UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office’s newly elected Civil Society Advisory Group came from across the Pacific to meet in Suva last week. This group provides feedback and advice from a civil society perspective for UN Women’s work. The group was formed through an open application process that sought applications from across the Pacific. The group currently has representatives from Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati and Vanuatu civil society organisations which represent diverse groups including faith based groups, women with disabilities, women human rights defenders and LGBTQI activists. Civil Society Advisory Groups are established by UN Women offices to provide a platform to foster dialogue with UN Women on its work in ending gender inequalities and empowering women. UN Women Representative Aleta Miller says she is excited about the group and the opportunity it gives UN Women to engage at a deeper level with civil society representatives who are working to improve the lives of women and girls in the Pacific. “UN Women has a mandate and commitment to consult with Pacific civil society in all its diversity as we cannot effectively do the work we do to end gender inequality and improve the lives of women in the Pacific without the guidance of these experts working in this area,” she says. “UN Women was born out of the Women’s Rights movement and in the Pacific to have members of the movement engaging in advising us on the work we are doing is fantastic. I am enormously grateful to those who put their names forward and have been selected to the group.” Over two days in Suva the group met to discuss the mandate of UN Women and its structure, how the organisation works, to dialogue on the programmes UN Women delivers, and opportunities for members to advise UN Women on the strategy and approach to its work in the Pacific. Women’s rights activist, Teretia Tauo Tabutoa from Kiribati, says being part of the group means she can get the voices of the women she works with and represents heard. “We are working with civil society, we are amongst them and we see what is going on at the grassroots, we will be a bridge to the grassroots for UN Women,” she says. Anne Pakoa of Vanuatu Human Rights Coalition says having the advisory group in place is a good move by UN Women. “It’s been a great meeting, very interactive,” she says. “I think it is very, very important that UN Women has this group. It’s a good mechanism whereby to draw in some observations and inputs from civil society at large.” The group members which were elected earlier this year through a regional application process will meet quarterly to dialogue, and advise UN Women on its programmes and strategy over a two-year term after which another open application process will be undertaken to ensure that a diversity of civil society voices are represented in the future.
Betty Barkha – AWID
Anne Pakoa – Vanuatu Human Rights Coalition
Virisila Buadromo – Consultant