‘As the world celebrates International Women’s Day in honour of our Women with the theme ‘Inspiring Change’, we are reminded of the role of women in our societies and their contributions to our homes, our communities and nation building in its totality,’ said Victor Tutugoro, the chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
International Women’s Day – 8 March was officially recognized by the United Nations in 1975 and its origins date back to the early 20th century when the labour movements began in North America and across Europe.
“In our part of the world, these movements began taking shape on a rather small scale in the 60s and 70s as women gained access to education and jobs pre-independence and increasingly thereafter during and after independence in most of our independent Melanesian countries,” said Tutugoro.
He added, in the modern age, our women in Melanesia have slowly gained some recognition but their role is quite minimal in decision making especially in Parliament and at the Provincial and Local Government level, perhaps with the exception of New Caledonia where Congress requires a balanced representation.
“With minimal voices in decision making at the highest level and at tertiary and public institutions, Government State owned enterprises and the private sector where they can lead in the education of the future leaders and contribute more to the society, we need to ensure that we address the gender gap that exists within our region and be part of the ‘Change’ being advocated this year.
“In our own traditional societies and in small urban towns and cities, our women have contributed immensely to the upbringing of families and the community in various ways.
“They are the backbone of our societies, tending to the gardens, feeding our families, educating the children and participating actively in community based social and religious activities and to some extent, small-medium scale economic actives.
“In some parts of our region, they have played a pivotal role in resolving conflicts as well as in post conflict situations to rebuild their communities.
“On the other hand, a vast majority of our women continue to face barriers which prevent them from benefiting from basic health and educational services which could enable them to participate equally in society and eventually, decision making processes,” said Tutugoro.
In June 2013, for the first time, the members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group approved the establishment of the women in leadership program at the MSG Secretariat.
Currently in its infant stages, Tutugoro believes that with the support and commitment of the membership, the program will allow members to collectively address issues affecting women in Melanesia.
“I salute women the world over including the women of Melanesia, who despite their own struggles and personal challenges, continue to put on a brave face and dedicate their work to their families, communities and ‘their countries with pride and commitment.
“Under the umbrella of the MSG, we hope we can contribute and Inspire Change for our Women,” concluded Chairman Tutugoro.
PORT VILA, (MSG SECRETARIAT)