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The Existing Gender Gap in the Pacific Region

By Kiwiana Ngabung – EMTV Online, Port Moresby

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is a universal call to action towards a poverty-free, peaceful and prosperous planet. SDG 5: Gender Equality focuses on ending violence and discrimination, and other harmful practices against girls and women, giving them full, effective and equal opportunities.

A new UN Women report reveals the need for more to be done to fill the gender disparity that still exists around the world, and provides recommendations of what should be done moving forward in order to achieve the 2030 SDGs.

The report: ‘Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ indicates that Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand) has the highest 12-month prevalence of intimate partner (IPV) or domestic violence, with up to 40 percent aged between 15-49 reporting to have experienced this.

In Papua New Guinea, it is reported that two-thirds of PNG women have experienced intimate partner violence. Attesting to this, 1-tok Kaunseling Helpim Lain, a toll-free hotline offering crisis support to survivors of family and sexual violence in PNG, found that more than half of the reported gender-based violence cases were IPV.

In addition, Oceania has the lowest number of women holding parliamentary seats, with only 5.4 percent on average being represented. Fiji records the highest number of women in parliament in the region, followed by Palau and Nauru.

This is evident in PNG as well. Interestingly, three women were elected to parliament post-independence (1977) and since then only seven women have held seats in parliament. In the recent general election, although over 150 women contested not one was voted in.

Other significant facts within the region of gender disparity in relation to the various goals are:
• SDG 1 – No Poverty
High number of women aged 25-34 live in poverty compared to men in the same age group; 113 women for every 100 men are living on less than $1.90 a day

• SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being
For every 100,000 live births, 188 maternal deaths occur – ratio higher than all other regions except sub-Saharan Africa

• SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth
Female labour force participation has not seen significant increase over the last 20 years, with the rate at 72 percent in 1997 to 73 percent in 2017

• SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
Public urban spaces can be sites of sexual harassment and violence against women, with few laws and policies in place to address it

• SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Intentional female homicide is especially high in PNG, where the proportion of female homicide victims is more than double the average for the Oceania region

The report notes that different dimensions of well-being and deprivation are deeply intertwined.
It states: “A girl who is born into a poor household and forced into early marriage, for example, is more likely to drop out of school, give birth at an early age, suffer complications during childbirth and experience violence than a girl from a higher-income household who marries at a later age.”

Therefore, policymakers must aim to break that cycle and look at it differently and provide integrated responses.
Four key areas that the report offers to achieve positive change are: (i) improving gender data, statistics and analysis (ii) integrate policies to leverage synergies and help accomplish several goals at one time (iii) closing the finance gap by addressing unrecorded capital flight, reversing public expenditure cuts, and by using all strategies available for raising domestic revenue; and (iv) make sure that those in power are held accountable for gender equality commitments.

“Making every woman and girl count will require a revolution not only in gender data but also in policies, programming and accountability.”

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