The Australian High Commissioner, Jenny Da Rin, announced the recipients of the Andy Lynch and Hanson Mataskelekele awards for 2017 on March 8 at Warwick Le Lagon, Port Vila.

The awards, presented at a ceremony to mark International Women’s Day, recognized the outstanding contribution of two ni-Vanuatu women to the community and to leadership.

Jocelyn Naupa from Erromango received the 2017 Andy Lynch Award in recognition of her outstanding voluntary service over 15 years and her contribution to end gender-based violence and empower women.

Adela Issachar Aru from Efate received the 2017 Hanson Mataskelekele Award in recognition of her outstanding leadership in promoting sustainable tourism and empowering local tourism operators.

“The Australian Government is committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and these awards recognise women who are taking action for women and for Vanuatu,” the High Commissioner said.

The awards are a joint initiative of the Lynch and Mataskelekele families and the Australian High Commission. Awardees are nominated by their peers and selected by an independent panel.

The Australian Government works in partnership with the Vanuatu Government to promote gender equality and empower women by creating opportunities to enhance women’s voices in decision-making, leadership and peace-building; promoting women’s economic empowerment; and ending violence against women and girls.

On March 8 each year, Australia and Vanuatu join the international community in celebrating International Women’s Day – a day to promote and protect the rights of women and to celebrate the courage and determination of ordinary women who play extraordinary roles in our communities.

The IWD theme for 2017 was ‘Be bold for Change’, Ms Da Rin said in her speech that yesterday a celebration of economic, political and social achievements of women around the world and a day to focus attention on areas such as ending violence against women and girls.

“In Vanuatu, change is happening and i want to congratulate Vanuatu on its own National Gender Equality Policy (2015-19),” she said.

“Australia supports your efforts and will continue to do so, guided by your priorities and our own Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment strategy launched last year by Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop.”

Ms Da Rin also said that in an exciting new development, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, announced six Australian NGO’s will receive Gender Action Platform grants totalling $10 million to promote rights of women and girls in 12 developing countries.

“Two of which will be implemented in Vanuatu through World Vision Australia to engage men, youth and children on gender equality issues and the second through ActionAid Australia to develop gender responsive alternatives on climate change,” she said.

The event came to a close with participants and the awardees with their families taking part in a refreshment.