuss some specific initiatives towards the economic empowerment of women by Government, NGOs, private sector, UN bodies and also foreign governments, like the National Women’s Expo, the markets for change project, women’s resource centres and others.
In discussing this topical issue of women’s empowerment, Hon. Vuniwaqa also referred to the critical component of women’s role in the unpaid care economy or women’s role as caregivers for children, the elderly and those living with disabilities stressing the need for awareness and education on the sharing of work with males and also support programmes that would assist women balance their economic participation and their role in the family.
The Minister commented that economic empowerment needs the creation of partnerships and the building of alliances between different stakeholders and that the topic needs to be prominent on the national agenda and must be the rallying call of leaders.
The Minister concluded her Address by referring to a famous quote by Desmond Tutu: “If we are going to see real development in the world, then our best investment is women”, as befitting the theme of the discussion.