Samoa’s stock take of gender equality and empowerment of women

The Minister of Women and Social Development Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua speaking at the United Nations 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

APIA: WEDNESDAY 11 MARCH 2015: Samoa’s achievements and progress so far towards gender equality and the empowerment of women, was delivered by the Minister of Women and Social Development, Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua at the United Nations 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Headquarters, New York yesterday.

“Samoa reaffirms its support for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, and the mainstreaming of gender and disability across all the Post 2015 development goals and calls for the recognition and support by all our governments to ensure the full realization of the human rights of all,” the Minister stated.

The Session marks 20 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which has become the main reference-point and the benchmark against which progress on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are measured.

“Thus as we celebrate its 20th anniversary this session, let us take stock and reflect honestly on where we have fallen short of the promises we made two decades ago. Let us translate our rhetoric into action and re-commit to implement the Platform in earnest and in full,” said the Minister.

“As part of our stock-taking, I want to share with distinguished delegates how we have “Samoanised” the Beijing Platform to fit in our national context.

“Samoa is a resource-constrained small island developing state. The challenges faced by SIDS have not deterred us from adopting a sustainable development framework that harnesses the importance of inclusive development and the meaningful engagement of all stakeholders in the process. As a result, gender, human rights and disability are mainstreamed across sectors to promote gender equality and equal opportunities for women, young people including persons with disabilities.

“Some developments to date include the enactment of the “Family Safety Act 2013” which provides protection orders for victims of violence, plus the establishment of a specialist “Family Violence Court”. Additionally, a “Child Care & Protection Bill” to provide a protective environment for children, including young women, is in the drafting stage.

“In the political arena, the “Constitutional Amendment Act 2013” guarantees a minimum of 10 percent of seats in our national Parliament for women. This has paved an optional pathway for more women to participate in the political process.

Samoan fine mat of cultural and economic value that is a speciality of Samoan women

Samoan fine mat of cultural and economic value that is a specialty of Samoan women

“Our “Labor and Employment Relations Act 2013” is a legislation milestone providing significant protective measures that promote human rights for women in the workplace.

“Last year, Samoa signed the “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. A four-year Disability program in partnership with the Government of Australia has been launched to support the inclusion and active participation of all persons, including women with disabilities.

“In education, the School fee scheme introduced in 2010 to help Government meet the MDG for free education at primary level, has now been extended to include secondary schools.

“Samoa is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Consequently, the needs of women and girls are fully integrated into national climate resilience, disaster prevention and response operations, policies and plans.

“Under the Australian Pacific Women Initiative, the Samoa Gender Program to support MDG and CEDAW compliance has resulted in improved coordination amongst national entities and development partners and harmonized delivery overall.

“The UNDP Transformational Leadership Development Program and Break through Initiatives are slowly gaining ground in changing some of the negative societal attitudes towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“At the regional level, the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders through their “Declaration on Gender Equality” in 2012 re-affirmed their commitment to lead, monitor and facilitate gender mainstreaming in our region at the highest political level. And in the Asia Pacific group, the outcomes of the regional review last November in Bangkok capture the development and critical issues which we face and must address.

“In September 2014, Samoa hosted the Third International Conference on Small Islands Developing States. Its outcome, the “SAMOA Pathway” re-affirmed the importance of progressing gender equality towards achieving sustainable development in Small Island Developing States, a call reinforced in the statement by Tonga on behalf of Pacific SIDS and the Pacific Islands Forum statement to be delivered by Palau later.

“While we celebrate our achievements, we are also determined to address pressing implementation in the areas of climate change, disaster risk reduction, elimination of gender based violence, high prevalence of non-communicable diseases and unemployment.

“In closing, Samoa reaffirms its support for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, and the mainstreaming of gender and disability across all the Post 2015 development goals and calls for the recognition and support by all our governments to ensure the full realization of the human rights of all.

“Towards this noble goal, Samoa has been endorsed as one of the Asia Pacific Group members to serve on the U.N. Women Executive Board from next year to 2018. If elected, this will be an honor, and Samoa will play an active and constructive role to advance this transformational agenda which is so close and dear to its heart.”

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