The genesis of this research report was my growing discontent about the gaps in data on the indicators that track progress on health, education and empowerment for Pacific Islander women. Furthermore, reports from multi-national development agencies are published with Tables, Graphs and Appendices showing multiple gaps in data for Pacific countries as a whole. Rows of dashes where there should be numbers or Notes to Tables stating ‘Data Not Available’ are commonplace. When I checked each newly published Annual Report or Statistical Yearbook it became apparent that there were other themes emerging besides that of missing data for Pacific women.
The inclusion of the Pacific as a region in a global development report is not a given. Where the Pacific is included, different classifications are used – including Oceania; East Asia and the Pacific; Western Pacific or Asia-Pacific. Even United Nations (UN) agencies have no consistent nomenclature for the region. Rarely does the acknowledgement of the sub regional areas of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia appear. One can also never assume how many Pacific Island countries will be included if the region is acknowledged. I read numbers of UN reports of well over 100 pages, all beautifully formatted with pictures illustrating global activity, and including extensive narrative, but there were no Pacific Islanders featured in the photography, and no Pacific case studies. However, a picture was emerging – one of missing data, missing countries and a missing region.
The research highlighted two major gaps:
- There is a failure to adequately include and represent the Pacific region and Pacific Island countries in the global reports of multinational development agencies.
- Where they are included, there is a significant lack of available data on development indicators, particularly data on women.
With the Pacific as a region excluded from many global reports and the unavailability of regional and individual Pacific Island country data, 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 implications for the future planning, funding and support of these issues. Small population size and geographic isolation makes this difficult, but not insurmountable.
There is a multi-dimensional problem for Pacific Islander women: the lack of data on the Pacific in general and the global lack of data on women. For women in the Pacific this becomes a two-edged sword. There is extensive evidence of limited progress on the Sustainable Development Goals and gender equality across the region, as highlighted in the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat Report, 2013 Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report. It should never be forgotten that gender disaggregated statistics are the foundation for informed policy and decision making.
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 released the Report which is to be found in the link below.
Photographs are of Magdalene Toroansi and Sam Mostyn in Bougainville 2013.