PRESS STATEMENT 29/12 - The economic empowerment of women is a prerequisite of sustainable development.

The economic empowerment of women is a prerequisite of sustainable development.

This was the resonating message at the first day of consultations held in Nauru this week to map out the small island nation's five-year national action plan on the economic empowerment of women.

"Economic opportunities are scarce in Nauru," said Alamanda Lauti, Director of the University of the South Pacific (USP) Centre in Nauru, at the opening of the two-day consultations.

"We need to look at new ways of generating income and sustainable training programmes for women."

The consultations are part of a Smaller Island States (SIS) project to advance gender equality managed by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Nauru's national consultations are being led by Nauru's Ministry of Home Affairs and supported by the Forum Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team. The initiative is funded by the United Nations Fund for Gender Equality.

The consultations will seek views from representatives of civil society organisations, government, academia and the informal and formal sectors.

The Secretary for Home Affairs, Charmaine Scotty said the consultations are very important for Nauru's own national planning.

"The Department for Women's Affairs is currently revising the Nauru National Women's Plan of Action and women's economic empowerment is one of the 16 critical areas of concerned highlighted in the action plan," said Ms Scotty.

This sentiment was also echoed by Samuel Grundler the Director for National Planning. Grundler highlighted that the current Nauru National Sustainable Development Strategy was undergoing a review in 2012 and the importance of agreeing on practical strategies to support women's economic empowerment.

"Donors are more inclined to support issues in the national development plans because these are seen as the priorities of the country," said Mr Grundler.

"The issue of Women and Development is already included in the national sustainable development strategy but there is a need to really move forward on these priorities."

Michael Aroi, the Forum Secretariat's Smaller Island States focal point for Nauru also enforced the importance of reporting on progress on gender equality at high level foras such as the SIS Officials Committee and annual Forum Leaders meetings.

"It is important to keep gender equality on the agenda to ensure the highest political will and support for advancing gender equality through our Leaders," he said.

On the first day of consultations, participants heard from senior government officials from the Ministry for Commerce, Industries and Environment, National Planning, Foreign Affairs and the Department for Women on the enabling environment for women entrepreneurs and economic opportunities in Nauru.