Officials from 15 Pacific Island countries discussed opportunities for strengthening national capacities in gender mainstreaming at a regional meeting organised by SPC with support from the United Nations Population Fund and UN Women in Nadi in November.

The Regional Gender Mainstreaming Stocktake and Gender Statistics Meeting built on a 'gender stocktake' of six countries in the region - Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Tonga - which highlighted some of the gaps and entry points for advancing gender equality in those countries. SPC carried out the stocktake in 2009-2010.

Several other Pacific Island countries are now interested in a stocktake of where they stand in progressing towards gender equality.

'There's increased awareness of gender equality issues in the region, particularly since the recent Forum Leaders meeting held in Cook Islands, and a realisation that to achieve gender equality, government systems have to be in place, and working in a coordinated and transparent way,' said Linda Peterson, Manager of SPC's Human Development Programme.

Ruth Pokura, Director for Gender and Development, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Cook Islands reported that the stocktake has prompted the Public Service Commission in her country to incorporate gender mainstreaming in the public service as a key result area in the job descriptions of permanent secretaries.

In the Solomon Islands, Janet Tuhaika, Director of Women's Development, Ministry for Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, said the stocktake was 'a positive step for the Solomon Islands government and as a result we have received several requests to support gender mainstreaming in key sector areas of government.'

The meeting also focused on SPC's gender statistics work with Cook Islands, Vanuatu and Marshall Islands.

'Quite often statistics are seen as just technical - however, collecting sex disaggregated data and also ensuring our national statistics offices include gender indicators is important for reporting on CEDAW and other international human rights instruments,' said Rothina Ilo from the Department of Women's Affairs, Vanuatu.

SPC's Gender Advisor Brigitte Leduc said that the collection of gender statistics requires collaboration with planning and national statistics offices. 'Analysing the statistics from a gender perspective helps us to understand the key causes of gender inequality and to address them.'