In Pacific Region, New Boost to Women’s Empowerment

Posted by Melanne Verveer
November 19, 2010
Fijian Women Sing and Dance

About the Author: Melanne Verveer serves as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues.

As a result of Secretary Clinton's recent travel to the East Asia and Pacific region, the United States is embarking on a new initiative -- in collaboration with the World Bank Group and the governments of Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea -- to strengthen women's empowerment in this part of the world. Our emphasis on boosting women's progress is not about treating women as a special interest, but rather it is linked to the broader aims of encouraging development and good governance in the Pacific Islands. This new collaboration will also afford an opportunity to deepen ties between the United States and the Pacific region.

During the Secretary's stop in Port Moresby, the women of Papua New Guinea welcomed her with open arms and expressed their appreciation for her solidarity and support. Their enthusiasm was emblematic of the aspirations women in so many parts of the developing world harbor but seldom are able to realize. In the Pacific Islands, women have terrible hurdles to overcome. For example, some studies indicate that rape and police brutality are endemic in Papua New Guinea, and just 53 percent of women there are literate.

This joint venture between our countries and the World Bank Group will bring attention and opportunity to women who have too often been neglected and marginalized. It will serve as a step toward leveling the playing field so that more women can participate in the social, economic, and political sectors of society and play meaningful roles in advancing progress in Pacific region. In partnership with our Australian, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea counterparts, we will be bringing together senior government officials, private sector leaders, entrepreneurs and civil society stakeholders from across the Pacific to expand opportunities for women and unleash the talent of an underutilized, yet vital resource.

To launch this endeavor, we will be holding a series of policy dialogues in all four partner countries to cover a range of issues -- from identifying best practices for mitigating gender-based violence, to expanding women's economic opportunity and supporting their political activism and leadership. We will also be stepping up efforts on health issues, such as improving maternal mortality and reducing HIV/AIDS. Our engagement with the Pacific region will produce action and government commitments, bringing about concrete results to ensure that women gain access to the tools and resources they need to compete and succeed, and are granted the opportunities to be agents of positive change in their own societies.

As Secretary Clinton has so often said, “Investing in the potential of the world's women and girls is one of the surest ways to achieve global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for women -- and men -- the world over." Empowering women in this region to achieve, to innovate, to lead, and to work together to defend their rights will produce a new energy and a ripple effect that will benefit not only women, but also their families, and societies at large.

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