‘I really wanted to become a member of the Kaupule because many issues that concern us as women are often not discussed or not given priority. Now, I can bring in concerns on health care services and education for our children. For example, I raised the issue of a teacher that used corporal punishment to discipline our children although this is not allowed.’
Ms Semolina Faiva Tavita, the second woman on Nukulaelae in Tuvalu to be elected to the Kaupule (implementing arm of the local government).
Project name: Tuvalu Country Plan
Outcome areas: Leadership and decision making, economic empowerment, ending violence against women and enhancing agency
Project partner: Tuvalu Gender Affairs Department
Total funding: $1,800,000
Funding timeframe: 2015–2018
Pacific Women is investing $1.8 million over three years to implement the Tuvalu Country Plan. Great steps were made in 2016 towards empowering women in the outer islands and those with disabilities, through the work of the program’s Gender and Social Inclusion Adviser.
There is no equivalent word for ‘gender’ in Tuvaluan language. Therefore, the concept of ‘gender equality’ can be challenging and confusing for Tuvaluan women and men. The country’s National Gender Policy therefore seeks to help Tuvaluans better understand and adopt gender equal practices.
As part of the awareness raising of the country’s National Gender Policy, Adviser Ms Natalie Makhoul, whose work is supported through Pacific Women, travelled with Ms Lanoula Fasai, Project and Monitoring Officer of the Gender Affairs Department and Ms Eseta Lauti, in-country Focal Point for the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team, to the outer islands of Niulakita (population 20) and Nukulaelae (population 300).
Whilst conducting a workshop on Nukulaelae, Ms Makhoul observed that, despite accepted traditions of women not being welcome to raise their voices during community meetings of the local government (known as the Falekaupule), the community was supporting some women to be part of the implementing arm of the Falekaupule (known as the Kaupule).
Ms Semolina Faiva Tavita is the second woman on Nukulaelae elected to the Kaupule. Ms Tavita sees her role as providing a different voice on the committee to the five other male members.
‘I really wanted to become a member of the Kaupule because many issues that concern us as women are often not discussed or not given priority. Now I can bring in concerns on health care services and education for our children. For example, I raised the issue of a teacher that used corporal punishment to discipline our children although this is not allowed.’
Ms Makhoul reported that on her outer island visit, men were showing interest and were open to listening and discussing gender concepts. ‘This is a positive trend and signals that past consultations of the Gender Affairs Department in Nukulaelae are showing good results,’ she reported.
Ms Makhoul has also collaborated with Fusi Alofa (Tuvalu’s association for people with disabilities) and the Attorney General’s Department in relation to the adoption of the standards under the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). As a result of this, six people in Tuvalu receive financial support under the government’s scheme to assist people with disabilities.
With Ms Makhoul’s input, the Attorney General’s Department has made a submission to the Ministry of Home Affairs to strengthen Tuvalu’s disability policies and laws to include CRPD standards. This includes recommendations for the scheme to be extended to apply to those acquiring a disability during their lifetime (such as through an accident or disease) and continuing financial support after the age of 70.
Looking forward, Pacific Women will support a national disability survey that will help organisations like Fusi Alofa by producing meaningful statistics on people with disability in Tuvalu.
Project name: Support to the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team
Outcome area: Ending violence against women
Project partner: Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team (SPC RRRT)
Total funding: $3,000,000*
Funding timeframe: 2015–2017
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are entities established by the State, but independent from government, to promote and protect human rights, including women’s rights. In 2016, the Government of Tuvalu invited SPC RRRT to conduct a scoping study on the desirability and feasibility of creating an NHRI in this small Pacific Island nation.
The Government of Tuvalu has identified promoting the rights of citizens as a fundamental principle under its National Strategic Plan Te Kaakega III. Funding from both the European Union and Pacific Women supported the scoping exercise, leading to recommendations for the establishment of an NHRI in Tuvalu.
Engagement with the project came from the highest levels, with His Excellency Sir Iakoba Italeli, the Governor General of Tuvalu, stating that even though there may be a lack of resources and capacity, ‘it must not be the reason to stop Tuvalu from progressing on the initiative of establishing an NHRI.’
NHRIs can take a variety of forms, including a stand-alone commission; an ombudsman’s office with a human rights mandate; advisory and consultative bodies; and research bodies. The decision on which model to adopt is significant because, under the Paris Principles, the institution must prescribe to certain conditions to be recognised as an NHRI.
The scoping team recommended an enhanced ombudsman-NHRI model as the best option for Tuvalu. Further recommendations included the passing of enabling legislation that vests in the NHRI the competence to make visible women’s and children’s rights and the rights of people with disabilities, amongst other human rights.
The report also advised that the appointment of human rights commissioners should take into account gender considerations and the plurality of Tuvaluan society.
Worldwide, there are 110 countries with operating NHRIs, including Fiji, Samoa, Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific. Through this work supported by Pacific Women, Tuvalu may become number 111.
*This activity is part of a larger program.
Project name: Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships (PWPP) project
Outcome area: Leadership and decision making
Project partner: International and Community Relations Office, Australian Department of the House of Representatives
Total funding: $2,850,037*
Funding timeframe: 2013–2018
The Hon Dr Puakena Boreham, Tuvalu’s only woman MP and the Hon Judi Moylan, a former member of the Australian House of Representatives, have formed a partnership that is positively influencing government action on diabetes prevention in Tuvalu.
The PWPP project has offered the two women a number of opportunities to work together, learn from each other and advocate on their common goal. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, account for 75 percent of deaths in the Pacific. As a medical doctor, Dr Puakena Boreham felt constrained at only being able to manage the treatment of patients with diabetes.
‘It was heart breaking seeing the consequences and complexities of diabetes in the country over the duration of my career in medicine. It was during this period that my passion to help the sick and my people as a whole, evolves from a doctor-patient relationship in closed rooms and operating theatres, to one that involves addressing it at the highest decision making table in the country. This belief for a positive change in the management of diabetes and other NCDs resulted in my running for the country’s recent election.’
Ms Moylan spent 20 years as an Australian politician and established the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group. Parliamentarians in the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group show leadership in promoting community education, effective policies and healthcare for sufferers of diabetes. Since retiring from parliament, Ms Moylan continues her advocacy work as the current convenor of the Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network.
The two women met at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at Sydney University at a forum for women leaders in academia and politics, supported by PWPP. Later, with further support from Pacific Women, they travelled together to Canada for the Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network Forum.
There, Dr Boreham addressed parliamentarians from 31 nations on the challenge of diabetes in island nations. Along with parliamentarians from other countries, she signed the Vancouver Proclamation calling on governments to provide universal health coverage for everyone with diabetes. Through the PWPP project, Ms Moylan has been able to share with Dr Boreham her experience and networks as a parliamentarian advocating on the issue of diabetes for two decades. This has assisted Dr Boreham to take steps in her own parliament, including successfully establishing Tuvalu’s first Standing Committee on Health.
*This activity is part of a larger program.