Samoa prepares to report to U.N. Committee

Samoa is preparing its sixth periodic state report to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (C.E.D.A.W.) Committee at the end of the month.

The Convention is the international bill of rights for women, defining what constitutes discrimination against women and sets an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

As part of Samoa’s preparations, a three-day preparatory session and mock dialogue was held last week. It was led by UN Women and facilitated by the Pacific Community (S.P.C.), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (U.N. O.H.C.H.R.) in partnership with Samoa’s Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (M.W.C.S.D.). 

The session included a group of government and N.G.O. representatives. Guest speakers included the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (M.F.A.T.) Chief Executive Officer, Peseta Noumea Simi who spoke about the International Human Rights Framework and the National Human Rights Institutions (N.H.R.I.).

She addressed the links between the principles of Fa’asamoa (the Samoan way of life) and Human Rights.

Samoa was the first Pacific island country to ratify the Convention, on 19 September 1992 and, to date, has ratified five of the nine core human rights instruments. 

It reinforced its engagement with the international human rights community in the past years, through the Universal Periodic Review (U.P.R.), its reporting to the Treaty Bodies and by establishing a National Human Rights Institute housed in the Office of the Ombudsman. 

 “Our fa’asamoa embraces inclusivity, respect, peace, love, and protection which are reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (U.D.H.R.),” said N.H.R.I. representative, Tracey Mikaele.

“It is important to ensure that international conventions are being contextualized so that the people of Samoa are able to connect with these instruments and have a full appreciation of them in practice.” 

The Samoan Constitution, based on Fa’asamoa, provides for a bill of rights and solid ground to combat discrimination against women, guaranteeing equal rights before the law and prohibiting discrimination based on descent, sex, language, religion, nor preventing the advancement of women and children.

 “M.W.C.S.D. is the focal point for the reporting and monitoring of C.E.D.A.W. but it is also our role to understand and promote the concepts of human rights within the context of our own culture, highlighting its relevance to the people of Samoa,” said the Minister of M.W.C.S.D., Faimalotoa Kika Stowers-Ah Kau.

For over a decade, Samoa has carried out significant efforts to address inequality, including, through legislation on equal pay in employment, on domestic violence as well as a constitutional amendment designed to improve women’s representation in the national Parliament.

Such progress is undoubtedly linked to the increasing number of highly qualified professional Samoan women at the top echelons of public service, private sector and civil society where 38% of C.E.Os and 60% of A.C.E.O’s are women in the Public sector, and 74% of leadership in Civil Society is female.

 “UN Women is honoured to have the opportunity to work closely with the Government of Samoa as well as Civil Society actors in providing the most robust and transparent C.E.D.A.W. reporting process possible. The on-going strategy of UN Women is to support C.E.D.A.W. reporting and implementation, including providing technical assistance for the implementation of the Concluding Observations of the UN C.E.D.A.W. Expert Committee.”

UN Women provides technical assistance and advisory services to the Governments and Civil Societies across the Pacific helping to strengthen national capacity to report on and implement C.E.D.A.W. committee recommendations.

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