PRESS RELEASE - 8th March 2011

In a statement to mark the 100th anniversary celebration of International Women's Day on 8th March 2011, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade says "Pacific women and girls deserve not only equal access to education and training in science and technology but support from society and employers when choosing this career path."

"The theme for this year's international women's day - 'equal access to education, training and science and technology: pathway to decent work for women' is apt for the Secretariat given the recently endorsed Pacific Education Development Framework (PEDF). The Framework seeks to coordinate regional activities and provide advocacy and a leadership role in policy dialogue at the regional level and was endorsed by all member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum," says Mr Slade.

"The Framework, which has been endorsed by all Forum Education Ministers includes gender as a cross-cutting issue thereby committing their countries, the Secretariat and development partners to working strategically to ensure gender issues are considered across all the education sectors."

A working group, which includes development partners, has been formed by the Forum Secretariat to track the implementation of the Framework at regional and country levels to ensure all the priorities including gender concerns are achieved. This will also include addressing the lack of disaggregated data at all levels of education, sensitizing education personnel to gender issues and gender stereotypes perpetuated by the education system including the curricula and textbooks. The Framework not only focuses on formal school education but on non-formal education, teacher education and systems of governance and administration and technical and vocational education and training.

Whilst the Framework does not direct the work of the Ministries for Education at the national level, the Secretariat through the working group can provide strategic advice on the importance of ensuring gender is integrated into national education systems and support where needed.

The Forum Secretary General, Mr Slade commended the Samoan government for including gender awareness and analysis in teacher training and the Solomon Islands government for recently commissioning a research on barriers to education at the national level.

"I understand that the Solomon Islands study also included gender dimensions in the barriers to education and I look forward to the official release of this study," says Mr Slade.

The Forum Secretariat has a Gender Policy that promotes comprehensive analysis of gender issues in the region concerning the work and mandate of the Secretariat. Implementation of this policy includes facilitation and supporting initiatives of member governments in mainstreaming gender into national and regional development processes.

Among other areas of work, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat through the Leaders communiqué has established a Reference Group to address Sexual and Gender Based Violence in the region. The Group comprises of senior representative each from three Forum member governments, a CROP agency, the United Nations and civil society.

The Reference Group has been mandated to support Governments address sexual and gender based violence in the context of their national and international commitments to gender equality and human rights; to contribute to the building of knowledge and evidence to inform policy, legislation and national programmes to address the issue of sexual and gender based violence; to identify future challenges to the Pacific region in the area of sexual and gender based violence, and to identify preventative activities the Forum Secretariat could support; and to discuss and monitor the progress of implementation of new activities and policies resulting from the work of the Reference Group.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat congratulates member countries for the advancement made in promoting and protecting women's rights through legislation and polices, their Universal Periodic Review reports and for highlighting issues faced by women in their respective nations. The Secretariat remains committed to working with member states to fulfill their international obligations in ensuring that women's rights are promoted and protected in the region and recognizes and acknowledges the work of CSOs and NGOs in the promotion and protection of women's rights in the region at the national and regional level.