Australia’s Minister For Foreign Affairs

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Samoa’s Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Censorship; and Pacific Women Advisory Board Member

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This is the first progress report of Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women), which provides a snapshot of the program’s achievements and challenges in its first three years of operation. All 14 Pacific Islands Forum countries have received some form of support through Pacific Women.

While the Pacific region is vast and culturally diverse, Pacific Island countries share common challenges related to gender inequality: violence against women is widespread; women’s participation in political leadership is among the lowest in the world; and there are multiple barriers to economic participation and empowerment of women. Indeed, gender inequality poses a significant development challenge for Pacific Island countries.


In response to this challenge, the Australian Government established Pacific Women, a 10 year $320 million initiative that aims to support women – regardless of their income, location, disability, age or ethnic group – in 14 Pacific countries to participate fully, freely and safely in political, economic and social life. Pacific Women supports countries to meet the commitments made in the 2012 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Gender Equality Declaration (refer Annex A). Pacific Women is managed by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) in Canberra and Offices in the Pacific.


Goal: Women in the Pacific (regardless of income, location, disability, age or ethnic group) participate fully, freely and safely in political, economic and social life. 

The outcomes sought by the program include the following:

  • Women, and women’s interests, are increasingly and effectively represented and visible through leadership at all levels of decision-making.
  • Women have expanded economic opportunities to earn income and accumulate economic assets.
  • Violence against women is reduced and survivors of violence have access to support services and to justice.
  • Women in the Pacific will have a stronger sense of their own agency, supported by a changing legal and social environment and through increased access to the services they need.

In 2012 a detailed delivery strategy was developed, which established the interconnected nature of women’s disempowerment in the Pacific and the need for change across several areas:

  • Enhanced knowledge and evidence base to inform policy and practice;
  • Strengthened women’s groups, male advocates and coalitions for change;
  • Positive social change towards gender equality and women’s agency;
  • Improved women’s leadership and decision-making opportunities;
  • Increased economic opportunities for women;
  • Reduced violence against women and expanded support services; and
  • Improved gender outcomes in education and health.


In 2013 the delivery strategy was developed into a program design informed by regional workshops held in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG). These forums and other consultations with regional organisations based in Fiji revealed that actions to address women’s inequality across the Pacific were not adequately responding to the need. Work was often siloed in small projects with limited opportunity to scale-up, and with poor sharing of information and learning. Few programs could provide evidence of their effectiveness. This does not mean that there are no effective responses, but that there is often inadequate monitoring, evaluation and documentation of experiences. Alongside the design process, individual Pacific Women country plans were developed in consultation with women, men and communities, partner governments and other key stakeholders across the 14 Pacific Island Forum countries.

The main message from the country planning processes was that the local context of women’s experiences needed to be understood. Pacific Women is thus based on meeting the individual needs of countries, and the women, men, children and communities in those countries.  The regional consultations and country planning helped to determine Pacific Women’s intended outcomes.

An Advisory Board of prominent Pacific women and men guides the Pacific Women program and Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls is an observer to the Board. The Board’s membership is representative of the different geographic regions in the Pacific and Board members come from a wide range of organisations which work to address gender inequalities. The Board has members who represent the interests of women living with disabilities and of young women. Details of Board membership is provided at Annex B.

To support program management and the many facets of program and activity implementation, a Pacific Women Support Unit is based in Fiji, with a sub-office established in PNG. It provides technical, administrative and logistical support to DFAT and to Pacific Women’s implementing partners.

Pacific Women has a strong focus on delivering activities in partnership with others. The program works closely with a range of partners, including governments, Pacific and international nongovernmental organisations, regional organisations, United Nations agencies, research organisations, development banks and the private sector. Pacific Women does not duplicate, but works with other Australian aid programs to help achieve better results for gender equality and women’s empowerment across all sectors.

In response to concerns raised during the design process that information on the causes and consequences of, and the responses to, gender inequalities was not being shared, Pacific Women established a website to host information about activities and research that seek to address gender inequality at country and regional levels. A quarterly e-newsletter provides readers with stories highlighting individual activities, while an interactive map displays the nature and scope of Pacific Women activities in each country and gives users easy access to country plan summaries.

This report highlights key achievements and the principles that underpin Pacific Women, as well as the collaborative and consultative approach in which it is implemented. It also demonstrates the commitment to learning from experience, through the priority given to high quality monitoring and evaluation, research, partnership and coalition building across the program.


  • The program will promote evidence-informed policies and programs, drawing from current experience and ongoing attention to high quality monitoring, evaluation and research.
  • The program will support sharing of information and increased coordination and liaison between development partners working for women’s empowerment in the Pacific.
  • Change for Pacific Women can be supported by donors but must be shaped and led by women and men in the Pacific.

Most importantly, Pacific women and men have the opportunity to shape the program across its breadth and lifetime. In this report, case studies and stories, by outcome area and country, feature the voices and experiences of Pacific women and men, and highlights of country and regional activities and events. ‘Program at a Glance’ provides Pacific Women’s main facts and figures, as well as regional and country snapshots. The report also reflects on lessons learned and considers the road ahead.



In the first three years of Pacific Women:


Women have increased access to crisis support services


12,897 women have accessed a variety of crisis support services, including counselling, health and legal support.


Women are participating in market decision making structures


4,716 women are a part of Market Vendor Associations and influencing market governance structures.


Women have participated in financial literacy training


1,716 women have participated in a variety of training, from accessing financial services to running small businesses, to improve their financial literacy.


Women have obtained formal qualifications


563 women have obtained formal qualifications in a range of sectors including tourism, fashion and carpentry.


Women market vendors are using banking services


555 women market vendors from PNG have opened bank accounts and accessed financial services.


Women have had formal opportunities to share their ideas and learn from each other


484 women have participated in regional exchanges to network, share ideas and support each other.



A full list and brief descriptions of these activities is available on Pacific Women’s website, through an interactive map that you can view by clicking here and also at Annex C by clicking here.


* The funding commitment identified for each country is the value of activities included in country plans. It does not reflect the total commitment under Pacific Women over the 10 year program period.