The 11th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting (C.W.A.M.M.) was officially opened on Tuesday night at the Taumeasina Island Resort by the Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.
In a powerful speech, Fiame told the gathering that the most critical part is the recognition of gender equality is not only a goal itself, but also as a pre-condition and key to achieving the rest of the agenda.
The main theme of the meeting is “Gender Equality through sustainable development in an inclusive Commonwealth, with key sub-themes including Gender and Climate Change, Women’s Leadership, Violence Against Women and Girls, Intergenerational Partnerships for Sustainable Development.
It also provides strategic opportunities for ministers, senior officials, civil society organisations and partner agencies to discuss critical issues in advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality in the Commonwealth, and to contribute to global agenda setting processes.
Quoting the improvement in Samoa’s situation, Fiame pointed out there was still a lot of work to be done to achieve the 50/50 gender equality by 2030.
She urged participants build on lessons and action from previous meetings and reminded them that to make the rapid progress needed, proactive intervention is needed.
“Thus your theme of Gender Equality through sustainable development in an inclusive Commonwealth, is timely,” she said.
“In your meeting this week, I hope that you will able to incorporate the lessons from the 2005 to 2015 Commonwealth action on gender equality, into road mapping for the future.
“For example here in the Pacific we have the Pacific SDG’s road map that provides a solid starting point to confirm regional and national development priorities.
“There is abundance of good practice that we can draw upon, especially in utilizing existing regional and country mechanisms institutions and systems for implementation, resource mobilisation, monitoring and of course evaluating the results.”
She went on to say that as a Commonwealth’s minister responsible for women advancement this will be a great opportunity for the next few days to discuss and agree on what, where and how best you can as a group, link up to and contribute to the body of plans being formalised and formulated and finalised.
“To adopt a strength base approach, perhaps focusing on areas where our common heritage of parliamentary democracies provide a unique value proposition values and platform to build upon for realising the goal of increasing women’s leadership and participation,” she said.
“Eleven out of 53 Commonwealth members’ countries had achieved 30% for women in political leadership.
“This is some progress given that only two countries were at this level in 2004, however it is not happening fast enough for half of humanity who continue to be second class citizens.
“I hope we have all dispelled the myth that gender equity will come right with time.
“Progress is not going to happen fast enough through the natural process of evolution, we need deliberate, conscious, targeting, proactive interventions to bring about gender equity and sustainable development.”
The Deputy Prime Minister also mentioned the government of Samoa introducing their mission for women’s seats in parliament.
“In our elections earlier this year, we saw the highest number of women running as candidates as well as the highest number of women in Samoa’s parliament. However it is still only 10 percent,” she said.
“Thus much work needs to be done if we are to achieve 50/50 by 2030.
“As long as we have less than 50 percent women in leadership the unfairness towards women continues.
“Without a doubt gender equitable and inclusive decision making and leadership, is a necessary step towards addressing the other challenges women and girls face.
“When we can make and influence the decision about where our resources are invested only then do we have a realistic chance of addressing violence against women and girls or build their resilience to economic pressures.
She also praised the agenda of the conference to draw their attention on issues of gender and climate change.
“I am pleased to know that your agenda draws priority attention to the issue of gender and climate change. It is a substantial threat for us here in the Pacific and no doubt in other small island states around the world,” she said.
“I look forward to see the outcomes of your deliberations this week and the renewal of old relationships towards our common goal of an inclusive Commonwealth in gender equity and sustainable development.
“Individually we are mere drops of water but together we are an ocean.
“Let us be an ocean of change within the Commonwealth and our world to ensure that our mothers, daughters, sisters, women and girls can dream and realise those dreams.
“Let us lead by example in that work and inspire the next generation of leaders for gender equality.”