Clinton convenes dialogue on gender equality at Pacific Leaders Forum

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01st September, 2012

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the PI Forum (2) (PHOTO Cook Islands News)

The Rarotonga Dialogue on Gender Equality – chaired by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday met with a group of men and women committed to improving the lives of their Pacific sisters.

She convened the Rarotonga Dialogue on Gender Equality at Tamarind, attended by men and women from the Australian government, International Development, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, United Nations Development Program, United Nations Women and a host of other organisations. Among them was the Cook Islands’ own secretary of internal affairs Bredina Drollet (Pictured at left, PHOTO Cook Islands News).

Secretary of internal affairs Bredina Drollet. 10020425

The dialogue was held in honour of the Pacific women who were not present – the women who contend with gender inequality and gender-based violence every day.  Clinton acknowledged the sluggishness of progress toward gender equality throughout the region.

“…Despite gains in girls’ education and some positive initiatives to address violence against women, overall progress in the region towards gender equality is slow,” she said.  Still, women are under-represented in business and decision-making bodies, violence against women is “unacceptably high” and women face constraints in the marketplace.  Yesterday Clinton announced that the US will be contributing US$200,000 this year to the United Nations Women trust fund to end violence against women, and launched the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women – an initiative between the governments of the US, New Zealand and Australia to build capacity, support emerging women leaders, and establish networks for sustainable leadership development in the region.

“It is my firm belief that women in the Pacific constitute a great reservoir of untapped talent,” Clinton said yesterday.

“…The programme for gender equality in the Pacific has not kept the pace with the rest of the world. We have to recognise that but we also are here to do something.” She acknowledged that of the seven nations in the world with no women in parliament, four are located in the Pacific region.  In some Pacific countries, over 60 percent of women have been physically or sexually abused. Maternal health statistics remain poor, and women face constant barriers to starting business and participating in the economy.  The problem “doesn’t just hurt women and girls” but rather “holds back entire societies”, robbing them of the contributions women can make to development, Clinton said.  Clinton applauded the women sitting around her table, calling them role models and “impassioned leaders pushing for change”.

[Cook Islands News by Rachel Reeves]

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