Kiribati’s Minister for Women, Youth, Sports and Social Affairs, Martin Moretti, has declared the island nation’s dedication to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

At the 68th Session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW68), he welcomed the session’s focus on addressing poverty and strengthening institutions with a gender perspective.

“Kiribati acknowledges that gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are vital components of its development policy and has made significant strides over the years, we have worked tirelessly to dismantle gender-related barriers and create opportunities for women’s full participation in all spheres of life,” he said.

He mentioned legal and policy reforms that empower women socially, economically, and in traditionally male-dominated fields.

“In fact, our culture which recognises the important role that women and girls play in the social and economic affairs of society hasbeen further enhanced through legal and policy reforms not only to further empower women socially and economically but also in other fields that used to be male-driven and dominated to the extent that women and girls now have the same access as men and boys to education, employment, business without any discrimination,” he said.

Moretti also highlighted Kiribati’s efforts to break down gender barriers and create opportunities for women’s participation in all aspects of life.

“Kiribati proudly reaffirms its commitment to the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and greatly welcomes the theme chosen for this session with its focus on addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective,” he said.

The Minister outlined initiatives like the Family Peace Act of 2014 and policies combating sexual and gender-based violence.

He emphasised investments in inclusive social protection programmes benefiting stay-at-home mothers and caregivers.

“In line with the theme, my Ministry has undertaken several legal and policy reforms to strengthen the role of women in families and communities with the enactment of “Te Rau N Te Mwenga” or the Family Peace Act 2014 coupled with the review of Gender Equality and Women Economic Empowerment and the launching of the Elimination of Sexual and Gender-based Violence Policy.

“Our investments in inclusive social protection programmes have reached stay-at-home mothers and caregivers and are a strategic investment in gender equality and resilience,” the Minister said.

Kiribati’s approach aligns with Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on inclusive social protection across all life stages.

Moretti noted positive outcomes from these efforts, including women’s increased participation in micro-enterprise activities and higher rates of financial inclusion.

“Through our lifecycle-based inclusive social protection approach, we continue to invest in our communities which are at the core of development and the centre of our way of life in Kiribati and the Pacific.

“A qualitative assessment of the programme in 2023 by the World Bank showed that women are using this income towards their children’s health and education. Moreover, women are engaging in micro-enterprise activities with the savings from the money provided.

“Financial inclusion is a very important part of the economic inclusion agenda of the government.

“We acknowledge that there is still much work to be done but it gives me pleasure to see the women of Kiribati at the forefront and leading the way on that agenda with a higher bank account owning rate for female-headed households. We want to encourage this further as a viable pathway for investing in women’s economic empowerment,” he said.

Despite progress, challenges persist. Moretti thanked development partners for their support and stressed the need for continued cooperation to achieve true gender equality and empowerment.

He also expressed pride in Kiribati’s achievements, such as women holding high government positions, gender pay parity, and girls’ higher school attendance rates.

“As a result of such legislative and policy reforms, I am delighted to inform you that gender equality is no longer a great issue for Kiribati as evidenced by the increasing number of Women holding high positions in the Government, the number of women in the workforce is higher than men, gender pay parity, participation of Policewomen for the UN peacemaking and equal access to overseas seasonal and Labor mobility schemes, the number of girls attending school is higher than boys which shows that girls are supported to attend school. These demonstrate our commitment to equal opportunities,” he said.

He reiterated the commitment to equal opportunities while acknowledging the ongoing work required to overcome remaining challenges.

“Despite the achievements made, many challenges remain that call for continuing hard work, cooperation, and solidarity before we can truly realise gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls,” Minister Moretti said.