Forum Secretary General Henry Puna has challenged Pacific Islands Forum Women leaders Thursday saying ‘there is no place for violence in our region, and it is on all of us to make that a reality’.

“This is my challenge to all of us, this Thursday, 31st day of August, 2023. Let September bring with it new commitment to prevent and end gender-based violence in our Pasifika”.

“Gender-Based Violence affects all of us – it affects our homes and places of employment, and limits opportunities for the most vulnerable.

“However, global evidence demonstrates that gender-based violence, particularly violence against women and girls, is preventable within years.

“It is not impossible, and we have many years of work to draw on. Some of this work was shared at the Pacific Partnership on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention Summit, in April this year,” Puna made the remarks at the opening of the 2023 PIF Women Leaders Meeting in Suva.

SG Puna said the region faces numerous challenges, but it is also filled with immense potential.

“This meeting provides us with a unique opportunity to discuss pressing issues facing our region, chart a course for sustainable development, and foster stronger collective action.

“You may notice that many of us here today are in black. Your Secretariat supports the Thursdays in Black global campaign to end gender-based violence. We stand in solidarity with survivors of violence as we continue to strive for a safe and secure Blue Pacific for all,” said Forum SG.

This year marks the second convening of the Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting, now endorsed by our Leaders as an annual standing Pacific Islands Forum meeting to inform the annual Leaders convening, he said.

Puna said since the inaugural meeting in June 2022 and the Leaders meeting a month later, the Secretariat has undertaken a consultation process to revitalise the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration.

“I am pleased to share that the revitalised Declaration will be presented for your consideration before it is taken to Leaders later this year.

“These have highlighted emerging issues on gender equality and social inclusion, which have shaped the revitalised Declaration, particularly on its focus and proposed governance mechanism, further positioning it as the high-level and overarching gender equality framework for the region, grounded in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, our North Star,” he said.

Puna also acknowledged the efforts and the work of civil society organisations.

“Our civil society continue to hold all of us to account for the commitments made; our private sector is leading the way to ensure women are provided opportunities to contribute to growing our Blue Pacific economies, and at the same time supporting gender parity in leadership positions; academia for ensuring that we have access to and utilise homegrown knowledge to inform our way forward; and all our people who continue their daily efforts to make gender equality and social inclusion a reality for the region.

Only when we have gender equality and inclusion can we achieve Forum Leaders’ vision for the Pacific – one that is resilient and of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific peoples can lead free, healthy, and productive lives. I look forward to the outcomes that will undoubtedly contribute to the well-being of all Pacific people,” said Forum SG Puna.