Development assistance in the Pacific
Pacific regional – empowering women and girls
This page gives an overview of Australia’s work in the gender equality and empowerment sectors under Pillar 1 (Health Security), Pillar 2 (Stability) and Pillar 3 (Economic Recovery) of Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response.
Pacific women are hardworking, creative and resilient. They make significant contributions to their societies and economies and there is a growing recognition among governments and the private sector that investing in women and girls has a powerful effect on economic growth and wellbeing. However, women and girls face significant challenges. Up to 60 per cent of women and girls in our region have experienced violence at the hands of partners or family members. The Inter-Parliamentary Union reports that globally, women comprise 25.5 per cent of national parliamentarians (world average as at January 2021), but the percentage of women in Pacific parliaments is currently around 6.4 per cent. Across the Pacific, men outnumber women in paid employment (outside the agricultural sector) by approximately two to one, and men earn 20 to 50 percent more than women.
The Australian Government is strongly committed to being at the forefront of efforts to give women and girls the opportunities and resources to reach their full potential.
Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development
Up to $320 million, 2012-2013 – 2021-2022
Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women) aims to improve the political, economic and social opportunities of Pacific women in 14 Pacific Island countries (PICs). Pacific Women is working with Pacific governments, civil society organisations, the private sector, and multilateral, regional and United Nations agencies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and girls and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities. During the pandemic crisis gender-based violence has surged; health care accessibility, including sexual and reproductive services, has reduced; and women’s unpaid care work burden has increased.
An Advisory Board comprising twelve prominent Pacific women and men guides the initiative. Australia's Ambassador for Gender Equality is an observer to the Board.
In 2020 Pacific Women pivoted to address the impacts of COVID-19:
Women healthcare workers are at the frontline of the response to this pandemic globally. Ensuring that women health care workers have access to necessary resources to enable them to carry out their vital work safely and effectively was critical. At the same time there was a need to continue other vital healthcare services, including maternal health and childcare.
There was a recognition that levels of violence against women and girls in the region remain unacceptably high. The current pandemic has exacerbated these problems. Mobilising bystanders to prevent and respond to violence was discussed and it was agreed that governments and communities must act to ensure that women and girls are protected from violence, particularly in these challenging times.
Economic impacts and recovery
In the Pacific region, women are overrepresented in sectors and jobs that are impacted significantly by economic downturn associated with the pandemic, such as retail and hospitality. With global supply chains disrupted, women migrant workers and women-led small and medium enterprises have been heavily affected. A number of countries in the region are also dealing with the impact of Cyclone Harold. Despite these challenges, it was acknowledged women would have a vital role to play in the economic recovery of the region.
A summary of Pacific Women's achievements through the country and regional programs is released annually through a Progress Report.
* The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is committed to high standards of transparency and accountability in the management of the Australian aid program through publishing information on our website, including policies, plans, results, evaluations and research. Our practice is to publish documents after the partner government and any other partners directly involved in the delivery of the initiative have been consulted. Not all material published on this site is created by the Australian aid program and therefore not all documents reflect our views. In limited circumstances some information may be withheld for reasons including privacy and commercial sensitivity.