With over 270,000 people and one of the fastest growing economies in the Pacific with an expanding tourism industry, Vanuatu ranks 134 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index 2015.LXXIII The Government of Vanuatu’s National Gender Equality Policy 2015–2019 is in place, but gaps in the national machinery to support women have slowed its implementation.

Women in Vanuatu remain under-represented at all levels of leadership and decision making, including no women currently sitting in national parliament.LXXIV However, there has been progress at the municipal level with the introduction in 2013 of a temporary quota of 30–35 per cent reserved seats for women. This enabled 10 women to be elected in Port Vila and Luganville LXXV provincial governments, including one woman elected to an open seat in Luganville. Men continue to dominate decision making, with women holding only 28 per cent of management and decision making positions across the public and private sectors.LXXVI

Over 70 per cent of women in Vanuatu are engaged in informal sector employment. LXXVII There has been an increase in women owning small to medium businesses, LXXVIII reaching 20 per cent in 2016. The Government Remuneration Tribunal is seeking to address the gender pay gap in the public sector.LXXIX

Around 60 per cent of women experience some form of physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner.LXXX Bride price and arranged or forced marriages are still practised in some communities.LXXXI The Family Protection Act was passed in 2008, however there have been limited resources allocated to implement it, including to support provisions for establishing Registered Counsellors and Authorised Persons in communities.


Project name: Skills Centres supporting Women in Provincial Vanuatu – contributing towards inclusive economic growth
Outcome: Economic empowerment
Project Partner: Vanuatu Skills Partnership (TVET Program)
Total Funding: $800,00021
Funding timeframe: 2016–2019

The Malampa Handicraft Centre is a local initiative that has become a vibrant and thriving place for producers to sell their handicrafts. It is now looking to grow from a community run store within one province, to a sustainable and profitable social enterprise by 2020, facilitating domestic and international trade.

The Malampa Handicraft Centre is a community enterprise in Norsup, Malekula. Over 300 local producers participate in the initiative, 90 per cent of whom are women, including women with disabilities. Its aim is to unite women, men and children by providing a space to engage in sustainable business and showcase and sell locally-made crafts.

Sales at the Malampa Handicraft Centre generated 2.8 million vatu22 during 2016–2017. The producers retain 80 per cent of profits and the remainder is reinvested into the Malampa Handicraft Centre.

Pacific Women is supporting the Department of Women’s Affairs and the Department of Industry through the Vanuatu Skills Partnership to capitalise on this potential. A three-year business plan has been developed to link rural producers from the Malampa Handicraft Centre with vendors who are based on islands that are more frequented by tourists. A suite of customised skills training is being delivered through the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, focused on product design, quality control and business management. The improvement in product quality is now also leading to interest from international buyers.

Building on the lessons from the Malampa model, handicraft centres are being established in Tafea and Torba provinces. In Torba, the handicraft centre will open in October 2017 in a newly constructed community space. In Tafea, a handicraft industry working group has been established and the Department of Industry has mobilised a full-time officer to lead the development of a new centre there, linked to the volcano-based tourism industry.

The impact of the Malampa Handicraft Centre goes beyond improving livelihoods for individual women. There have also been changes in gender-related attitudes amongst those involved with the initiative. Producer Marie-Anne says her husband now assists with her basket weaving enterprise.

‘Before the Malampa Handicraft Centre was established, men in our village never touched pandanus – it was ‘women’s work’. This has changed; with the community seeing more sales from handicrafts, the men have begun supporting the collection of pandanus.’ 

Marie-Anne’s husband now goes into the bush to collect the pandanus leave for her baskets. He cleans, dries and prepares the wheel. Once Marie-Anne finishes weaving, her husband closes the basket with pandanus and adds the colour. Their story is just one example of the Malampa Handicraft Centre meeting its objective of bringing women and men together in this empowering space.

Ms Gloria Jeremiah, from Malampa Provincial Council of Women and a founding member of the Malampa Handicraft Centre, surrounded by the diverse products from across the island sold through the Centre. Photo: Elton Barley, Vanuatu Skills Partnership.

21This activity is part of a larger program.

22Approximately AUD32,000

Project name: Talemaot
Outcome: Ending violence against women
Project Partner: Wan Smolbag Theatre
Total Funding: $260,00023
Funding timeframe: 2016–2019

Wan Smolbag has been performing issues-based theatre in Vanuatu since 1989. Through its theatre performances, films and television series, the group is in a unique position to influence community attitudes. Pacific Women supports Wan Smolbag to create drama that encourages understanding and positive behaviour change towards gender equality.

Wan Smolbag launched the film Talemaot in May 2017 and hopes it will provoke discussions that lead to positive change. The film raises awareness about rape and it generated strong reactions from both women and men at its preview at Wan Smolbag’s Annual General Meeting.

The project developed after a correctional services officer asked Wan Smolbag to work with violent sexual offenders. During the workshop with the prisoners, Won Smolbag staff took on board the way they blamed women for the rapes they had committed.

‘In the film we hear some of the excuses men make about rape… the woman was out at night on her own, she was wearing the wrong clothes, or she wanted sex,’ says the film’s Director, Peter Walker.

Talemaot aims to dispel these beliefs. It focuses the audience’s attention on the effect that rape has on a survivor’s life and challenges public perceptions on rape and victim-blaming. The film also features information about the referral pathways available for women and girls experiencing physical and sexual violence.

This type of drama is not easy to make and impacts deeply on the cast and crew. Helen Kailo found it difficult to perform the rape scene in Talemaot, but was determined to tell her character’s story.

‘Men need to understand this’, she says,

‘they need to feel the pain and fear women go through’.

Wan Smolbag hopes that this film will help women who have been raped talk to other women and help men understand what rape does to women.

A scene from the film Talemaot. Photo: Wan Smolbag Theatre.

23This activity is part of a larger program.