Niue has one of the smallest populations in the world, with around 1,600 people living on the island. For a number of years, the government has had a draft national policy on gender equality. However, there remains a lack of awareness on gender equality challenges and limited resources and technical capacity to address those challenges.XXXII Less than one per cent of the national budget is allocated to the Department of Women.XXXIII
A quarter of parliamentarians are women, giving Niue the highest percentage of women in a national parliament in the Pacific (excluding Australia and New Zealand).XXXIV However, in the public service, women are under-represented in senior management positions.XXXV
Strong gender stereotypes as to what constitutes women’s and men’s roles have created an inequitable participation in the labour force and food production. There is high participation of women in the non-agricultural sector (46 per cent).XXXVI
While the prevalence of domestic violence has not been surveyed, data from the police and health services indicate that both physical and psychological abuse are present in Niue.XXXVII Anecdotal evidence suggests that the community response to violence tends to be managed within the village or extended family network. Progress towards addressing violence against women is underway with the drafting of the Family Law Bill.
Project name: Support to the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team
Outcome: Ending violence against women
Project Partner: The Pacific Community
Total Funding: $5,750,00014 Funding timeframe: 2015–2020
A second draft of the Niue Family Bill 2016 has been submitted to the Government of Niue. The Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) assisted the Government of Niue to develop the legislation through a participatory process.
RRRT provides technical assistance and training to assist Pacific Island countries to increase their observance of international human rights. RRRT has previously worked closely with Niue’s Director-General of Social Services, Ms Gaylene Tasmania, as she led discussions with stakeholders to develop a first draft of the Family Law Bill.
In August 2016, Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, and senior Government officials had the opportunity to review the first draft of the bill and explanatory notes, prepared with RRRT’s assistance. These stakeholders provided input on which options from the draft to pursue, resulting in a second draft bill being prepared in October 2016.
Mr Albert Seluka is a Senior Human Rights Adviser with RRRT. He explains:
‘This work is a culmination of efforts to revisit and review the family laws of Niue in a manner that progresses the implementation of recent developments in the area of family law generally, with due consideration of their linkages to the human rights obligations of Niue under the Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination of All Forms Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.’
Key outcomes from the consultations that were incorporated into the second draft of the bill include setting the minimum age for marriage at 18 years for both women and men, and the introduction of legal safeguards for de facto partners and their children. The second bill abolishes matrimonial offences and introduces ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ as the single ground for divorce. The draft also contains enhanced provisions for the care and protection of children. It emphasises parental responsibilities towards the care of children, promotes improved parental care through the introduction of parenting plans, and provides legislative responses to domestic violence and child abuse.
Project name: Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships project
Outcome: Leadership and decision making
Project Partner: International and Community Relations Office, Department of the House of Representatives
Total Funding: $2,850,03715
Funding timeframe: 2013–2018
Pacific clerks and senior parliamentary staff attended the Outrigger Facilitators’ workshop in Canberra, Australia in November 2016. The Outrigger training program on navigating gender equality through Pacific parliaments, invokes the imagery of a boat that is well equipped to sail the seas of Oceania. Ms Ngatu Tukutama, the Executive Officer from the Niue Parliament, was aboard.
The Outrigger program promotes a message of respecting and upholding gender equality in Pacific parliaments. The workshop prepared parliamentary staff to deliver the training program in their own parliaments. It is part of the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships project that aims to improve understanding of the factors that constrain women’s political participation. The project responds by building the capacity of women members of parliament in the Pacific, the institutions in which they work, and the staff who support them.
Ms Tukutama was one of 27 participants from 13 Pacific Island countries who attended the three-day workshop. This high turnout reflects the commitment of Pacific clerks to rolling out the program in their own parliaments.
Staff from the Australian Parliament, including the Parliamentary Education Office, trained Ms Tukutama and her colleagues. The workshop supported participants to strengthen their training and facilitation skills, such as presentation style, voice skills, and how to ask questions that will get answers. Each participant was then assigned a part of the Outrigger training to present to their peers using the Outrigger Facilitator’s Guide. They were supported by coaching and feedback from Parliamentary Education Office staff.
Pacific clerks first trialled the Outrigger program at the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships project meeting in Wellington, New Zealand in October 2015. This second workshop trained the clerks and parliamentary staff to deliver the Outrigger program, and to train others to present it. It was held in response to requests from the clerks to develop specific facilitation skills, noting the sensitive and challenging nature of the discussions that the Outrigger program aims to provoke.
Pacific clerks and parliamentary staff are now well equipped to be advocates for gender equality in their workplaces and national parliaments, and to promote gender quality as a benefit for all.