Pacific Islands Forum SG Henry Puna remarks on International Women’s Day 2022


Gender equality is the single most important pathway to a sustainable Blue Pacific tomorrow. Our Forum Leaders have emphasized this over the years and the data tells us we rank high when it comes to gender-based violence and low when it comes to women in leadership, it’s clear we have work to do.

That work has become increasingly urgent, especially as we know that our Pacific realities confirm that women and girls are withstanding the worst of the twin crises of climate change and COVID19.

For our Leaders, revitalisation the Pacific Leaders Declaration on Gender Equality is urgent, and the revitalisation of the Declaration will take an inclusive, consultative approach that will consider current and emerging gender equality priorities.

2022 aims to be the year of a refreshed high-level commitment by Pacific Leaders to build on gender equality efforts and support women to progress in social, economic, and political areas.

This is where the inaugural PIF Women Leaders Meeting this year, can provide strategic oversight to progress regional efforts and support national initiatives.

Our Leaders continue to recognise that political ownership of gender equality and social inclusion issues and action is important – this supports mainstreaming within government policies and processes. But increasingly, the work of walking the talk must happen across many other sectors and corners of society. The lives of women and girls, of all ages and abilities, depend on all of us, and the attitudes and bias we need to break away from to achieve the sustainable, free, and prosperous Pacific future at the heart of the Forum vision.

Financing gender equality and social inclusion work is just as important as the actions which must implement policy. We need to put funding and other resources to best use and ask the tough questions on level of impact. Actions must respond to the needs of women and girls, in all their diversity, across the region.

Despite Pacific gains in gender equality, we can all do more. I’m here to do my bit to break the bias and ensure we boost the numbers when it comes to women in leadership at all levels, especially in politics. Women leading the formal labour force. Women leading the public sector. Women leading our regional organisations. Women leading and shaping their own lives, for our Blue Pacific future.

As Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, I will do all I can to ensure that women in the Secretariat enjoy workplace support and safety, and access to further help and information in claiming their human rights including through the CROP Women of the Wave Network.

This month our Pacific delegations to the UN CSW sessions in New York are supported by staff across the Pacific organisations, including the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. The focus on tackling climate change and environmental degradation; and boosting disaster risk reduction is one close to the hearts of our Pacific women and girls, often at the frontline of these spaces, often delivering the solutions and resilience required, with innovation and sheer hard work.

This session theme is timely and urgent and must deliver outcomes that restore faith by half the world’s population, that their lives matter. I look forward to the day when that simple truth – that all lives matter—is truly a matter of fact.