On Thursday 17th and Friday 18th November 2022, the first ever National Feminist Forum (NFF) was held at the Melanesian Hotel. The National Feminist Forum is part of the third Pacific Feminist Forum (PFF) which has seen more than a dozen countries in the Pacific hold their own in-country forum in the lead up to the regional forum early next year. There were over 70 people from over 20 different organizations who attended the closed event in Vanuatu.
“Feminism is a new word to us in Vanuatu but the movement is historical and ongoing. Whether or not we identify as feminists is not the issue at the moment. It is the recognition and understanding that we – men and women – working together to promote gender equality, advocating against violence against women and girls and lobbying human rights for all is the beginning of the journey as a feminist,” said Leikita Kalorib, CARE in Vanuatu’s Gender Equality Together Project Manager.
The NFF program featured four panel discussions and the development of an outcome statement, as well as entertainment and activity led by CARE in Vanuatu to map out the timeline of the women’s movement. The first panel discussion focused on Women in Politics and it highlighted the importance of supporting other women in the country’s political space and the challenges women have faced while contesting for seats. The second panel discussion emphasized supporting everyone’s right to access sexual reproductive health information and services and how the lack of open conversations around this topic has caused misinformation with young people. The third panel discussion concluded on how the lack of support from other women has impacted the women’s movement today and the importance of coming together to acknowledge the work that has been done and move forward with what needs to be done now. The final panel discussion focused on climate change and it’s gendered impacts.
Vanuatu Women’s Centre Coordinator, Tatavola Matas, opened the first day with a speech about her journey at the Vanuatu Women’s Centre, highlighting their achievements and their challenges which has pushed them to where they are today. Later in a panel discussion, she stated, ‘These kinds of forums are important because they empower us. As women, we already know the discrimination we get. We shouldn’t be discriminating each other. Instead, we should be working together collectively and empowering each other because there are still a lot of things out there that we need to achieve together as a group.’
Third deputy speaker and Hon. MP Gloria Julia King opened the second day with an empowering speech about her political journey and how her family has been her main support system. ‘We need to create awareness for women to understand that they do have a place and a role to play on the path of creating a government.’, Hon. MP Gloria Julia King stated in a short interview carried out with the team at Sista.
An outcome statement is currently being developed, summarizing the discussions and the agreed steps forward for the feminist movement. The 3rd Pacific Feminist Forum – PFF is supported by Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the We Rise Coalition and the European Union in the Pacific UN Spotlight Initiative .