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Mechesil Belau (Women of Palau) is a traditional women’s group. It is composed of traditional women leaders from each state and enjoys a wide membership from the numerous clans across the country. Mechesil Belau has been instrumental in amplifying women’s voices on key issues for more than thirty years.
“The Mechesil Belau under the traditional leadership of Bilung and Ebilreklai have held an Annual Conference for the Women of Palau, for the past 21 years. Issues pertaining to national development that are happening throughout the communities in Palau, from national issues of the Police work, Environment & Conservation, Health, Education, Justice, including land and property issues, as well as issues relating to marriage, funerals, and child birth ceremonies in the traditional context and practice are tabled for discussion,” observes Klouldil Singeo, a National Planner and the Gender Coordinator at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
Every year at the end of the Women’s Conference, a resolution captures all the matters raised and it is presented to the Palau leadership, the Palau President, All Cabinet Members, Governors’ of all States, Congress members and key prominent individuals throughout the country. The Mechesil Belau Conference resolutions are considered in the Congress and in the discussions of the President and his Cabinet in national development issues.
The Ministry is developing stronger relations with the Mechesil Belau in an effort to connect the concepts of gender mainstreaming at a governmental level to practical application at the community level. “They are a very important partner to have on board and we need to work closely with them. One of our key approaches has been to be more inclusive in getting groups and organisations with strong ties in the community on board,” says Klouldil.
An example of this collaboration was the recently endorsed Family Protection Act, which provides better services and protection for persons who experience violence. Mechesil Belau reviewed early drafts of the Act and lobbied effectively for it to be passed through the Congress. Since then Mechesil Belau have played an active role in creating awareness of the issues raised in the Act at the community level.
“We need to deepen our relationship with Mechesil Belau if we are to effectively address the important issues that affect our women and girls,” says Klouldil.
To mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat is sharing stories from across the Pacific of successful programs that are addressing gender related issues and highlighting the regional policies that guide them. Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration has a specific priority on gender responsive government policies and programs. related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes. The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progress noted Niue’s progress in this area: New Family Law Bill proposed to address issues of family wellbeing and government provided grant to the National Council of Women to support programs on gender equality.
By Ms Klouldil Singeo