I am a Ni-Vanuatu woman and a concerned mother. I commend the Vanuatu Government, through the Department of Women’s Affairs for its initiative to develop and officially launch the National Gender Empowerment Policy in 2016.
I believe that this policy has paved a way forward to women and girls empowerment in decision making and other areas of their lives. It is very crucial that all stakeholders who are promoting the empowerment of women and girls work in collaboration so that changes can be understood and achieved in our society.
In the culture of the Pacific island nations, women are treated as second best. It is a norm that men are leaders and women must follow. Hence, women are ranked as second best in leadership roles and community responsibilities. This mentality has also crept into other systems of society as well; for example the education system, the political system, the workforce and many more.
In Vanuatu, men are usually favoured over women in many aspects of life. Very often women are afraid to speak up for themselves. The harassment of women and girls is also on the rise, which often leads to bigger social issues such as rape, teenage pregnancy, broken homes and many more other cases.
In my personal view, women and girls empowerment begins at home. Fathers and mothers should be role models to their children in the home. If the father can respect and truly support and empower the mother in the home environment, then their kids can observe and learn the same trait.
Community leaders such as chiefs and church leaders, must also work together to identify and modify cultural practices that discriminate women and girls. Today’s society is evolving very fast. Hence whilst still maintaining the positive practices of our culture, our communities must also update and upgrade accordingly.
Lastly, the government of the day must identify and create more initiatives that are aimed at empowering women and girls. Specific curriculums can be introduced into schools, new legislations can be passed and existing ones amended. Create relevant media programs that focus on topics such as Human Rights and Gender. Run relevant public awareness through conferences, workshops, marches and so forth. Present effective partnership with relevant NGO’s should be maintained throughout the process of the Gender Equality advocacy.
The National Gender Empowerment Policy has been launched by the government and every sectors in Vanuatu should make an effort to implement the Strategic Areas mentioned in the policy. These areas will empower women and girls in their leadership roles and also provide opportunities for Gender Equality.
On this note, i would like to take this opportunity to thank the Vanuatu government through Department of Women’s Affairs including the Private Sectors and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) for organising and sponsoring a lot of Human Rights and Gender awareness trainings in our communities across Vanuatu. I strongly believe that through these awareness trainings, transformation will take place in homes, communities, islands, provinces and nation as a whole.
Odina Lala Vusi
DG101 (Principal of Good Leadership and Governance)
USP, Laucala, Fiji
This letter was written to the editor of the Vanuatu Daily Post