Australia boosts aid for Pacific sex equality

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RAROTONGA (AAP) --- Women’s rights in the Pacific will receive a $320 million boost from Australia to help tackle gender inequality. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development aid strategy in the Cook Islands during the Pacific Islands Forum on Wednesday. The funding, over 10 years, will go to increasing the proportion of Pacific women in leadership and decision-making roles, improving women's access to financial services and markets, and improving safety for women, through better violence prevention, and access to justice, health and counselling services.

Female MPs and candidates will be able to access mentoring and training to influence politics, while access to employment will be made more equitable and marketplaces will be made safer and more supportive for female vendors. Pacific countries will also enact more domestic violence legislation to protect survivors of violence.

Currently, women hold just five per cent of the Pacific's parliamentary seats, and more than 60 per cent of women in some countries have experienced sexual or physical abuse, according to figures from AusAID. “We know that societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating as equals ... We know that food security is advanced by enabling women to work in the agricultural sector,” Gillard said. “And we know, too, that a key indicator of economic advancement is the full inclusion of women in the life of a nation. “Gender equality is the right thing to do. It's also the clever thing to do.” Information campaigns on gender equality will be run through churches, local governments and at markets. The Pacific Islands Forum will also make a declaration on its commitment to gender equality.

[AAP by Laura Mcquillan In Rarotonga via PACNEWS (PINA)]