After a taste of Samoan culture and traditions on Monday evening, the fourth Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships Forum kicked into gear right away at Tuana’imato yesterday.
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, welcomed the conference participants via a video message.
Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, then took the floor to present an update on the implementation of reserved seats for women in Samoa.
The group of 65 regional women Parliamentarians then began discussions on economic issues faced by women in the Pacific.
Issues put up for discussion include:
• Issues facing women in the informal and formal economies in the Pacific.
• Challenges faced by businesswomen and the support Parliamentarians can provide.
• To better understand the Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting and their potential to help.
Vijaya Nagarajan, an Associate Professor from Macquarie University Law School in Sydney, Australia led the discussion.
“The Pacific has come a long way and has been able to introduce legislation to protect women and to encourage them to get into the private sector,” she told the Samoa Observer.
“However there isn’t sufficient attention given to continuing support in both the informal and formal economy.”
According to Ms. Nagarajan, women currently dominate majority of the informal economy.
“Women constitute somewhere between 60-80% of participants in the informal economy and they often don’t get anything from the government even though they pay fees and taxes,” she said.
“They get little from government in support which is what discourages them from going to the formal economy.”
The answer lies with the governments of different island nations.
“Governments have to start thinking about how to help people in the informal economy and how to encourage them to try to grow their businesses.
“People in the formal economy (women) find it very difficult to access finance to grow their businesses.”
Ms. Nagarajan continued with reference to where the government’s attention should be focused on.
“Attention should be given to encourage the way in which they can access their business and there are some legislations that could assist with that,” she said.
“Attention should also be given to women friendly business entities. This might encourage women to balance their other demands at home and also engage in business profitability in terms of contributing to the country’s economy.”
The meeting continues today.