Stories

SIDS: Economic empowerment of women in the Pacific

3 September 2014
ITC News

Women’s economic empowerment was at the centre of attention at a side-event organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Government of Samoa at the Third UN Conference on Small Island Developing States on 2 September 2014.

The event, which took the form of a cocktail reception, drew a large number of participants and also coincided with the launch of ITC’s ‘Economic Empowerment of Women in the Pacific’ project, which covers Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu. In the three countries, the aim is to build women’s capacity to capitalize on opportunities in formal markets and increase the economic benefits for women in the Pacific region. Ensuring greater participation by Pacific women in trade will benefit their families and communities in the three countries.
Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister, Fonotue Nufesili Pierre Lauofo, pointed to the important role played by Samoan women, adding that more needs to be done to empower them.

‘It is important to acknowledge women’s immense contribution to development,’ he said. ‘Samoa is also grateful to be included in the launch of ITC’s [Pacific] project as it will help us improve and advance the output of our producers, and enhance existing systems.’

ITC’s Executive Director Arancha González drew attention to economic gains countries can make by including women in trade.

‘At ITC we are extremely passionate about women’s economic empowerment. Not just because it is fair, not just because it is right, but because it makes a lot of economic sense,’ she said. ‘Women entrepreneurs re-invest 90% of their revenues in their communities and families: that is a powerful vehicle for development.’

She said that ITC would be investing into labelling, packaging, and branding to help women access markets across the Pacific. In Samoa, support will be provided to help the government in its public procurement exercise; in Papua New Guinea, the focus will be on helping women bilum weavers connect to international markets, while in Vanuatu, smallholders will be connected to the tourism industry.

The power of tourism

The Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, Taleb Rifai, highlighted that tourism has become a fundamental vehicle for promoting sustainable economic growth and women’s economic empowerment. He said that the role of tourism sometimes escapes our attention.

‘One out of 11 jobs around the world is in tourism, and every year 1.8 billion tourists cross borders, generating US$ 1.4 trillion,’ said Mr Rifai. ‘We have to make sure this works for the best of the people, and especially in the SIDS where more than 40% of GDP is based on tourism.’

It was a view shared by Elizabeth Wilde, Assistant Secretary of the Pacific Regional Branch, at Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

‘Women in the Pacific make an important contribution to the economies of their countries,’ said Ms. Wilde. She cited the case of the Solomon Islands where women are responsible for 90% of the income in the tourism sector.

‘Australia is funding women’s economic empowerment projects across the Pacific. We are extremely pleased to be working with ITC in this effort,’ she added.

The Deputy Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Andie Fong Toy, stressed that much more needs to be done to empower women across the Pacific.

‘Despite big efforts, progress in women’s economic empowerment is rather slow in the Pacific,’ said Ms Fong Toy. She highlighted the lack of access to finance and ownership as one of the reasons for this slowness.

‘More resources need to be allocated at the national and regional levels to support the inclusion of women and their economic empowerment,’ she stated.

Learn more about ITC’s Women and Trade programme.