Pacific Partnership Representatives Attend Women’s Empowerment Conference in Papua New Guinea
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea - Three women from the Pacific Partnership 2011 team attended the Pacific Women’s Empowerment Initiative held in Port Moresby, May 31, to support the movement for women’s rights in the South Pacific.
This forum allowed female delegates from 12 different countries in the region to discuss women’s issues in their respective countries. Over the course of 5 hours, the Pacific Partnership team watched as these delegates talked about the challenges women face in their home nations.
“It was important for Pacific Partnership representatives to attend the conference to better understand female leaders’ priorities,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jennie Goldsmith, Pacific Partnership 2011 JAG officer. “Each delegate provided a country synopsis that included their most pressing concerns. The conference was designed, at least in part, to give women of the region a voice, and it was a privilege to listen. Also, we were able to establish relationships that we may be able to build on.”
The Pacific Women’s Empowerment Initiative was founded with the help of U.S. government aid to allow the delegates to speak freely about reoccurring challenges presented to women in their societies. In November 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited women leaders of Papua New Guinea and saw a need for the United States’ involvement concerning these issues.
“I want you to know that the United States will be your partner in these efforts to raise the status of women in your home countries, because we know that no society or economy can thrive unless women are given the tools they need to participate fully and contribute their energy, their vision and their talent,” said Clinton.
Delegates from Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and Fiji were in attendance for this conference. And while these women are from different island nations, they experience similar issues as a whole.
Some of the discussion topics were domestic violence, gender equality, education, high partum mortality rates, and teenage pregnancy.
According to the organizers, the intent of the conference is establishing a productive dialogue to resolve those challenges through open discourse and public awareness.
“I am very pleased to have this policy dialogue, and I am very conscious of the fact that we can’t achieve much in terms of concrete things in such a diverse region. But we can achieve much in terms of sharing, networking, learning about good experiences and good practices else where, and comparing where we all are in terms of our progress towards our millennium goals,” said the Minister for Community Development in Papua New Guinea, Honorable Dame Carol Kidu.
The United States will continue to donate money and resources to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Coalition for Change, Vital Voices, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, so the foundation for progress towards gender equality in the South Pacific can be established.
“Here, we are getting ready to fund a mentoring program for young girls, target age 11 to 18, so they will begin to develop role model skills and work with women who are successful in Papua New Guinea, and so they can learn how to make better choices in life and also aspire to greatness,” said United States Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands, Teddy Taylor. Another major program we are also going to have in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea is the training of women to learn how to effectively participate in the political process.”
Lt. Cmdr. Goldsmith, an inheritor of the US women’s rights movement of the early 20th century, was able to identify with the women who are striving for a better life in this region of the world.
“I really enjoyed the conference. I was impressed and inspired by the women there. I loved the different perspectives and hearing them discuss moving forward without losing the things that define them, like their community relationships. I was also moved by the needs and inspired to support in any way possible. I am eager to add some of their pressing concerns to our lessons learned and feedback for future Pacific Partnership missions,” Goldsmith said.
The Pacific Partnership mission this year included similar discussion groups in Tonga, which discussed issues like women’s health, teenage pregnancy, and the increased rate of Type II diabetes among women.
Since the first mission in 2006, Pacific Partnership has visited 15 countries, treated more than 230,000 patients and built over 150 engineering projects. During this year’s mission, the Pacific Partnership team has treated more than 21,000 patients, participated in thousands of contact hours of formal subject matter expert exchanges, and built classrooms and water catchment systems in all three of its mission ports.
This year, Pacific Partnership has completed its mission in Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea and will continue to Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia.
For more information on the Pacific Partnership mission go to: