The 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of Ministers for Women took place in Suva, Fiji, from 2 to 5 October 2017.  The purpose of the Conference was to share experiences and make recommendations to accelerate progress towards achieving gender equality and a full realisation of women’s human rights in the Pacific region.

It was the first time for many of the Ni-Vanuatu delegation to attend a Triennial. Sista caught up with the Ni-Vanuatu representatives of civil society and asked them to share their thoughts on women’s economic empowerment, which was the theme of the Triennial. 


Madlen Netvunei, Vanuatu Society for People with Disability

One of the biggest barriers to women’s economic empowerment is Vanuatu’s cultural norms. For example, we think that women are supposed to perform certain jobs and it is not recognized as work, it is just what a women is supposed to do. She is expected to clean, cook and take care of the children, and this unpaid work takes up her time.

Sometimes this work is considered more important than her education. If a woman doesn’t have access to education, then how can she build her life? Without an education, she may be afraid to ask questions and find information.

The attitudes of other people, especially to women who are disabled, also affect her ability to become economically empowered. Some people will discriminate against her with negative comments and it makes her afraid to participate. When you look down on a woman, it can really affect how she thinks of herself.

That’s why it is very important for a family to be supportive of women, especially disabled women. How a family treats a disabled relative makes a big difference to her life.

From what I’ve seen, I think only 2% of disabled women have received an education. Many families don’t believe that a disabled person is worth investing in an education. Most of the challenges that disabled people face are not outside the home, but inside the home.

A challenge outside the home is accessibility – if a road isn’t disabled friendly, it limits her participation. These are the things that I think are a barrier to women’s economic empowerment in Vanuatu.

Madlen represents the Vanuatu Society for People with Disability