As the world celebrates International Women’s Day on 08 March, our nations of the Blue Pacific continent join the global recognition of the steps forward for equality.

We also remember the challenges of breaking the barriers that continue to impede progress toward a more equal, free, and peaceful region.

This year’s Invest in Women theme reminds us that investing in women brings balance to the resource scales. Investing in women is also the smart thing to do. The benefits and impacts are felt across our communities when we invest in women. The exponential gains and progress we make as communities, island nations, and one Blue continent are key factors ensuring we secure the Pacific future we all dream of.

Across our region, women and girls continue to bear the brunt of family violence and societal and cultural bias. The rates of gender-based violence against women and girls continue to be the highest in the world, while globally, our rates of political representation correspond to the lowest in the world.

This must change. And the change begins with each one of us. There must be attitudinal and cultural change. There must be strong political commitment to ensure investment in women meets her aspirations, her needs and realities — and is sustainable.

“We must resource the work of gender equality and social inclusion with more of our own dollars and less reliance on development dollars.

“We must support organisations and programs that provide safety, access and support for women and girls escaping the scourge of violence in their homes.

“We must strengthen what works and actively seek out new partnerships across our region that support inclusion for women and investments in women-led initiatives seeking safer lives for all.

“We must all do more to urgently increase the number of Pacific women leading the way for our Pacific 2050 tomorrow — in politics, education, health, finance, technology, and all areas of life.

“When we invest in women, we accelerate progress. When we invest in women and girls in all their diversity, everyone wins.

“We can all do more to walk the talk we have been talking for so many decades.

“We can do it by learning from the past, looking to the future, and starting now,” SG Puna said.