These were the words of Her excellency, President Dr Hilda Heine, of Republic of Marshall Islands during her keynote at the opening of the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women in Fiji last night.
“We simply cannot afford to leave out, or in some cases exclude, half the population of our economies,” President Heine said.
“It is bad economic policy no matter which way you look at it.”
“The staggering imbalances in our economies between men and women clearly reflects why progressing gender equality has been slow.’
In a speech filled with statistics Dr Heine highlighted areas of progress and areas in which women are going backwards.
Last two decades has seen progress particularly in education.
“There has been an expansion of women’s financial inclusion and financial literacy and an increase in the number of women contributing to superannuation schemes for long-term financial security,” she said.
The week-long conference focuses on the a new 12-year plan to accelerate action on gender equality which will be considered by women from across the Pacific.
The conference also looks at stories of women in businesses and how they contribute to their communities.
In her speech Dr Heine highlighted the large gender gap that exists in wages with men earning substantially more than women in almost every job category.
“Generally women are more likely than men to be unemployed and seeking work,” she added.
President Heine said women are heavily represented in the informal sector through their contribution to micro businesses and other income generating idea.
Director for Pacific Community, Dr Colin Tukuitonga during his welcome address pointed out that 13th Triennial Conference and Pacific Ministers for Women meeting is the only regional platform that deliberates on challenges relating to advancing gender equality.
“We can all take on board to address the barriers that continue to stall progress for gender equality. To explore solutions that as a region, we call all take on board to address the barriers that continue to stall progress for gender equality in the Pacific,” he said.
In her message to the participants present at the conference Dr Heine stressed women’s economic empowerment is essential for building resilience and driving sustainable development.
The 13th Triennial conference is facilitated by Pacific Community’s (SPC) Social Development Programme and supported by Australian Aid and Pacific Women.
The conference continues for the week.
Photo: Dr Hilda Heine(right) at the keynote address at the 13th Triennial Conference