Pacific Islands Forum secretary general Henry Puna says he hopes Forum leaders would endorse the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration in November.

During a media conference on Friday night at the Forum Secretariat headquarters, Puna said they had entrusted to each forum member to put into actions what leaders had collectively agreed to in Rarotonga in 2012.

“As I have mentioned in my opening statement, we have had varied success and progress on that issue,” he said.

“It has become apparent after the leaders meeting last year that there is need on what has been missing is an accounting or oversight mechanism to ensure that the commitment made in that declaration are in fact actioned and followed through.

“And that is why last year the secretariat arranged for a consultancy to review the declaration.”

Puna said the revitalisation of the declaration had come about from the findings of the review.

“Basically the review agreed that what has been missing is a mechanism to hold account our leaders for the commitments they made.

“And now that mechanism is the Pacific Forum Women Leaders meeting and of course the meeting has enormously endorsed that over the last two days.

“So that is why it has taken 10 years but let’s not dwell on the past.

“We are now moving forward and I can see real progress being made.

“And certainly been made over the last two days of the Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting. We hope that our leaders in November when they meet in Rarotonga will endorse it and allow it to move forward.

“And give it new life because the mechanisms, the follow up action are already in place and just waiting for that final action of endorsement by our leaders in Rarotonga,” he said.

Meanwhile, supporting women leaders before and after they are elected in positions of power is an important facet of boosting women’s representation in leadership roles.

This was highlighted by Australia’s Minister for Finance, Women and Public Service Katy Gallagher during an interview with the Fiji Times.

Gallagher was in the country to attend the Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting in Suva last week, and she also understood the challenges that came with such leadership positions.

“For a start, your Minister for Women here is incredibly impressive for a person who’s at the beginning of their political career,” she said.

“It’s difficult and there isn’t one answer to it. I mean, what got me motivated into politics many years ago was the fact there were no women in the Parliament, in the city that I lived in, and a group of us thought that that was not right. And so, we stood for election.

“It’s a whole range of things. I mean, in our political organisation we have in place quotas. Many organisations don’t like that, but that’s helped drive some change in our organisation and in our parliament now, for just about, I think, it’s about 45 per cent women across the Federal Parliament.

“In our cabinet, it’s 43 percent women and in the Labour caucus as a whole, it’s 53 percent women.

“So that has changed a lot over time.”

Gallagher also pointed out that it wasn’t enough just to get women elected, but they needed to be supported when they reached those portfolios.

She also stated that it could, sometimes, be a lonely business, especially if a woman was the only one or one of two.

“And so, as women leaders, we all have a role to support each other and I think that makes a difference., said Minister Gallagher.