New funding aims to make a mark on gender equality in the Pacific

Secondary school students in Bikenibeu, Kiribati. Photo by: Lorrie Graham / DFAT / CC BY

The Triennial Conference of Pacific Women took place online this week, with new funding from Australia announced to advance action on leadership and equality for women and girls.

Through the new Pacific Women Lead program, Australia will contribute 170 million Australian dollars ($130 million) to the region over five years, and the country will extend the work of the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program, which has operated for nearly a decade. This announcement contributes to the new Australian aid budget, to be officially announced May 11, and provides an important lifeline for Pacific-based organizations helping to get issues of gender on national road maps.

What does this mean for the region? The new funding is a “big opportunity for us all,” said Neomai Maravuakula, senior human rights adviser with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

“In a time when funding for gender equality is quite limited, this announcement … opens up a lot of opportunities for various pieces of work,” she added.

A document of outcomes from the conference is in preparation that will be presented to the Meeting of Pacific Ministers for Women on May 4, and Maravuakula said the funds will promote action on women’s priorities.

“As part of that … there may be recommendations on improving education for young women and girls, ensuring opportunities or programs are available on income generation, and funding like this … is an opportunity to support those kinds of work,” she said.

The winners and losers in Australia's 2020 aid budget

Australia’s aid program has received a boost of 304.7 million Australian dollars. Yet despite an overall win, there are still losers in a budget that aims to pivot the aid program to a COVID-19 focus.

What to watch: The upcoming Australian aid budget is expected to outline shifts in programming and funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gender initiatives received a boost in the previous budget. With this week’s funding announcement, as well as the conference highlighting the importance of a women-led pandemic recovery in Pacific, gender efforts may be an area of the aid program that remains intact.

About the author

  • Lisa Cornish

    Lisa Cornish is a Senior Reporter based in Canberra, where she focuses on the Australian aid community. Lisa formerly worked with News Corp Australia as a data journalist for the national network and was published throughout Australia in major metropolitan and regional newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph in Melbourne, Herald Sun in Melbourne, Courier-Mail in Brisbane, and online through Lisa additionally consults with Australian government providing data analytics, reporting and visualization services. Lisa was awarded the 2014 Journalist of the Year by the New South Wales Institute of Surveyors.