PRESS RELEASE - 22nd November 2010 - "For too long, women in our region have not been effectively engaged in decision-making institutions and processes, both at national and local levels.

We need to develop coordinated, realistic and focused strategies to try to tackle this problem, so that our women can more effectively contribute to the decisions that will take our nations forward."

This was a comment made by Honorable Senator Regina Mesebulu in the Palau National Congress at the sub-regional consultation for Smaller Island States (SIS) to discuss and endorse the SIS Action Plan on Supporting Women's Participation in Decision Making Processes for the next five years.

The meeting, held from 17 - 19th November 2010 in Nadi, Fiji, was attended by officials and NGO representatives from the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.

The meeting was convened by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), with support from UNIFEM's Gender Equity in Political Governance Programme and the United Nations Development Programme.

"It is part of our mandate as your regional organization to work with you not only to develop initiatives that support the advancement of gender equality but to work towards a more harmonized approach on support provided to countries," said Su'a Kevin Thomsen, Director of PIFS Strategic Partnership and Coordination Programme in his opening address at the consultation.

The meeting was to support SIS to develop National Action Plans, supported by a Sub-Regional SIS Action Plan, to promote and encourage more effective participation by women in political decision-making. It is envisaged that the action plan will be tabled at the next SIS Officials and Leaders meeting, coordinated by PIFS, for their consideration and political endorsement.

"It is very positive that this project has been collaborative and allowed Smaller Islands States to convene our own national consultations and come up with our own priorities," said Ruth Pokura, Director for Gender and Development Division, Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Cook Islands.

Secretary Wilbur Heine of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Republic of Marshall Islands also welcomed the opportunity to learn from each other, and further highlighted that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to such a complex political issue.

"We will all now need to go back and take this issue up with our leaders and communities at home," Mr Heine said.

The year-long project has included convening of national consultations by each SIS, which will feed into the sub-regional action plan which will highlight key priorities and activities for the next five years. The Project is funded by the UNIFEM Fund for Gender Equality, with supplementary funding from the European Union, through the 10th European Development Fund.