Every International Women’s Day on March 8, is a universal celebration of women. This year’s theme is Press for Progress, a call for action on greater gender parity. It is only fitting that the Pacific Women’s Network is putting out its first newsletter bringing Pacific women closer through the vibrancy of social media. As a day dedicated to the celebration of women, we have the responsibility to press for progress for marginalized groups in our community. These are people often left behind in policy discussions, others who are mistreated for their sexual orientation, race and identities, communities in rural and isolated communities, people at risk from climate change and natural disasters – the list continues. This is an opportunity to renew our commitment to the progress of women and that our efforts also extend to a greater well-being of all Pacific island people. Among the many things we can engage and discuss on March 8, here are 3 things I believe we can reiterate constantly and let our talanoa guide our actions.
1. Pacific Women for Pacific Women
As women of Pasifika, our resilience upholds relations within the community. Even our relations among each other is especially relevant in tackling today’s issues. As women leaders of governments, women in business, women in education – when we support one another, we aspire for Pacific island women to thrive! These efforts can only make certain that our road to gender parity is intersectional; one that takes into account our diverse culture and backgrounds, religious beliefs, and experiences from the many island nations we come from. These are also opportunities to enhance women’s political representation in the region and make space for women’s perspective. This Press for Progress can continue in the weaving of relations and support that we give each other.
2. Knowledge-sharing and access to opportunities for Pacific Women
The collaboration of organisations and governments across the Pacific is imperative in our work on gender equality. When we focus on opportunities for women in sports, leadership positions, women in Parliament, business, women in STEM education and so forth, we empower a new wave of youth willing to take part in the development of our region irrespective of gender. Evidently, this is where movements such as Pacific Women’s Network is relevant. By using social media, PWN is able to share success stories of women’s achievements in various fields. At the same time, the network re-shares and promotes information for scholarship opportunities, accessible online courses, programs and fellowships, and vacancies among so much more. Press for Progress is a chance for us to look specifically at ways we can reduce gender parity through innovative knowledge sharing.
3. Press for Progress on the sensitive issues
While IWD is a day of celebration, we can also be forthcoming about the realities of our island homes. Domestic violence remains high across the Pacific and we need to continuously engage in changing this. Pacific countries that have undertaken national research like Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji, and Solomon Islands have reported high levels of lifetime experience and intimate partner physical/sexual violence rates – all percentages above 50. At a time of calling out greater progress, we should ask our governments to prioritize the need to end domestic violence. Vital to this discussion, we must not forget that the LGBTQI community are deeply overlooked and many times, unsupported. Uniquely, even on a day of highlighting women, we
can also use it to give others who are often stigmatized, neglected, and oppressed, a platform of their own.
Press for Progress is more than just a theme for us. Indeed, it is an action we have put in practice for many years since our ancestors first took off into the horizon across the ocean, looking for the homes that we continue to build today. These are only a few of the many things we can discuss and act upon on March 8 and importantly, beyond it. May your International Women’s Day be one of celebration and reflection on the great things we have achieved and how much more we can do!