CEDAW WORKSHOP EASES 'FEAR' OF REPORTING

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SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY (SPC) Nouméa, New Caledonia Suva, Fiji Islands

NEWS RELEASE February 13, 2001 Auckland, New Zealand

Pacific Island delegates to a groundbreaking workshop on the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Auckland this week have breathed a sigh of relief after the first day of talks.

Meeting Chair Luagalau Foisaga Eteuati-Shon said during today's discussions that clear explanations from the panel of workshop leaders had taken away much of the fear that creates a mental block for small Pacific Island nations trying to keep up their commitments to the international treaty. The current workshop is the fourth of its kind for Pacific women in the last ten years.

"This is the most valuable workshop on CEDAW that that I have attended," she says, "now we can put together our reports feeling confident that it's a report containing all the information the CEDAW committee (in New York) are looking for."

Luagalau has led the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Samoa since it was set up in 1991. Samoa ratified CEDAW in 1992 but is three reports behind - making the news that reports can be combined very welcome for Samoa and other Pacific Islands who have yet to hand in their initial report.

She says another highlight was having former CEDAW committee member and Governor General designate for New Zealand, Dame Sylvia Cartwright, attend the meeting to explain the Convention article by article and discuss what the committee looks for.

As for a proposal from regional consultant Fanaura Kingstone that countries attending the meeting should commit to a possible deadline for reports of 2002, Luagalau is confident that Samoa will be able to provide its first, combined report to the UN committee, before the end of this year.

She agreed wholeheartedly with the comment from Niue's Director of Community Affairs, Fili Richmond-Rex, that small countries can lack the resources to handle what they see as a huge and fearsome report.

"It's an international convention and having to report on it can be quite intimidating," says Luagalau, "the other side of that is the feeling of uncertainty, whether or not it's being done properly. Let's just say that the anxiety has been removed with the information we've received so far."

 

February 13, 2001

CEDAW MEETING HONORS PIERANTOZZI’S POLITICAL ACHIEVEMENT, MALE AND YOUTH DELEGATES

More than 60 delegates to this week's regional CEDAW reporting workshop in New Zealand took time out yesterday to honor the attendance of top politician Sandra Pierantozzi at the meeting.

Pierantozzi took office as Palau's vice president on January 1st, a position she was elected to on November 7th 2000. President Remengesau appointed her Minister of Health. She joins the ranks of a handful of Pacific women in top-level political positions, and meeting chair Foisaga Eteuati-Shon asked that the meeting acknowledge her achievement, "not just for the people of Palau, but for all women of the region."

Also acknowledged was the presence of three male delegates to the meeting, as well as a handful of youth officers working in departments related to CEDAW.

For 23-year old Kino Kabua, the meeting has been a clarification of a treaty she had heard little about, even during a short internship with the United Nations in New York. Kabua, an officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Marshall Islands, is a Waikato University graduate in public administration and policy.

"Being with all these women representatives from the different island countries has been really interesting, and it's really great hearing their voices and opinions on the women's convention," says Kabua.

Age is still relative though - at 47, Palau's vice president is topping off a long career in politics, and her president is 44! Pierantozzi says she won the vote amongst Palau's population of 20,000 for her political integrity and action. She had already served four years as the only woman senator in a group of 14, and says there is a distinct advantage to being a woman in politics.

"Women bring a soft touch, a human side where everyone takes a hard line," she says.

"Women unite people and are more willing to mediate."

If there is a disadvantage, it's that she still encounters men who don't know what to do with a woman holding political power.

"I definitely wish to empower women throughout the Pacific, to see women more in decision making levels and to improve the lot of women all over the Pacific and the world," she says. "If Palau can do it, everybody else can."

And for Vanuatu's state counsel Arthur Faerua, the meeting has helped him work out progress in each country and how Vanuatu fits into the bigger picture. In his fifth year with the State Law Office in Port Vila, Faerua has been working on CEDAW since 1998, but says a CEDAW unit will have to be set up if Vanuatu is to report by the proposed deadline of 2002.

"That deadline is 18 months away. If we work hard enough the report can be done in ten months, but with our current capacity we won't meet the deadline." He says it's clear Vanuatu needs to set up a taskforce for CEDAW, and get funding to meet its needs.

As for being in a room surrounded by strong women debating what is known worldwide as the women's convention?

"Professionally speaking, it's not a problem, because being a lawyer you always separate the person from the problem," he says. And on the personal front, Faerua says he is accustomed to listening to and understanding Pacific women - he comes from a family of five sisters!

 

February 12, 2001

GET POLITICIANS ON SIDE TO PUSH FOR CEDAW - SOLOMON ISLANDS

Women and men who want to push for action on the elimination of practices in their countries that discriminate against women, need to work on decision makers if they want real change - and those decision makers include political leaders. That's the belief of Haikiu Baiabe, the Permanent Secretary of Youth, Sports and Women in the Solomon Islands. Speaking at the formal welcome ceremony tonight for the NZ-based CEDAW report-writing meeting, Baiabe reminded more than 60 participants and officials that they needed to take the outcomes of this meeting back to decision makers in their countries if they want to see follow-through action.

And he plans to make it clear during the workshop talks beginning Tuesday that it's important for information to be passed on to senior officials by those attending briefing and training workshops on human rights issues such as CEDAW, the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

"There has to be a greater involvement at all levels," he says of the challenge of aiming for widespread consultation on CEDAW. Haiabe says in the Solomon Islands and other parts of Melanesia, "most of the chief executives tend to be men, and it can make it difficult for CEDAW to move forward because people will stall an issue when they haven't been involved in the process, when they don't understand it."

He says senior decision-makers can remain unconvinced of the importance of CEDAW reporting, and plans to raise this as one reason for the failure of most Pacific Islands nations who've taken on the human rights document for women, to follow through with reports to the UN CEDAW Committee.

Baiabe is one of only three Pacific Island men amongst the 39 participants from 14 Pacific Island nations attending the meeting, which ends on Thursday afternoon. Vanuatu's State Counsel Arthur Faerua and Tonga's Foreign Affairs Officer Suka Mangisi are also attending the CEDAW workshop.

 

February 12, 2001

CEDAW REPORTING TALKS BEGIN FOR PACIFIC NATIONS

They've come from as far away as the United Nations in New York and all corners of the Pacific to gather in Auckland this week - all in the name of a better deal for Pacific women. In a meeting that gets down to talks tomorrow, Maori cultural ceremonies tonight welcomed three men and 37 women from 14 Pacific Island nations, as well as more than 20 officials from regional and donor agencies.

In formal language, the meeting will look at support to the preparation of state party reports to be submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. What it essentially allows are four days of intensive talk and discussion on the very real challenges which Pacific Island nations face at home.

The CEDAW workshop has been planned for some time - participants are keen to move beyond the issues dodging the lack of reports so far from the five Pacific countries that have ratified the convention. Only Fiji Islands has supplied its first report to the UN Committee. As such, the meeting will look at the reporting processes which Pacific Island nations have to go through after ratifying or signing up to CEDAW. Sessions which begin on Tuesday will cover CEDAW and other human rights agreements in the United Nations framework - but country delegates will be keen to hear about steps they can take to overcome the challenges of reporting back to the UN on progress.

Officials from the UN Division for the Advancement of Women (UNDAW), the UN Development program UNIFEM, the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (ESCAP), and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) are joining NZ officials at the meeting. AusAID, the Regional Human Rights Team (RRRT), and International Women's Rights Action Watch (IMRAW) are also a part of the meeting. The 14 Pacific countries attending the workshop are Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

UNDAW's Chief in the Women's Rights Unit, Jane Connors, will lead discussions on CEDAW covering data collection for good reporting practice. She'll also clarify questions on challenges in reporting, with participants having ample opportunity to talk over their experiences and some practical solutions to reporting on CEDAW in the Pacific.

Contact: Lisa Williams Communications Officer Pacific Women's Resource Bureau (PWRB) Lisaleilani_w@hotmail.com 

Sarah Langi English Editor Secretariat of the Pacific Community BP D5 98848 Noumea Cedex New Caledonia Tel +687 26 01 96 SarahL@spc.org.nc  

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