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 supporting women and girls to access opportunities and resources to reach their full potential.
Pacific Women Lead ($170 million 2021 to 2026)
Pacific Women Lead is Australia’s new regional gender program. It aims to ensure that Pacific women and girls, in all their diversity, are safe and equitably share in resources, opportunities and decision-making, with men and boys.
The program will focus on women’s leadership, women’s rights and increasing the effectiveness of regional gender equality efforts. The program’s funding is additional and complementary to Australia’s bilateral gender investments.
Key partners will be the Pacific Community (SPC) and Pacific women’s organisations.
A transition from Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women) to the new program is taking place throughout 2021.
Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (up to $320 million, 2012-13 to 2021-22)
Since 2012, the program has supported more than 160 partners across 14 Pacific Island countries to increase the safety and improve the political, economic and social opportunities of Pacific women and girls. The program was evaluated in late 2019, and a summary of program achievements is released annually through a progress report.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and girls in the Pacific and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities. During the pandemic, gender-based violence has surged; health care accessibility, including sexual and reproductive health services, has reduced; and women’s unpaid care work burden has increased.
In line with Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery, the program has worked with partners to adapt programming and help address these impacts on women, girls and their communities. This has included:
- Providing additional funding to partners to provide essential sexual and reproductive health services in nine Pacific countries.
- Working with partners to deliver public health campaigns, and ensure operations comply with physical distancing and other requirements.
- Additional funding to domestic violence support services to increase outreach and adapt delivery for remote and telephone counselling, emergency accommodation and economic relief for women and children affected by violence.
- Supporting domestic violence support services to comply with evolving pandemic restrictions and deliver training remotely.
Economic impacts and recovery
- Adapting programming to support women’s continued livelihoods and income earning through the pandemic.
- Advocacy around women’s integral role in economic recovery.
Pacific Women and partners are providing evidence base and advocacy to highlighted gendered impacts and inform national responses to COVID-19, to ensure they are more gender-responsive.
* 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.