PM Loughman and Justice Minister Saimon at the launch.

The National Gender Equality Policy 2020-2030 was launched this week by Prime Minister Bob Loughman in Port Vila.

‘Yumi wok tugeta blong buildim hapi famili, strong komuniti mo resilient Vanuatu’, is the vision of the National Gender Equality Policy 2020-2030, and symbolizes that gender equality, benefits our families, communities and nation and this is something that we must continue to invest in and work towards.

Dignitaries including the Minister of Justice and Community Services, Minister of Finance and Economic Management, Director Generals, Directors and Government Officers, Secretary General of the Vanuatu Christian Council, High Commissioner of New Zealand, Jonathan Schwass, Acting High Commissioner of Australian Clemency Oliphant, Country Programme Coordinator of UN Women, Betty Zinner Toa, and representatives of non-government organisations and the community attended the launch.

“The National Gender Equality Policy belongs to all the people of Vanuatu from Tanna to Ureparapara to Ambrym,” the Prime Minister said.

“All the chiefs in the islands and all the public servants – this Policy is for you. I’m glad we are here today to witness the launching of the National Gender Equality Policy. Gender equality is a part of the current Government’s commitments and is reflected in the Constitution, National Sustainable Development Plan (Plan blo Man Ples), and international conventions including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Gender is a cross cutting issue and this document is for everyone. Thank you to every sector for working with Government through the Department of Women’s Affairs for addressing these issues and challenges.”

The National Gender Equality Policy includes strategic areas addressing ending violence against women and girls, women’s economic empowerment, women’s civic participation and leadership, climate and disaster resilience, and gender mainstreaming across sectors to ensure that services are accessible to women, men, girls and boys. A common theme of the dignitaries’ speeches and discussion was that gender equality begins in the home.

There is a whole of Government approach across sectors to achieve gender equality in the five strategic areas of the Policy which contribute to the Society, Economy and Environment pillars in the National Sustainable Development Plan.

The launch of the Policy was a chance to acknowledge the progress that has occurred and also reflect on what else needs to be done to achieve gender equality in Vanuatu. Minister of Justice and Community Services Esmon Saimon said, “the development of the policy was conducted at the same time as we celebrated 40 years of unity and freedom as an independent nation. The process of us advancing gender equality has been occurring for a long time and after independence, men and women of Vanuatu led and lobbied for human rights and the participation of women in our national development. Today is an opportunity to reflect on our past accomplishments and at the same time stand up strong to build a nation where respect and protection of rights, responsibilities and freedom is for everyone. The Policy is a platform for all men and women of every age and ability to standup strong as mutual partners in the development of Vanuatu in the years ahead”.

The development of the Policy was informed by national to community level consultations across the provinces, highlighting how the Ministry of Justice and Community Services through its agencies and partners is contributing to decentralization through making services accessible to women, men, girls and boys; down to the village level. The Policy also includes an implementation plan, monitoring and evaluation framework and Provincial Gender Action Plans.

The Prime Minister said that the Government will continue to support the implementation of the National Gender Equality Policy through the recurrent budget to support the Department of Women’s Affairs.

The Government thanked all development partners, NGOs and the community for working together in the past and future to achieve gender equality. The Government also thanked The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and UN Women for their support in the policy review and development and the Pacific Partnership for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (funded primarily by the European Union, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, and UN Women, and led by the Pacific Community (SPC), UN Women and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat) for their support in the national and provincial launches.

Over the coming months, the Department of Women’s Affairs will be leading the rollout of the National Gender Equality Policy, the Provincial Gender Action Plans and community outreach in every province, bringing the services closer to the people. As part of the provincial launches, consultations on developing the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Taskforce and Service Delivery Protocols for Responding to Gender Based Violence will also be undertaken with government, NGO and community representatives.