An online network of over 197K women, the Pacific Women’s Network is all that is good about well-networked and positive communities of interest. The Network has redefined what on-line connection between women over the vast region of the Pacific looks like. Rather than program based, it is focused on creating a ‘wallpaper of consciousness’. We showcase and celebrate the talent and leadership of Pacific women and girls and share links to employment, study and professional development opportunities in the region and across the globe.
Decades ago now, the astronaut, Sally Ride said that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. This remains true today. The Pacific Women’s Network has thus created an on-line presence to highlight the strength and achievements of women and girls from the Pacific region – American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
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The genesis of this Pacific Women’s Network research report was a growing discontent regarding gaps in the data tracking progress on health, education and empowerment for Pacific Islander women. Annual reports from United Nations and multi-national development agencies were – and still are – being published with Tables, Graphs and Appendices showing multiple data gaps for Pacific countries as a region. There are rows of dashes where there should be numbers and Notes to Tables stating ‘Data Not Available’ are commonplace. When we checked over twenty Annual Reports or Statistical Yearbooks it became apparent that other themes were emerging besides that of missing data for Pacific women.
We found that the inclusion of the Pacific as a region is not a given. Where the Pacific was included, different classifications are used – including Oceania; East Asia and the Pacific; Western Pacific or Asia-Pacific. United Nations (UN) agencies have no consistent nomenclature for the region. Rarely do the sub regional areas of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia appear. One can never assume how many Pacific Island countries will be included when the region is acknowledged.
Many UN reports of well over 100 pages, all beautifully formatted with pictures pf global activity and extensive narrative, have no Pacific Islanders featured in the photography, and no Pacific case studies. A picture was emerging – one of missing data, missing countries and a missing region.
Our research highlighted two major gaps:
- A failure to adequately include and represent the Pacific region and Pacific Island countries in global reports of multinational development agencies.
- Where Pacific Island countries are included, there is a significant lack of data on development indicators and particularly data on women.
The current status and urgency of Pacific Island development issues such as climate change, gender equality and maternal child health is not being accurately portrayed. This has huge implications for the future planning, funding and support of these policy areas. While small population size and geographic isolation makes this difficult, it is not insurmountable and it is certainly inexcusable..
We found a multi-dimensional problem for Pacific Islander women: the lack of data on the Pacific in general and the ack of disaggregated data on women. It should never be forgotten that gender disaggregated statistics are the foundation for informed policy and decision making.
For women in the Pacific this is a two-edged sword. As highlighted in the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat Report, 2013 Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report, there is limited progress on the Sustainable Development Goals and gender equality across the region. Our Report concludes with practical and achievable recommendations.
The report makes a number of recommendations and concludes that a) Pacific Island countries must be accurately represented in global reporting and b) the inclusion of data on Pacific women is to be prioritised.
The Pacific Women’s Network Report can be accessed in the link below.
Photographs are of Magdalene Toroansi and Sam Mostyn in Bougainville 2013.